Am I Using Shakespeare’s Name in Vain?

A few days ago I let you know about my distress about two recent articles getting a lot of attention about assessment. Part of what bothered me is how both articles took a very narrow and constrained definition of “Assessment” and then focused on the negative. Every year, the Assessment, Teaching, and Learning conference is about expanding and growing our shared understanding of what assessment is—and what it is not.

Every year for over two decades, the ATL conference has been a way to experience the positively EXCITING work being done in our system under the big tent of assessment.

The 2018 ATL is no exception.

In addition to the special concurrent session “Assessment ReBoot,” facilitated by the exceptional Pat Hutchings of NILOA . . .

. . . as well as a pre-conference workshop exploring “Authentic” Program Assessment in Guided Pathways led by Bill Moore (SBCTC) and Andrea Reid (Spokane CC). . .

We have a fabulous line-up of presenters who embody what works and is working about assessment in our colleges:

  • Follow-Up to Plenary I: “Our Lasting Work: How to Bridge Between Equity and Outcomes Assessment,” Deb Jenkins, Clark College
  • Follow-Up to Plenary II: “Using Transparent Assignments to Promote Equitable Success in the Classroom,” Judy Loveless-Morris, Tacoma
  • “What Does Student Success Look Like? Humanizing Data Through the Power of Storytelling,” Justin Ericksen, Whatcom
  • “Qualitative Data: What Does it Mean? What Do We Do With It?” Sean Agriss, EWU, & Ian Sherman-Youngblood, Green River
  • “We’ve Committed to Pathways, Now What?: Using Outcomes-Based Curriculum to Ensure Equitable Success Rates for all Students,” Gretchen Robertson, Skagit Valley
  • “Collaboration, Free Technology, and a Bit of Fun: How Lower Columbia College Created an English Directed Self-Placement Model from ‘Scratch’!” Angel Ruvalcaba & Amber Lemiere, Lower Columbia

When I think about these high-quality, timely, and fascinating explorations of what assessment REALLY is and can be . . . I remember a moment when I was in the tenure process at GRC trying to choose which Shakespeare texts to teach in a 10 week quarter.  The chair of my tenure committee, the amazing Hank Galmish of GRC, called it an “embarrassment of riches.”

While Hank will most likely be appalled when he finds out I’ve used a metaphor he used for Shakespeare to describe assessment, I still think it’s apropos here, because I know participants at the ATL are going to have a hard time choosing which sessions to attend!

Therefore, I recommend colleges send teams to the ATL and employ a “divide and conquer” approach.

As participants attend sessions, they build up their individual assessment literacy.  When they return to the group and share what they’ve learned (there will be time for this during a “sensemaking” final session of the conference, titled, “Wait!  Don’t Leave Yet!”), the collective assessment literacy of the attending group is bolstered substantially.  When they return to campus, they can provide “sensegiving” experiences to their colleagues unable to attend the conference.

My supervisor and trusted mentor, Bill Moore, calls this “Broadening and Deepening,” and it is one of the most useful benefits of attending the upcoming 2018 ATL Conference.

To Register for the Conference

An Assessment Confession

Two recent publications on assessment have greatly distressed me.  The first is “An Insider’s Take on Assessment: It May Be Worse than You Thought,” and the second is “The Misguided Drive to Measure Learning Outcomes.”

Rather than me writing a diatribe in response that no one will read, I want to provide our system with the opportunity to engage in a true dialogue (not just shouting arguments at each other) about assessment.  My goal is not to be proved right, but that we engage in the kind of professional learning opportunities that lead us to the kind of transformative change our students (and our practitioners!) deserve.

Furthermore, my assessment literacy is still very much in development.  Therefore, I asked Pat Hutchings, Senior Scholar at NILOA (who is cited in the second article), and arguably the foremost mind in the nation on assessment, to facilitate a very special concurrent session on assessment at the upcoming 2018 ATL Conference.

As Pat has worked with many of our colleges at Using Evidence for Improvement as resource faculty (and she attended several sessions at last year’s ATL to ensure her plenary session was responsive to what is actually happening in our state), this session is custom designed for our individual and collective context.

This unique opportunity will offer participants an opportunity examine an emergent model—an “assessment reboot”—that can help make assessment a valuable part of the regular work of teaching and learning rather than an add-on.

