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  • Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment across the Institution
  • Matthew B. Fuller
Peggy L. Maki. Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment across the Institution (2nd ed.). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2010. 356 pp. Cloth: $85.00. ISBN: 978-1-5792-2441-7.

Peggy L. Maki, noted higher education consultant and former Senior Scholar and Director of Assessment with the American Association for Higher Education, reprises her landmark text, Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment across the Institution with this second edition. Since 2004 when the first edition was published, developments in accreditation, state and federal commissions, and professional organizations warrant a fresh look at assessment. This second edition takes into account these developments and provides an enhanced, comprehensive compendium of examples and guides for practical assessment practice.

Maki’s second edition is structured around three distinctive areas of inquiry: (a) the foundations and philosophy of assessment, (b) leveraging methods of assessment for learning, and (c) institutionalizing a collective commitment to assessment for learning. Each of these structures is a distinct section of the text, yet Maki also intertwines their central messages throughout her work. Thus, her text as a whole represents a comprehensive and realistic approach to assessment and constructs a notion of assessment that is an uncommon blend of the pragmatic and sustainable, meaningful [End Page 659] and valuable, theoretical and practical. Maki has artistically drawn together esoteric, philosophical foundations with pragmatic, real-world applications from which nearly any assessment practitioner will benefit.

Maki’s preface spells out many of the prevailing currents in contemporary assessment practice. She articulates with great clarity how a variety of developments in government, professional organizations, and accreditation agencies have increased the complexity of assessment on American college campuses. This complexity, Maki argues, can best be clarified by humanizing the assessment process. She writes, “The need to humanize assessment, as opposed to standardizing it, and the need to democratize results are in order given the demographics of our institutions—students do not all start at the same place in their learning” (p. xviii). Maki’s preface is a clarion call for such humanizing æsthetics in assessment—a point of reference for the rest of her text that outlines how methods of assessment result in meaningful change.

Maki’s first and second chapters (“Developing a Collective Institutional Commitment” and “Beginning with Dialogue about Teaching and Learning”) deepen her message about the necessity of humanizing assessment by clarifying the need to tap into faculty and staff members’ innate intellectual curiosity. Assessment for learning sustains dialogue about what faculty and staff care about most in regards to student learning.

Maki spells out clearly what this framework should look like using “Principles of an Inclusive Commitment” (p. 9). These principles clearly organize a system for understanding the nature of an institution’s culture of assessment and as such are novel and highly useful in assessment practice.

It is also in these first chapters that Maki’s pragmatic and practical tone comes through. She specifically lists many of the key stakeholders in assessment and their multiple pressures, concerns, or power loci. Finally, she concludes this chapter, as she does each chapter, by providing a thorough compendium of resources, ranging from the broad to the highly specific. Critical inclusions in these resources, setting Maki’s work apart from that of other scholars, are her self-developed or institution-specific worksheets, guides, and exercises. This approach highlights Maki’s broad and fundamental treatment of assessment and her practical “unpacking” of these foundations into more discrete,practical guides.

The majority of the text is devoted to demonstrating how assessment practices and methods can best be employed to support student learning. The third chapter, “Making Claims about Student Learning within Contexts for Learning,” provides clear and usable guidance—again in the form of worksheets and direct advice on the development of outcome statements, missions, and strategies for gaining consensus among stakeholders. Though this information may seem commonplace and simplistic to many practitioners, Maki offers several examples of how institutions have used outcomes statements as meaningful, dialogical facets of learning on their campus. In arranging these vast resources, Maki leverages her international base of experiences.

Chapters 4 through 6...


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pp. 659-661
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