Previous Essays

Teaching to Lead
Teaching practices that help students develop leadership

Knowing About vs. Knowing How
The challenges of translating what we know about good practices into making our classes, majors, and programs more effective

Clear and Organized Teaching
Why a basic and under-appreciated teaching skill is critical for student learning

Improving Educational Quality
Lessons learned from liberal arts colleges about the conditions that facilitate the use of evidence to improve student learning


Why do we have to take this test? Assessment and student responsibility

During the orientation meetings and our discussions about student participation in the spring assessments, someone suggested thinking of the National Study as a social contract between students, faculty, and staff. We also talked about using this contract to build a community of inquiry at our campuses.

Jeanne Williams and her colleagues at Ripon College have turned this idea into reality. All incoming Ripon College students received a one-page handout describing some of the assessment activities in which they will be asked to participate. The handout frames the idea of assessment and improvement as part of the normal life of the college: "The faculty and staff of this college are proud to be part of an institution that is dedicated to student learning and growth.  Here you will learn from professors who continuously work to improve their teaching and from student life experiences designed to allow you many opportunities to develop important skills in leadership, collaboration, and planning."

The document also does a nice job of linking the idea of continuous improvement to the students’ educational experience: "The drive to improve and to provide the best possible education for all Ripon College students requires that we make every effort to understand how well our programs, personnel, and facilities meet the needs and support the aspirations of our students."

We appreciate the thoughtfulness behind this document. It takes an important step towards reframing assessment from being something that we beg and plead students to do, to something that is both a natural part of their education and consistent with their own interests. Ripon is happy to share this document with everyone, and they would like to thank their colleagues at Carleton College for helping them come up with this idea. Click here to see Ripon's handout.

We hope that you find this information helpful and that you have an enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

–CB and KW