Megan Overby, Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders, spoke of her responsibities to academic standards (those of St. Rose and of other organizations) as she teaches diagnostics and clinical writing to her students. Since Overby is able to find academic freedom within the educational standards she must uphold, she focuses on finding common themes to address within her discipline. One example of how Overby incorporates her culture of assessment into teaching is through her graduate students’ Cultural Observation Project. For this project, students must attend a cultural event, research the phonology of the culture they choose, interview someone at the event using a rubric, and write a reaction paper. Overby explained that the interview rubric not only focuses the student on necessary language and communication characteristics, it (and the project itself) is embedded with many other standards set by St. Rose and other important professional entities. Overby recognizes the positive experience her students continually have in this project while they are also meeting standards. Some of the standards students meet in this project are achieving knowledge of the discipline, observing cultural influences on communication style and parts of speech, learning about the diagnostic process by understanding something about a particular culture, and achieving an awareness of their community.
J. Daniel Beaudry, Adjunct Instructor for the English Department, presented on his experience using contract learning. Exercising his academic freedom, Beaudry experimented with this grading system first by addressing concerns like: Where do the standards go in this system? Might this system lead to grade inflation? Will this system just be more work for the professor? Because a teacher’s purpose it to teach and evaluate, Beaudry had to deal with the confusion for both professor and student when evaluation is redirected into instilling particular habits and processes while giving constructive, timely feedback. In order to construct a learning contract Beaudry suggested beginning by assessing what is in one’s subject that a good practitioner does all of the time. As an example of implementing contract learning and following this line of thought, Beaudy assembled a contract for a writing class that required good readers who could comment, criticize, and connect readings in order to write effectively. Though the contract Beaudry gave his students was long, he found that it was not confusing and overwhelming; rather it served as a helpful tool with a lot of information and prevented students from getting lost in assignments. Some benefits Beaudry has found with a contract grading system are a reduction of cheating (students do not fear grade damage), that there is no longer a need to justify grading, and when assessing the final work of students in a course, he is able to really discern exceptional work.
Jennifer Childress, Associate Professor in Art Education, presented on the assessment processes used by and on her art education students. Implementing a layering of goals, Childress uses textbooks that have longevity, addresses problems with solving and predicting in lessons, incorporates critical thinking skills, and works on reading and writing skills with her students. Childress finds academic freedom in her teaching and for her student teachers in being able to move around within rubrics always holding that the teacher is at least doing what she must. As her student teachers evaluate themselves and their lessons, they are asked to revise and reflect on what they did well and what they need to improve on—they score themselves (1, 2, 3, or 4). In this process Childress finds that her students become objective observers of data and they can utilizes readings that are pertinent to what they need to improve on. Also teaching professional standards, Childress has her student teachers write a letter to the next batch of student teachers. Not only does this exercise promote teachers helping teachers, it also engages her students with research and thinking through classroom exercises that help/hinder their students. Childress has found that her rubric evaluation system helps her students think about and perform quality work, rather than worrying about grades.