It has been three years since the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE) assembled for an in person conference. When we left St. Paul, MN in 2019, we were expecting to see each other again in New Orleans, LA, in June 2020. As we all know, that did not happen, nor did we gather together in person in 2021. The hiatus of in-person conferences made the the 2022 AALHE Conference in Providence, RI, even sweeter nestled under the conference theme “Communities of Assessment: Reengaging and Learning Together.”
As a higher education educator and practitioner, this was a homecoming of sorts. In 2019 I was participating and presenting at the conference as a Director of Assessment for the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy—sharing our assessment plan for our competency-driven doctor of pharmacy curriculum. Now, I am the Director of Academic Partnerships at HelioCampus, serving as a subject matter expert in assessment practices, and supporting institutions across the country. Three years makes a difference—and from the sessions I attended, it certainly showed.
Dr. Kate Wilkins, Assistant Dean of General Education and Director of Assessment at Messiah University, said at her joint session “Flipping the Script on the Assessment Nasty-gram: Replacing Demands and Deadlines with Appreciative, Accessible Invitations” with her fellow Messiah colleague Dr. Susan Donat, that the pandemic has made her more empathetic and patient. If you know her, you know she has always held those qualities, but perhaps these are more refined, and easily practiced. And that is the underlying theme of building and nurturing your assessment community—be patient with your colleagues who have different levels of assessment knowledge and understandings and help them through practices that support a culture of improvement.
I had the good fortune to moderate a panel “Institutional Effectiveness 2.0 in Action—Empowering Stakeholders to Lead Beyond Their Role” with practitioners from Lincoln Memorial University, Lincoln Land Community College and Georgian Court University; three institutions in three different accreditation regions. They talked about their challenges and opportunities in empowering their stakeholders to lead beyond their role using methodologies such as Kotter’s 8 Steps of Change, peer feedback using customized forms and workflows and committee structures that foster faculty led assessment practices. Each spoke from their role and experience, engaging the audience in reflecting on their own institutional communities and how to empower them to lead beyond their role.
There are three key opportunities facing higher education linked to institutional effectiveness:
- Digital Transformation: transcribing the campus experience digitally
- Change Leadership: evolving practices in learning improvement
- Skills-Based Learning: workforce partnerships and skills-gap preparation
These opportunities take people, internal and external partnerships and an inclusive leadership style. As an assessment community, we are better together, sharing resources and processes that work and can be adapted in our work.
The assessment community is thriving and even stronger since our last in person AALHE meeting. But if we learned anything, we know how important it is to stay connected despite the distance, and challenges that face us. So, let’s keep the learning going and join myself and my partners at different learning opportunities throughout the year, before we gather again in Indianapolis, IN for the Assessment Institute or see each other again at AALHE in New Orleans in 2023. Please stay connected digitally at AEFIS Academy—access resources and scholarship like AALHE Intersections, stay engaged with the assessment community at large and at your institution, and feel empowered to lead, beyond your comfort zone, beyond your title. The rewards are impactful for your community which includes our students.