By exploring how assessment can be used to preserve and enhance well-loved resources like the Appalachian Trail, this essay from the Theological Education journal offers reframing strategies that help reclaim assessment and evaluation as activities appropriate to and worthy of theological educators.
Educational assessment is central to the work of teaching and learning; it also plays a key role in the ATS Commission’s Standards of Accreditation. Assessment is a mission-critical process that calls for alignment of resources and activities toward desired student learning outcomes and, as such, should be integrated into the work of the entire institution—from senior administrators to faculty to student information professionals. Through workshops at various ATS events, Engage ATS (a new online interactive community for those who serve at ATS member schools), and other resources, ATS supports those coordinating the assessment of student learning. These resources include:
A Reflective Guide to Effective Assessment of Student Learning. Originally published as Chapter Seven of the Commission’s previous Self-Study Handbook, this text provides a concise, user-friendly, practical, and accessible framework to help institutions imagine, implement, and improve their own assessment programs. It also serves member schools by clearly linking the project of assessment to the expectations of the ATS Commission Standards. Schools may find the guide’s “Checklist for Effective Assessment” to be a useful resource as they review their assessment plans. [NOTE: This document will be replaced in 2021 by a new Reflective Guide to Effective Evaluation for Theological Schools.]
An Assessment Workbook for Roman Catholic Seminaries. This text explores educational assessment with attention to both the ATS Commission Standards and also the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Program of Priestly Formation (PPF) and Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Program for Priestly Formation (CPPF). This text is accompanied by a selection of assessment case studies. Because the workbook and case studies focus on student formation broadly (including human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral elements), it can be useful to a wide range of institutions, including Catholic schools that offer programs other than priestly formation as well as non-Catholic institutions as they try to imagine new ways to assess spiritual formation or personal character.
Educational Assessment: Simple, Sustainable, Sufficient. This 60-minute video is based on the workshop of the same name from the 2018 ATS Biennial Meeting, and is designed to help institutions evaluate and revise their assessment plans, with an eye toward the Commission’s expectation that assessment plans be “as simple and sustainable as possible while adequate to answer fundamental questions about educational effectiveness” (Educational Standard, section ES.6.1). The presentation slides are also available.
Recommended Assessment Resources. This bibliography of assessment-related resources, curated by ATS staff, provides suggestions for further reading.