Faculty perceptions around research based assessment (#AAPTsm16)

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 19, 2016

(liveblogging from the AAPT).  Adrian Madsen shared some work to identify faculty ideas and beliefs around research based assessments in physics, such as concept inventories (think FCI) or non-content instruments (e.g., CLASS).  This work is part of a project by PhysPort.org to collect research-based assessments on a website, to provide a more coherent portal to such assessments so they’re more accessible to the broader faculty.

To design the site, they undertook a wide variety of semi-structured interviews with faculty, to figure out what their needs are regarding assessment.

The following themes emerged:


  1. Faculty have practical needsHow do you find and administer assessments, how can you score and interpret them?  PhysPort is addressing these by organizing the assessments, providing guidance in using them, and giving automated analysis through the Data Explorer.
  2. They believe research based assessments are limited.   They might not be well aligned to the course the faculty member is teaching, or be hard to interpret in a small course, and they are concerned about the content that is covered by the assessments.  These are valid concerns, and suggest a need for more flexible assessments, which assess non-content knowledge, and that these research-based assessments can be coordinated with other assessments.
  3. Faculty want help.  What do the scores mean?  How do I compare to other faculty?  How do I use these results to improve my teaching?  How can I talk to colleagues about my scores?  So, community resources are helpful (like learning communities), as well as more accessible information and comparison.
  4. Faculty consider broader contexts.  There are programmatic assessments they need to consider, as well as accreditation requirements.  Some faculty are also skeptical of these assessments, feeling that they will limit their academic freedom.  To address these issues, PhysPort is currently working on creating departmental assessment tools which can feed into accreditation reports.

So, faculty make decisions about their teaching in complex ways, and what we really need are different kinds of data, as well as help in interpreting data, rather than just more data.  Physport’s assessment page is at http://physport.org/assessments, and the Data Explorer, where you can upload your data and compare it to national samples, is at http://physport.org/DataExplorer.  Their Expert Recommendations which give helpful guidance are at http://physport.org/expertrecommendations.

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