Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Assessing Assessment

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Last week BU hosted John McCahan Medical Education Day, a symposium dedicated to innovation, research, and technology in teaching. Martha Stassen, Director of Assessment at U Mass Amherst, delivered the keynote address in defense of assessment. Borrowing from Atul Gawande’s work on checklists, she argued that assessment can not only prevent errors but also enhance teaching.

One example of her argument is the biomedical engineer George Plopper, featured in a profile on Inside Higher Ed. After encountering Bloom’s taxonomy, Plopper restructured his undergraduate classes on cancer biology to integrate assessment into the syllabus. Instead of lecture, memorization, and test, Plopper’s classes now students analyze the subject matter themselves, teach it to each other, and apply it in realistic scenarios.

Plopper evaluates students on each of these tasks, pegging his assessment to specific terms in Bloom’s taxonomy. With the new focus on project-based learning, he measured quantitative gains in instances of higher order thinking. Rather than a burdensome task, being explicit about assessment helped improve student outcomes.

When Students Are Mothers

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Edward Feldman, chair of the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, has stepped down from his leadership role following an investigation of a classroom incident.

Earlier in the semester a student in his class informed him that she would have to miss a few weeks because she was giving birth. In response, Feldman asked his assistants to send a message to all the students in the class asking them to complete a poll about how he should determine the grade of their pregnant classmate.

Feldman admits his insensitivity and has accepted the demotion. Admittedly, he may have been unsure how to respond to the student's request, but rather than consulting his colleagues or administrators, he polled her peers. I wonder if he would have done the same if the absence had been for chemotherapy. It seems that pregnancy is treated differently. As long as women increasingly fill the ranks of students and faculty, universities will have to make accommodations for childbirth.