Book by Catherine M. Wehlburg
Review by Leila Chavez Soliman
Glendale Community College
The three As—assessment, accountability, and accreditation—are intimidating concepts and requirements in higher education. Catherine Welhburg braves these hot topics in “Promoting integrated and transformative assessment: A Deeper focus on student learning.” The title succinctly captures the essence and crux of the book: assessment should be used first and foremost to enhance student learning. Welhburg urges institutions to create and conduct assessment locally within itself for its own use, not merely nor primarily for accountability and accreditation. She echoes and quotes Angelo (1999) in his brief but bold reminder, “Though accountability matters, learning still matters most” (p. 25).
Welhburg’s book is a visionary, thoroughly researched, and comprehensive resource guide to promoting a learning-centered assessment paradigm. The topics covered range from the history of assessment to its future in higher education, including the role of technology. There is something for anyone involved and has a stake in designing and implementing transformative assessment including faculty, administrators, student affairs, and regional accreditors.
The author is thoughtful of the reader. She wittingly organized the book to be read chronologically or in any order for convenience. She includes a few diagrams that graphically illustrate such concepts and processes as assessment feedback and institutional planning. A few additional exhibits are also embedded within certain chapters for quick reference. For starters, the book provides simple ways to implement transformative assessment, such as “the ideal graduate” exercise: thinking of what makes an ideal graduate will likely engender learning outcomes deemed most important (p. 65).
The book begins strongly with a clear definition of transformative assessment. The author conscientiously describes six characteristics. First, it must be appropriate or suitable for a person and context, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. Second, assessment must be meaningful so that those who create assessment care about the results. Third, it must be sustainable, that is, embedded in the institutional cycle or culture. Fourth, it must be flexible or modifiable for the future. Fifth, assessment must be ongoing or continuous. Last but not least, it must be used for substantial improvement of student learning.
Faculty and institutional responsibility are heavily discussed to encourage their participation. The short section on the role of accreditation in assessment is a nice find in the penultimate chapter of the book. Gaps or conflicts between classroom and large-scale assessments still exist, which call for coordinated systems of multiple assessments working together (Pellegrino, Chudowski, & Glaser, 2001). Because accreditation drives assessment, regional accreditors should also accredit for transformation and require institutions to create and use assessment that can truly enrich student learning.
The book is most useful for higher education institutions, departments, and professionals who need to assess or reassess their assessment policies and practices. Advisors are neither the stated nor the intended main audience. Nonetheless, the brief discussion on collaboration between academic and student affairs halfway through the book may resonate most with student affairs professionals. The implication is clear: student affairs in general must continue to gather and share data as well as collaborate with academic affairs for transformative assessment to happen.
Pellegrino, J. W., Chudowski, N., & Glaser, R. (Eds.). (2001). Knowing what students know: The science and design of educational assessment. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved January 5, 2008, from http://www.nap.edu/books/0309072727/html/
Promoting integrated and transformative assessment: A Deeper focus on student learning (2008). Book by Catherine M. Wehlburg. Review by Leila Chavez Soliman. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 224 pp. $40.00. ISBN # 978-0-470-26135-4