The Office of Educational Effectiveness (OEE), the first such department in the history of Stony Brook University, marked a pivotal moment by hosting its first annual all-day Assessment Symposium on November 10, 2022. As part of the Office of the Provost, the new department is tasked with leading campus-wide assessment initiatives that measure both student learning outcomes and administrative outcomes at the institution.
To mark the birth of this new office, and the increasing focus on assessment as an opportunity for institutional improvement to meet the needs of students, faculty, and staff, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Carl Lejuez and members of OEE selected four faculty members to receive the inaugural Excellence in Educational Effectiveness (EEE) Award. This award identifies Stony Brook educators who have demonstrated, over many years, a passion for evaluating their own teaching practices by collecting student feedback and data to make improvements and revisions to their curriculum and instruction. Data can include course evaluations, aggregated student course work, or artifacts that demonstrate learning has been achieved and to what degree.
The faculty members, who served on a panel discussion during the symposium, were recognized at the event by Provost Lejuez. The four awardees were: Brenda Anderson, J. Peter Gergen, Peter Khost and Deborah Zelizer. In highlighting the awardees, Lejuez described how each one embodied a fearless curiosity to understand the effectiveness of their teaching at the course level as well as at the program level. For example, he noted, “Dr. Gergen is one of those rare souls who loves looking at feedback and is not afraid of using it to make changes. He wants to hear what’s working, or not working, and why.”
As Lejuez presented each award, he explained how each professor had a unique story to tell about how they evaluated their own teaching practice by intentionally using data to make changes and improvements. The assessment process is key to organizational effectiveness and instructional development as it illustrates evidence-based continuous improvement for all student learning both inside and outside the classroom. Assessment is also key to reaccreditation, a periodic process of self-evaluation that all postsecondary institutions must complete.
The symposium, which was held in the Student Activities Center, was open to all Stony Brook University faculty and staff. It featured presentations by nationally recognized assessment experts Carol Van Zile Tamsen and Peggy Maki. Tamsen is the director of Curriculum, Assessment and Teaching Transformation at the University of Buffalo. Her plenary session, “The Story of Us: Building a Culture of Assessment at the University of Buffalo,” gave a historic look at how one institution went through a transformation to establish a culture of assessment and how different departments from STEM and the humanities integrated assessment into their course and program designs. Maki, an educational consultant and author, delivered an interactive keynote session, “Real-Time Student Assessment: Remaining on the Frontline of Your Students’ Learning.” She discussed concrete ways to embed assessment into curriculum development and how to harness technology to gather both direct and indirect measures of student learning.
Overall, the symposium provided attendees an opportunity to learn about best practices in assessment in a collaborative setting. Campus leaders provided updates on assessment and institutional accreditation, while faculty learned from their colleagues and shared assessment strategies that have proven successful in their programs.
Below are comments from the Provost that elaborate on each of the groundbreaking award winners:
Brenda Anderson, PhD – Professor, Integrative Neuroscience, College of Arts and Sciences:
“Brenda Anderson is a champion for assessment throughout the university. She has brought her considerable energy to changing the university culture around assessment by not only collecting data, but advocating for policies and systems so that making improvements based on data becomes second nature for her and her colleagues. Dr. Anderson served as the Institutional Accreditation Liaison Officer for 2.5 years. During that time, she refined her own assessment skills by attending conferences, town halls, and webinars on assessment that were offered by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. She also served as member and Chair of the Graduate Council, which reviews assessment plans for graduate programs, and also served as the Assessment Coordinator in Psychology for 1 1/2 years.”
Peter Gergen, PhD – SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, College of Arts and Sciences:
“Dr. Gergen is one of those rare souls who loves looking at feedback and is not afraid of using it to make changes. He wants to hear what’s working, or not working, and why. He makes time for assessment and periodically schedules meetings with his department colleagues to review course evaluations to learn more about what students are experiencing in the courses his department offers. In this way, he shows a genuine care for learners and for the quality of instruction at Stony Brook. He is always proud of his students and seeks to highlight their accomplishments. He’s a member of the Evaluation Working Group for the National Institute on Scientific Teaching and has been deeply involved with that organization in a number of ways. He’s also implemented a long list of activities in Undergraduate Biology to continuously monitor and improve the student experience and learning outcomes in some of our most in-demand courses.”
Peter Khost, PhD – Assistant Professor and Director, Program in Writing and Rhetoric, College of Arts and Sciences:
“With over 20 years in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Dr. Khost has gone from outright resisting assessment to embracing it. However, this transformation was not because of external mandates or hired consultants, but because of curiosity about his discipline and compassion for his students. Dr. Khost is an inspiration to us all and a great example of how we can use assessment to initiate and sustain positive change for the benefit of our students.”
Deborah Zelizer, PhD, LCSW – Clinical Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Health Science; Program Director, BS in Health Science, School of Health Professions:
“Two decades ago, Dr. Zelizer was one of the first faculty members to get involved in assessment efforts at Stony Brook. As a department chair with oversight of multiple programs with specialized accreditation standards, she contributed to the Middle States reaffirmation in 2002 and 2014. She previously served as a member of the 2014 Assessment Academy and currently serves on the MSCHE Working Group for Standard 5, the General Education Advisory Committee, and the SBU Assessment Council. Because of her active participation, she always has excellent suggestions and ideas for how to improve assessment processes. Yet, she remains humble and never claims to be an expert.”
— Carol Hernandez, Ed.D, Senior Instructional Designer and Faculty Developer from the SBU Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching