Well, I’m in the dean’s office now. Pause while the wordpress server handles the sudden exodus from this page. Ok, now we’re ready. I wanted to get some thoughts down (and seek useful advice from you, dear reader) about how we can incentivize various activities in higher ed. The reason I titled this “quantum economies” is that I’m realizing that most of my incentives (carrots and sticks) come in quite large chunks. What I’m trying to figure out is a way to have smaller chunks at my disposal.
I just got back from a conference that was all about assessment of general education in higher ed. Most of the people there have either a) drunk the koolaid about assessment, or b) have accreditation breathing down their necks. I’d say I’m really in both camps. One of the most common points of discussion in the hallways was how to get better buy in for various assessment activities on our various campuses. Some give stipends to those who really try to i) collect data, ii) analyze data, and iii) make changes accordingly. Some make sure to give a shout out to programs that are doing some or all of all 3 of those things. But I have to say that most of us were feeling like we don’t really have great ways to incentivize programs to do this necessary work.
So I thought about what we do. One thing we do is explicitly pay attention to the assessment work that departments have done when doing both program reviews and reviews of new hire requests. Some at the conferences were aghast when I told them that latter one, but for me it feels appropriate. My problem is that it’s too big. Our departments hire on average every 5 years or so, and our program review cycle is similar. That’s too rare and too big to really make the day-to-day incentives that I’m looking for. The problem for me is that we don’t have that many other program-level sticks or carrots.
I did have one idea that some at the conference thought was amusing. Some said that it would definitely work while others just assumed I was joking. I’m not sure. I definitely originally thought of it as a joke but maybe there’s something to it. What do you think: If your program doesn’t do assessment work, all (or most? or many? or more than usual?) of your classes have to be at 8am. We struggle a little to get people to teach at that time (I could write a whole other post about the interesting conversation on our campus about that time slot) and most would rank it towards the bottom of their favorite time to teach. Some at the conference also talked about courses that meet on Fridays in a similar vein.
This is definitely smaller than “you can’t hire” but it’s still pretty . . . petty I guess is the right word. At the conference others talked about how it would be great if getting to teach a gen ed course was something people fought over. They talked about how if those were the only, say, 18-person capped classes on campus then people would beg to teach them. Basically we were all trying to find ways to reward those who do good work (again: i) measure, ii) analyze, iii) correct) and, I suppose, punish those who don’t. One problem, of course, is the vicious negative cycle the “bad” programs would undergo with most if not all of these ideas.
So I’m still kicking around some thoughts. I’d love to get some more from you. I guess my goals are:
- That we find a better way to value assessing our learning outcomes.
- That we incentivize programs to do that hard work and take it seriously.
- (most importantly) that we become better at serving our students.
I’ll end with my favorite quote from Kathleen Landy at the conference:
Assessment is not an autopsy, it’s a physical.
Thoughts? Here are some starters for you:
- That’s not at all what ‘quantum’ means. It’s clear you’re on the dark side of administration if you can’t even remember that from your physics teacher days. I’m out.
- I tried to leave this page but wordpress insisted I stay and read all this drivel. That’s 5 minutes I’ll never get back.
- I like the idea of ____ but I think a better twist on it would be . . .
- I hate the idea of _____ though I suppose you could make it better by . . .
- Who is General Ed? What’s his last name?
- Boy for me assessment of learning outcomes is definitely a bloody autopsy. What do you mean by it being a physical instead?
- I love teaching at 8am, this didn’t make any sense to me at all.
- Instead you should punish programs by …
- You should never use sticks, you should always use carrots and here’s why . . .
- You should never use carrots, you should always use sticks and here’s why . . .
- You should make any department that’s not doing their assessment do all their programming in python (long time readers will get that)