Read More:

Register for the Conference:

The 4th Annual Conference for Teaching Introductory Psychology

Friday, April 20th, 2018
Highline College

Psychology is popular. Millions of students take an Introductory Psychology course each year – by choice. This gives teachers of General Psychology a unique opportunity to broadly share their discipline, with all of its benefits and applications to students’ lives.

The Intro Psych course is challenging to teach, balancing its old theories with its new research, utilizing its relevance in student development, and managing its breadth with the classroom time allotted. So, once a year, psychology faculty gather together in the Pacific Northwest to collaborate, learn, support…and eat.

 TIP Northwest presents the leading national and regional voices in the teaching of psychology, provides a format for attendees to collaborate and connect, and creates an environment where the voices of all psychology teachers are valued. 

Read More:


In Pursuit of Equity– Solutions and Best Practices

Join us for the
Fall Association Conference!
November 13, 2015


This is the third conference in a series of three focused around system barriers to equity. This capstone experience will focus on solutions and best practices.

Derek Greenfield, Author, Visionary Speaker
Dave Stolier, Senior Assistant Attorney General
Bob Hughes, Associate Dean, College of Education, Seattle University

This is the third conference in a series of three focused around system barriers to equity. This capstone experience will focus on solutions and best practices.

Register 5 people from your institution and receive a 6th registration free!
$175 for attendees from member colleges
$275 for non-member colleges
Fee covers breakfast, lunch, all materials, and a book by Derek Greenfield

Skamania Lodge
Rooms are at per diem rate of $151.
Reservations MUST be made by October 30!

Questions?  Contact Kati Hays, Executive Director

Register Now for the 15-16 Systems Biology Workshop Series!

As the world changes, so must our classrooms. Now more than ever, our students require authentic learning experiences that connect the content of their science courses to real world problems— not only to foster skills that allow them to enter the rapidly evolving workforce, but to participate in their communities as effective citizens. Faculty need time, space, structure, and community to “refresh” their learning in ways that invigorate their disciplinary knowledge and expertise—while leveraging precious workshop time to produce new materials to use in their classrooms.

Overview of Workshop Series
Working with scientists and educators at the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), we have designed a three phase workshop series focused around two big data sets—one health and one environment. Working with ISB scientists and colleagues from across the CTC system, faculty will collaboratively design, develop, test, and refine new materials to use in their classrooms.

Primary Faculty Learning Outcome
To increase faculty content knowledge and pedagogical strategies for integration of computational thinking (e.g., access to, integration of, and analysis of big data) into undergraduate biology experiences.

Phase I: Learning and Initial Design
Workshop Date: October 16th, 2015

Phase II: Materials Development
Workshop Date: January 29th, 2016

Phrase III: Reflection and Refinement
Workshop Date: April 22nd, 2016

Who Should Attend?
The ideal team will consist of 3 to 5 faculty members who teach the diversity of undergraduate biology courses offered by Washington State CTCs. Depending on institutional potentials for collaboration, Chemistry and Statistics faculty, as well as other STEM faculty, may benefit.

College sends one faculty member to attend the series of three workshops— $450 flat fee.
College sends more than one faculty member to attend the series of three workshops— $390 per faculty member.

Questions About Content: Dana Riley Black or Jennifer Whetham
Questions About Registration: Jackie Eppler-Clark

2015 Best Practices Exchange: From Emerging Practice to Excellent Performance: Our Journey to Culture Change

You are invited to send a team (up to six people) to the sixth annual statewide Best Practices Exchange.

  • Who: Faculty, staff, and administrators from Student Services, Institutional Research, and Instruction (including Basic Education for Adults and Workforce Education).  As you build your team, think about how to represent multiple areas on your campus.
  • What: We invite colleges to attend this event as a team to learn about and customize strategies that advance student achievement and success.
  • When: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 27, 2015.  Lunch will be provided.
  • Where: McGavick Center (Building 23), Clover Park Technical College
  • How: The Institutional Research Department will register up to six team members from your college.

Keynote Speaker
Dr. Karen Stout President and CEO of the Achieving the Dream, will present on learnings and successes from this decade of reform and speak to the next big things that colleges must address to keep the momentum of the movement moving forward.

