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Assessment proving beneficial for faculty, students

New structure energizing across-campus communication

It takes a certain set of skills to operate a vehicle. It takes significant adaptation of those skills to go from driving a Mini Cooper to a semi-truck.

The same goes for students and faculty in conducting student assessment, said Joseph Engle, social sciences professor at the Blinn College - Bryan campus. Engle is a member of the College’s Assessment Council, which encourages and trains faculty in assessment.

Assessment provides faculty members, administrators, trustees and others with evidence, numerical or otherwise, from which they can develop useful information about their students, institutions, programs and courses. This information can help them make effectual decisions about student learning and development, professional effectiveness and program quality.

“We all assess how our students are doing in the classroom,” Engle said. “We all instinctually know with visual cues and other signals whether or not they are grasping the material. Putting that into practice with formal assessment strategies is another skill set.”

Engle conducts faculty training sessions that help faculty identify ways to incorporate formal assessment strategies into their teaching and testing.  More information on the training can be found on the eCampus home page or by contacting Engle directly at

As faculty members have strengthened their assessment skills, several divisions, including Visual & Performing Arts, have enjoyed success.

“There was some disconnect for the faculty,” said Rachel Jumper, professor of Visual & Performing Arts on the Bryan campus. “They had to do the assessment, but they didn’t really see an implication in their classrooms. I think this new system helps faculty see how assessment helps them help their students.”

Tracy Matthies, professor of Visual & Performing Arts on the Brenham campus, has joined Jumper as the assessment coordinators for their division. The pair found that combining assessment methods gives them a clear idea of what is absorbed in the classroom.

Students enrolled in a speech course were assessed on their understanding of research with a multiple choice test and a verbal speech assignment. Results showed that students performed well on the theoretical portion, but were not as strong in practice when presenting verbally.

“Assessment helps us to look at how we can make changes in the classroom to help our students learn better,” Matthies said. “What is surprising to me is how I can have two sections of the same class perform so differently. Assessment helps us to tailor our teaching to better serve our students.”

Jumper and Matthies said it is encouraging to see data from assessment and develop plans for the future across campuses as one Blinn.

“The data gives you guidance to say, ‘OK, here’s where I focus my energy.’” Jumper said. “You’re not just going through the semester with blind trial and error. You can develop a clear goal and work toward that together.”

The pair said assessment has been an excellent tool in encouraging across-campus conversation.

“It’s great for the college that we’re communicating like we are,” Matthies said. “Sometimes it’s challenging, but difficult situations can be the most rewarding. It’s easy to get bogged down in having to turn in data and do this or that, but we’re here for our students. It’s really all about them.”