Learning Assessment at Community Colleges Is Growing but Fragile, Report Says

Community colleges are putting increasing amounts of energy into measuring their students’ knowledge and skills, but those learning-assessment projects are still fragile, according to a report being released on Wednesday by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

The report, which draws on recent surveys of institutional researchers and chief academic officers at community colleges, found that student assessments are being driven largely by new demands from accreditors and national foundations. Faculty members themselves are not always enthusiastic participants.

When asked whether “the primary driver for learning-outcomes assessment at my institution is our faculty,” only 29 percent of the surveyed institutional researchers agreed. Only 35 percent reported that most departments on their campuses used learning-assessment data to improve teaching, and 14 percent agreed that “most part-time faculty are involved” in learning-outcomes assessment.

One reason for that lack of involvement, of course, is that community-college faculty members have taxing schedules and few incentives to spend time on assessment projects. If colleges want to build faculty participation, the institutional researchers said, they should pay faculty members for their time and include assessment activities in their contracts and annual performance reviews.

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