Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment - Western Washington University's Teaching and Learning Center

Assessment and Outcomes

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Best Practices in Teaching and Learning

The increasing focus on student learning as the central indicator of institutional excellence challenges many tacit assumptions about the respective roles of college students and faculty. In student-centered education, faculty take on less responsibility for being sources of knowledge, and take on greater responsibility as facilitators of a broad range of learning experiences. For their part, students are called on to take on more responsibility for their own learning.

As shown in the following table, the responsibilities of students and faculty and the relationships between them are quite different in the two models:

Domain
Teacher-centered Learner-centered
Knowledge Transmitted from instructor Constructed by students
Student participation Passive Active
Role of professor Leader/authority Facilitator/partner in learning
Role of Assessment Few tests, mainly for grading Many tests, for ongoing feedback
Emphasis Learning correct answers Developing deeper understanding
Assessment method Unidimensional testing Multidimensional products
Academic culture Competitive, individualistic Collaborative, supportive

Beginning with Bloom's taxonomy for educational objectives, and continuing with considerable research on teaching and learning, over the last thirty years many detailed lists of "best practices in teaching" have been compiled. Most lists of important "best practices" include the following:

  • Engage students in active learning experiences
  • Set high, meaningful expectations
  • Provide, receive, and use regular, timely, and specific feedback
  • Become aware of values, beliefs, preconceptions; unlearn if necessary
  • Recognize and stretch student styles and developmental levels
  • Seek and present real-world applications
  • Understand and value criteria and methods for student assessment
  • Create opportunities for student-faculty interactions
  • Create opportunities for student-student interactions
  • Promote student involvement through engaged time and quality effort

As shown in the figure below, the best student learning outcomes follow from a combination of activities: encouraging faculty development as teachers using the best practices in teaching and learning; engaging students with high levels of involvement in their studies, with other students, and with faculty; and implementing regular, thoughtful, and periodic assessment procedures to provide ongoing feedback: to students about the progress of their learning, to instructors about the efficacy of their teaching, and to program faculty about how well their program is meeting its objectives.

Assessment and Best Practices in Teaching and Learning

 

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