From the Chronicle
Quest for International Measures of Higher-Education Learning Results Raises Concerns
By AISHA LABI
A fledgling international effort to develop comparable assessment standards for measuring how much students are learning at higher-education institutions throughout the world is provoking concern from several quarters, even though the project is still in its preliminary stages.
The project is being led by the OECD and it seems that at a meeting of education ministers they were a bit short of discussion topics over dinner:
the apparent dearth of available data on student-learning outcomes prompted discussion about how to fill that void. “It became evident that there are a lot of measurements about research outcomes at institutions of higher education, but what about the learning outcomes?” said Barbara Ischinger, director for education at the organization, which is known as the OECD.
“The notion of measuring students’ achievement within the United States has been very controversial,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education. “The notion of developing a mechanism to do it across the world seems orders of magnitude more controversial.”
(which is putting it mildly)
The OECD has held two meetings of about a dozen experts this year, with a third scheduled for next month in Seoul, South Korea. “We’ve started to exchange information and views about existing assessment programs in some countries,” said Ms. Ischinger. “It is now shaping up more into a direction of what could be done in terms of assessing generic-skills competencies, such as analytical reasoning, critical thinking, and also discipline-related competencies — for instance, in the natural sciences and engineering.”
But this is hard enough to achieve within disciplines, it’s pretty challenging at the institutional level and next to impossible in any meaningful way in a national context. It is difficult to imagine quite how generic these things are going to be when articulated in a (literally) universal way.
No grounds for concern though, it will all be up to us to decide:
According to summaries of the minutes of the first two meetings, the OECD has decided to focus its approach, at least initially, on voluntary participation at the institutional level.