In the Fall of 2017, Queen’s launched the “Cognitive Assessment Redesign” (CAR), a Learning Outcomes Assessment Consortium 2 initiative, funded by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. The CAR project features an integrated support network to expand learning opportunities and tailoring assessment to directly target the skills of critical thinking, creative thinking and problem solving. Instructors from 25 first and fourth year courses expressed interest in redesigning assignments to support student skill development. The courses from several different faculties each received a $5,000 grant to fund the modification or improvement of their courses. Each instructor was also paired with an assessment facilitator with expertise in their area to help them align their assessments to a set of standardized rubrics.
“This initiative is aimed at taking into account everything we have learned so far about how to measure and embed more cognitive thinking skills into undergraduate courses,” says Jill Scott, Vice Provost (Teaching and Learning). “It also provides our faculty with support to increase their capacity to specifically develop and assess transferable higher-order skills.”
“As the research is showing, one of the best ways to measure a student’s ability to apply knowledge or skills as they would in the real world is to embed critical thinking and problem solving challenges into their regular course work and then assess it as part of their mark,” says Brian Frank, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) and co-Principal Investigator along with Dr. Scott. “The important part is ensuring the standardized rubrics are being applied by all instructors in the same way so we can gather reliable data and thereby get a clearer picture of how much our students are typically improving during their undergraduate years at Queen’s.”
As part of this rollout, on February 28th Queen’s held an assessment redesign day where 15 instructors gave brief “lightning talks”, highlighting their methods for developing and evaluating student skill development in different disciplines. This was an opportunity to engage in discussions with the instructors about the nature of skill development in the disciplines, their assessment designs, and overcoming challenges. A few themes that emerged were the importance of making learning explicit, co-creating assessments, and establishing trust. The day concluded with a reception and lecture from the Principal’s Distinguished Visitor for the Enhancement of Learning, Dr. Randy Bass on “Assessment Matters: Integrative Learning in a Dis-integrative Era.”
For more information on the CAR initiative or the overall project, visit the Learning Outcomes Project web page.