Book Reviews

Book By: Achacoso, Michelle V., Svinicki, Marilla D. (Eds)
Review By: Keri Bowman, Asst. Director
Advising Central
North Carolina State University

Evaluating or assessing student learning has been touted as one method by which we, as educators, can establish and illustrate our worth in these shrinking budgetary times. Assessment and evaluation have become buzzwords that are hard to avoid. However, what do we mean by “assessing” or “evaluating” student learning through advising? What are the goals or outcomes that we seek to measure? The value of this book to advisors hinges on the answer to these questions. Do advising professionals mean to measure higher-level cognitive learning as evidenced by the synthesis and evaluation levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956)? Or, do we mostly measure affective outcomes such as value recognition, understanding of personal strengths, and use of self-discipline (Palomba & Banta, 1999)? These questions are key in determining measurement methods, the focus of this book.

Alternative Strategies for Evaluating Student Learning looks at the traditional assessment methods educators use to evaluate student learning within their courses. Specifically, the text focuses on the testing strategies used to establish evidence of higher level learning garnered from coursework. While this may certainly be of use if the reader teaches a section of a first year seminar, it may be difficult for other advisors to administer a test of knowledge to students in whatever form. Making the bridge between effective classroom learning and effective learning in an advising session can prove more difficult than one initially thinks. Are the intended outcomes for an advising session identical to those used for classroom teaching? If not, the methods described in the book may not meet advisor needs.

After a brief overview of assessment theory for college classrooms, the text explains, through instructor accounts, various unconventional methods of measurement of student learning. These include performance-based assessment and observation, alternative assessment in a mathematics course, use of group exams in sciences, and the use of practice tests to improve learning. This review of a wide variety of course-based assessment strategies and measurement methods is certainly innovative and thought provoking. Without the advantage of a course to provide the venue for this type of assessment, though, the value of these practices is little more than thought provoking.

It is possible to gather some very useful and interesting ideas from this book; if the reader can use these ideas to inspire classroom assessment, then this book will provide interesting ideas. For the advisor seeking information on how to better establish outcomes or assess learning from an advising session, this probably may not be the best resource.

References:

Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: the Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay.

Palomba, C. & T. Banta (1999). Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass


Alternative Strategies for Evaluating Student Learning: New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 100. (2005). Book by Achacoso, Michelle V., Svinicki, Marilla D. (Eds).  Review by Keri BowmanSan Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 136 pp., $29.00 (paperback), ISBN #0-7879-7970-8.


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