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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
August 22, 2006
DeKalb — Northern Illinois Univeristy’s College of Education has a serious commitment to collecting and analyzing assessment-related data.
First, however, the college’s first coordinator of assessment must find it all.
David Walker, who also is as associate professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, took the job in July.
“We’ve always done assessment. Our College of Education has been very good about doing assessment,” Walker said. But “we have data all over the university. I’m trying to collect the data and get it all into one central spot.”
Walker, who came to NIU in 2003 from Florida Atlantic University, is also busy making long-term plans for the new position he took at Dean Chris Sorensen’s request. Sorensen strives to make correct and well-informed decisions about programs, something good data collection affords.
Walker is setting a priority on creating a consistent flow of data and assembling an implementation team comprised of faculty, staff and administrators to assist in gathering, reviewing and depositing programmatic data.
He also will begin to review and assess the collected data to prompt conversations “as a college” and “as departments.” The data will balance the theoretical ideas of “here’s what we think we’re doing and here’s what we think we can do” with the practical reality of “here’s what we are doing,” he said.
His work also will become a focal point during accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and program review by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
“David will help us get better at looking at data and using data to improve our programs,” Sorensen said. “David is a faculty member in research and assessment who clearly understands research … and has a very clear understanding of the assessment needs related to NCATE.”
“The office is a great idea. I’ve know the dean for quite some time, and I respect her leadership tremendously,” Walker said. “Continual improvement is an ongoing process. It shouldn’t come every seven years, but every semester.”
The college’s online data warehouse – LiveText – spurs productivity by allowing users to organize and store data, create portfolios, collaborate online and manage courses. One of its tools supports data-driven decision-making in assignment creation.
Walker said he is organizing direct resources, such as student portfolios, capstone projects, rubrics and standardized tests, along with indirect resources such as opinions from alumni surveys and employment statistics of former students now in the workplace.
He’s also tapping into SHARK, the college’s computer-based “Student History and Record Keeping” program, for data including the scheduling of past courses and the professors who taught them.
NIU’s Institutional Research office is supplying student demographics. The Office of the Provost is providing data from surveys of teachers.
Another goal is to launch a Web site for College of Education staff. It would include necessary forms for data collection and submission as well as a calendar feature that informs department chairs of their last accreditation, the date of their last submitted report and the next report deadline.
It all helps college leaders determine whether students are acquiring the knowledge they need and applying their skills appropriately, he said.
Even old data has purpose.
“A lot of what we’re teaching doesn’t change,” he said. “Students may change, and student demographics may change, but what we teach our students, and what they can apply, shouldn’t be changing too much.”
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