Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Best Practices in E-Assessment

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Best Practices in E-Assessment

Article excerpt

History and Evolution of the Assessment Movement

Assessment is not new to academia, with the roots of the current movement dating back over two decades (Martell & Calderon, 2005). But two decades hardly take us back to the origins of educational assessment in the United States. According to Pearson, Vyas, Sensale, and Kim (2001), assessment of student learning has been gaining and losing popularity for well over 150 years.

In K-12 education, assessment first emerged in America in the 1840's, when an early pioneer of assessment, Horace Mann, used standardized written examinations to measure learning in Massachusetts (Pearson et al., 2001). After losing momentum, the scientific movement of the 1920's propelled the use of large-scale testing as a means of assessing learning (Audette, 2005). The 1960's saw further support of standardized testing when the National Assessment of Educational Progress was formed, which produced the Nation's Report Card (Linn, 2002). But perhaps no initiative has had as broad and pervasive an impact as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), which formally ushered us into an age of accountability. The NCLB act is a sweeping piece of legislation that requires regularly administered standardized testing to document student performance. The NCLB act is based on standards and outcomes, measuring results, and holding schools accountable for student learning (Audette, 2005). In 2006 Congress is required to reauthorize the Higher Education Act and it is predicted that NCLB will lead to changes in Higher Education Assessment requirements (Ewell & Steen, 2006).

In higher education, the first attempts to measure educational outcomes emerged around 1900 with the movement to develop a mechanism for accrediting institutions of higher education (Urciuoli, 2005). In 1910 Morris Cooke published a comparative analysis of seven higher education institutions including Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Toronto, Haverford, and Wisconsin. The result of the report was the establishment of the student credit hour as the unit by which to calculate cost and efficiency (Urciuoli, 2005). By 1913 accreditation in higher education had spread nation wide with the formation of a number of accrediting bodies (Urciuoli, 2005). The United States is unusual in that it relies on private associations rather than government agencies to provide accreditation of academic institutions and programs.

A number of reports released in the mid 1980's charged higher education to focus on student learning (Old Dominion University, 2006). During that time, the first formal assessment group was established, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) Assessment Forum, formed in 1987. In 1992, accrediting agencies were required to consider learning outcomes as a condition for accreditation following a 1992 Department of Education mandate (Ewell & Steen, 2006).

Assessment experts point to pioneers of the assessment movement, Alverno College and Northeast Missouri State University, which have both been committed for over three decades to out-comes-based instruction. Kruger and Heisser (1987) who evaluated the Northeast Missouri State University assessment program found that the variety of assessments and questionnaires employed as well as the use of a longitudinal database that provides multivariate analysis makes this institution an exemplar in the effective us of quality assessment to support sound decision making.

The oldest recognized undergraduate assessment program in the United States can be found at the University of Wisconsin which has reported on some form of student outcomes assessment continuously since 1900 (Urciuoli, 2005).

The assessment movement is not limited to the United States. In the United Kingdom, the Higher Education Funding Council was established following the Further and Higher Education Act of 1992, requiring the assessment of quality of education in funded institutions. …

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