LTC: Teaching to the Test!#%$$!?: A New Carleton Initiative in Value-Added Assessment

Carleton College Learning and Teaching Center, Carleton College Learning and Teaching Center

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Elizabeth Ciner, Associate Dean of the College; Chico Zimmerman, Professor of Classical Languages; James Hannaway '09; Juliana Houston '09; Peter (Pete) Jones '09; and Sarojini (Jini) Rao '09

This LTC session kicked-off Carleton’s work with Grinnell, Macalester, St. Olaf (“the I-35 cluster”) on two grants to help assess the colleges’ efforts in improving student writing, quantitative literacy, global understanding, and critical thinking.

As Carleton faculty, many of us tend to disparage the kinds of information that national (or even local) tests can provide about how (and what) our students learn. We think we know that students gain content knowledge and skills in our courses and through their four years at Carleton, based on the feedback we get from their papers, projects, student evaluations and other forms of assessment. How much of this progress is related to the qualities the students have when they enter Carleton, how much to our exquisite academic program and how much to their increased intellectual maturity after four years? What's the "value-added" of a Carleton education? Is it worth trying to measure? If so, how?

Carleton, along with Macalester, Grinnell and St. Olaf, recently received funding from the Teagle and Lumina Foundations to assess critical thinking, writing, quantitative skills and global understanding. As part of this project, we are participating in the CLA (Collegiate Learning Assessment), which attempts to assess students' critical thinking, writing and analytical skills through "real-life," complex, messy problems. At this LTC session, we will discuss the larger implications of this grant, the CLA, and similar "authentic" assessment tools - is "teaching to the test" always a bad thing?

Suggested (very short) reading: Lloyd Bond, 2004, Teaching to the Test: Carnegie Perspectives, April 2004: <>

Cosponsors: Dean of the College Office and grants from the Teagle and Lumina Foundations

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