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Some Thoughts about Assessment

For many of us, assessment conjures up images of standardized, multiple-choice examinations.   When asked how we know that our students are becoming more critical thinkers, more effective communicators, and better global citizens, we answer, “because we know our students.”  Our classes are small.  We know each student by name.  After graduation, they report back to us on the importance of a particular class or reading or co-curricular activity to their current vocation.

The value of a Pomona College education isn’t something that can be readily measured on a quantitative scale.  It is eternal and yet intangible. We are creating lifelong learners.  Nevertheless, we do continually engage in processes of self-evaluation.  In conversations in hallways and in department meetings, we discuss how well or how poorly our students are doing in particular classes or projects.  We make changes to the curriculum and to general education requirements in response to our informal assessments of student needs.

We do engage in assessment, but we haven’t labeled it as such.  These evaluative processes are sometimes hampered by a lack of consensus about our goals and objectives for student learning, or by a failure to make them explicit.  We have not always been systematic in recording and documenting these assessment processes.

We participate in this process because we are deeply committed to providing the best possible education for all of our students.   We engage in this process because we want to provide the best preparation for students so that they, in turn, can make a difference in the world at large.

The purpose of this website is to document our assessment practices and share them with one another.  In a single location, we will gather information from institutional surveys of student engagement and satisfaction, evaluations of general education initiatives like the writing program, and assessment reports from departments.   Sharing such information will, we hope, help us all figure out together how to make assessment best meet the needs of Pomona College and liberal arts education itself.

Former Dean of the College, Cecilia Conrad

Academic Dean