Assurance of learning improvement means identifying the knowledge and skills that are critical to our students' success after graduation and demonstrating that they acquire that knowledge and those skills with increasing proficiency over time.
What's the difference between assurance of learning improvement and assessment?
Assessment is a measurement activity within assurance of learning improvement. Measuring the extent to which students have acquired knowledge and skills provides us with data we can then use to make decisions about how to increase the extent to which they acquire the knowledge and skills.
The tendency in assurance of learning efforts is often to focus on measurement. That's a reasonable tendency, since measuring is an integral part of assessment processes, but it's misguided. Everything related to assessment should focus squarely and relentlessly on learning improvement. Measurement is meaningless without action; we must use the information we gain from measuring to move our students toward excellence in learning. In doing so, we move ourselves toward excellence in teaching. Simply put, learning improvement fosters excellence in every respect. The better job we do of knowing what our students must learn, teaching them those things, and demonstrating that they do learn those things, the more effective we become as educators and the more successful our students become when they graduate and embark on their own careers.
Why is assurance of learning improvement important?
Assurance of learning improvement is the means by which we ensure the consistently increasing quality of our product (i.e., our graduates).
It enables us to demonstrate conclusively to prospective employers why they should hire our students. It also enables us to assure potential donors to the Jones College of Business that our students are worthy of their investments. No company goes into business with the goal of producing a mediocre product, or even a product that's "pretty good". If we are not deeply committed to producing the most knowledgeable and skilled graduates we can possibly produce, and working continuously toward that end, then we do all of our stakeholders a tremendous disservice.
Learning improvement isn't about scrambling to get ready for a re-accreditation visit every five years, it's not about checking off boxes, and it's not something we do because someone else demands it. It is something we should do - indeed, something we must do - for our students, for ourselves, for our college, and for the companies that will hire our graduates in ever-increasing numbers as a result.
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