Plenary Sessions

  • Student Success Principles In Action: Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges Show the Way
  • Working Families Success Network (WFSN): Building Capacity in High Need Programs

Concurrent Sessions

  • Equity:  Strategies that close the achievement gap for historically under-represented students.
  • Student Achievement Initiative:  Practices that have led to significant gains in the student achievement milestone areas of basic skills and pre-college transition to college, retention and progression, and completions.
  • Workforce:  Responding to the workforce needs of the local community.
  • AtD:  Culmination of Achieving the Dream experiences.


  • Questions about the event: Joe Holliday (360-704-4334)
  • Questions about registration: Brooke Allinder (360-704-4315)

2016 National Summer Institute on Learning Communities!

Send a campus team that includes faculty, student affairs professionals, and administrators to

“…the best boot camp for learning communities in the country…”

This institute is designed to help two- and four-year institutions:

  • Explore the potential for learning communities on their campus
  • Start a new learning community (LC) program
  • Expand an existing LC program

Find out more details and access an application!

Institute Dates: July 11th to July 15th, 2016
Location: The Evergreen State College
Cost: $1,350 per person
Team size: 5-10 people
Application Deadline: 1st review of applications begins January 16, 2016.

Participate in an Assignment Charette!

The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA)
invites YOUR application
to participate in an assignment charrette!

Applications are due by November 15, 2015

Selected Participants will meet on Saturday, February 20, 2016, in New Orleans, from approximately noon to 6:00 pm, following the conclusion of the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ General Education and Assessment Conference.

Please only apply if you are available on February 20th!

What is a Charrette?
A charette is a collaborative assignment-design process. The charrette is intended for faculty members and related staff who are designing and using assignments linked to proficiencies set forth in the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP).  The charrette provides an opportunity to share your assignment with others and to contribute to an online library of high quality, peer-endorsed assignments as part of the Assignment Library Initiative.

What is the DQP?
Read more about the DQP.

What is the Assignment Library Initiative?
View the current version of the Library.

What does the Project Cover?

  • Travel
  • Onsite costs
  • $500 honorarium upon completion

Following the meeting, participants will fine tune their assignments based on feedback and submit them to the library in Fall 2016.

NILOA is open to assignments of all types, addressing any DQP proficiency in any discipline or field. However, they are especially eager to receive applications from 2-3-person teams working on linked assignments that students experience over time or across contexts. This might mean, for instance, one participant who teaches a first-year seminar submitting an assignment highlighting the Use of Information Resources, and a colleague who teaches a subsequent course with an assignment that requires students to apply those skills. Teams might also be composed of faculty from a 2-year and from a 4-year institution working together on assignments. One application should be submitted per team. They welcome applications from both full-time and adjunct or part-time faculty and especially encourage those who work at minority-serving institutions or who teach diverse student populations to apply.

Please send your application materials electronically to:

Applications should include

  1. Participant name, department affiliation, and institution.
  2. A copy of the assignment in the form that you present it to students along with a rubric or set of criteria used to evaluate it.
  3. An explanatory memo about the assignment, which covers the following:
    1. Which DQP proficiencies the assignment is intended to assess—please be as specific as possible, using language from the 2014 version of the document;
    2. In what course the assignment is used, and at what point in the course;
    3. Any pertinent information about the students in the course–majors vs. non majors, what they might find most challenging about the assignment, etc.;
    4. How the assignment builds on earlier work and/or prepares students for more advanced work in later courses (or for success beyond graduation).
    5. Your experience with the assignment to date and what aspects of the assignment might be strengthened or about which you would like feedback from other participants at the NILOA event.
    6. Who else might find this assignment useful?

Pave the Way Conference: Advancing Equity, Access, Readiness & Support

Register by September 25 and SAVE!

Join colleagues at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center October 5th and 6th, 2015, for Pave the Way 2015.  This two-day event is your opportunity to engage with policymakers, leaders, community organizers, and practitioners throughout the P-20 continuum.

View the conference website for the most up-to-date information.

The price for the conference is $95, and includes lunch both days. No discount for partial attendance.

The registration fee is current through midnight on September 25, 2015. Registrations received on or after September 26, 2015, will be processed at the late registration fee of $125.