Assessment in Higher Education: Issues of Access, Quality, Student Development, and Public Policy

By Samuel J. Messick | Go to book overview

PART II
ENHANCING STUDENT ACCESS AND SUCCESS IN HIGHER EDUCATION

For generations academicians have debated the goals of higher education and the nature of good teaching as well as how to take into account and capitalize upon experiential learning outside the academy. These debates have become sharper over the years because of increased diversity of the student population and increased productivity demands on postsecondary institutions, as well as some expanding aspirations as to what higher education should contribute to society in an increasingly competitive global economy. In anticipating the revolutionary role that multimedia and computer technology might play in higher education, Holtzman ( 1976) saw the challenge as fundamentally substantive and pedagogical, with technology offering a promissory means to expand educational ends:

There is a call for education that is less routinized and more personalized, for education that not only imparts adopted knowledge but implants adaptive thinking, for education that does not just master belatedly the solutions of the past but that solves creatively the problems of the present and foresees realistically the issues of the future. (p. 24)

Daunting as this call may sound, there is little hope of heeding it without systematic information and feedback about student goals, student characteristics and experiences, and student development as well as about teaching practices and educational contexts. The collection of such systematic information and its effective use in feedback to students, teachers, administrators, and policy makers is at its core a problem of assessment, not technology. However, as will be seen, technology is critical not only to the development of efficient and convenient assessment and feedback systems, but also to the radical enrichment of the kinds of problem-solving skills and thinking processes that can be validly assessed. But before capitalizing on technology, we first need assessments that address the pedagogical needs--that aim to foster student development, to improve teaching practices, and to recognize and capitalize upon learning that occurs not just in formal educational settings but also in a wide variety of nonformal learning

-9-

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