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Faculty honored for innovative assessment at Student Learning Symposium

Monday, February 01, 2021

LAWRENCE — Nine University of Kansas faculty members were recently recognized for their innovative work in improving student learning.

They shared their work Jan. 26 at the 2021 Student Learning Symposium, hosted by the Center for Teaching Excellence. The symposium focuses on effective approaches to assessing student understanding and skill development as a means of improving courses and curricula. Nearly 100 KU faculty and staff members joined this year’s virtual sessions.

Joshua Potter, CTE’s documenting learning specialist, praised the extensive work instructors put into their teaching over the past year.

“COVID forced many faculty members into online or remote environments for the first time in their careers,” Potter said. “Many of them went to great lengths to redesign and create new assessment methods and instruments. This year’s honorees provide great examples that other faculty and departments can draw on in the years ahead.”

The theme of this year’s symposium was “From One to Many: Scaling Up Our Assessment Efforts,” reflecting the university’s efforts to improve the documentation of student learning. Barbara Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor, presented the awards.

The winners:

Course-Level Innovation Awards

Laura Kirk, Department of Theatre & Dance. Kirk turned a canonically face-to-face discipline, theatre, into a hybrid format that mixed simultaneous in-person and remote performance. In Kirk’s hands, Zoom became a new acting method rather than an impediment to acting. Her work was recently featured in the Lawrence Journal-World. 

Cambrey Nguyen, School of Pharmacy. Nguyen’s already strong active learning simulations had to be moved online to accommodate both in-person and online learning. Despite the changes, her implementation resulted in learning gains on critical course outcomes. 

Kyle Velte, School of Law. Through assigning real-world tasks like lobbying a legislator and assembling a playlist of protest songs, Velte’s innovative assessments helped students navigate the intersection of gender and identity and the law. 

Tracey LaPierre, Department of Sociology. LaPierre adopted a type of grading software to improve the evaluation of student learning in a remote environment. Importantly, she was able to leverage these evaluations to provide extensive feedback to students frequently throughout the semester. 

Shuai Sun, Department of Chemistry. Sun augmented the final exam in a chemistry class with a “build-a-molecule” project that served a practical introduction to molecular modeling. 

Kevin McCannon, Department of Sociology. McCannon leveraged the pandemic to prompt students to interview their own family members about their experiences while in crisis. Students then pooled these interview observations and analyzed them with qualitative research methods. 

Degree-Level Annual Reporting Awards

Sean Gullickson, Department of Spanish & Portuguese. For multiple years, Gullickson has overseen assessment projects that integrate rubric-based evaluations, institutional data and student surveys. These diverse data sources are combined to reveal deep intuitions about how the curriculum is functioning and where students are succeeding or struggling.

Jordan Taylor, Department of Health, Sport & Exercise Science. The HSES department uses student performance on course-embedded case studies to draw conclusions about the overall effectiveness of their curriculum. Their assessment method involves a mix of decentralized sampling of student work and centralized evaluation of these case studies. 

KU Core Innovation Award 

Peter Bobkowski, School of Journalism & Mass Communications. Bobkowski worked with KU Libraries to construct open-access resources for journalism students. The students used this resource to write a series of “research briefs” that could be provided to reporters for background on important news stories.

More information about the Student Learning Symposium can be found at https://assessment.ku.edu/2021-student-learning-symposium.

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