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  • Developing Outcomes-Based Assessment for Learner-Centered Education: A Faculty Introduction
  • Dianne M. Timm
Developing Outcomes-Based Assessment for Learner-Centered Education: A Faculty Introduction. Amy Driscoll and Swarup Wood. Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2007, 287 pages, $24.95 (softcover)

Assessment and learning centered education have become more than just buzz words in higher education, and many student affairs professionals and faculty struggle with creating assessment plans and writing learning based outcomes. Developing Outcomes-Based Assessment for Learner-Centered Education provides a realistic example of how one institution created an educational environment that was learner-centered. Driscoll and Wood share their experiences and expertise in developing outcomes-based assessment and a student centered educational program. The authors begin each chapter with personal accounts to help understand the challenges and successes related to creating this assessment program. Each chapter ends with an interview between the authors related to the topic covered.

The authors begin by discussing the urgency for institutions of higher education to assess, and introduce outcomes-based education (OBE) as an educational model. This model places student learning outcomes at the center of the curriculum and pedagogy. California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is provided as an example of how one institution created a culture of inquiry, using OBE to develop an environment of deep learning for the students.

In chapter 2, Driscoll explains the important role faculty learning communities (FLCs) have in developing OBE environment. FLCs are collaborative groups providing opportunities for communicating with other faculty. Participants in FLCs can openly share with one another to improve teaching and measurement of student learning. A realistic perspective of the hurdles and benefits of creating a FLC are addressed, emphasizing that the main purpose is improving the learning environment.

Chapter 3 provides an excellent overview for writing learning outcomes. The authors begin by defining outcomes, stating the learning outcomes for the chapter. Several examples of learning outcomes are provided throughout the chapter. An outline for developing learning outcomes based on affective and cognitive domains are explained. The authors emphasize writing good learning outcomes and keeping these outcomes at the center of the curriculum design.

Understanding that there are different types of learners and different levels of achievement is the focus of chapters 4 and 5. The authors explain that instructors should be aware of the diverse learners in their classroom, moving away from standardized methods to more inclusive forms of assessment. Standards and criteria are used to understand the different levels of achievement by students. Criteria are defined in two ways, that which involves thinking, knowing, and behaving and [End Page 392] the other which reflects characteristics of the evidence itself. Standards explain and describe criteria for the various levels of achievement. Reflection on the positive impact criteria and standards have on how faculty at CSUMB approach pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment are provided.

In chapters 7 and 8 learning outcomes and teaching decisions are aligned and the authors discuss how to make assessment useful beyond sharing results with the public. Several syllabi are provided with learning outcomes outlined and analyzed throughout the chapters. Through a method called "webbing" faculty identify and make connections between their identified learning outcomes. Chapter 8 provides several examples of course alignment grids, used to identify learning outcome patterns. Alignment grids can help faculty identify if a course is accomplishing all stated goals. Personal perspectives are shared from faculty who use these strategies.

Chapter 9 begins by building a case for reviewing and analyzing evidence of student learning. The authors explain that campuses should establish practices for analyzing student evidence, which begins with understanding how students learn and how assessment can support teaching and achievement. They recommend faculty develop a common understanding of the institutions criteria and standards along with strategies for making connections between teaching and learning outcomes. Different processes for analyzing student work, including determining purpose, ensuring institutional support, and selecting good facilitators is provided. The authors discuss the need for rapport and trust among the faculty, and identifying methods understood by all participants.

Wood conducted two qualitative studies to further understand the impact of OBE on faculty and the results are provided in chapters 6 and 10. The first study focused on...