Faculty comprise the front line of retention efforts in higher education. How well they instruct students, what materials they use, and whether they connect students with other institutional resources can be the difference between a student succeeding and moving on, or struggling and dropping out. However, as this recent Education Dive article points out, many universities don’t invest in teaching faculty how to teach.
Some of this appears systemic. As more faculty positions become part-time, there is less urgency to provide professional development. However, to truly impact retention, and by doing so improve an institution’s bottom line, all classrooms need to benefit from highly effective instructors, regardless of their status. One of the best ways to affect instruction is by utilizing a closed-loop assessment strategy to understand weaknesses in student learning, and correct for them moving forward.
As these slides from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment illustrate, faculty engagement (buy-in) is critical in any assessment strategy. Faculty often worry that assessments will box in their teaching, infringe upon academic freedom, or add to their workload. NILOA recommends bringing faculty into the conversation so they can see how assessment benefits student outcomes, and framing assessment as an improvement strategy more than some mandate from on high.
In fact, by using the power of assessment data to measure student performance, an institution can create a window into what areas faculty need to develop as well. With better insights into how learners learn, and how teachers teach, institutions will see improvements on all sides of the classroom.