Committee evaluates tutorial education

Cuong Nguyen

In September of this year, a research committee funded by the Teagle Foundation was created to develop assessments for tutorial education and create tools to improve the system. Students are the main beneficiaries from the project, since it will help them achieve the best possible learning outcomes in their tutorial study courses.
Lawrence University faculty members Bill Skinner and Rob Beck act as co-principle investigators in the committee, which is comprised of faculty from three colleges — two from Williams College, two from the College of Wooster and four from Lawrence University. The representatives from Lawrence are associated with the disciplines of natural science, social science, humanities and fine arts.
The evaluation process starts by identifying the characteristics that are useful for tutorial learning, such as being an independent thinker and retaining a certain amount of skepticism. These qualities are measured based on analyses of students’ recordings, papers and presentations.
Based on the measurements, appropriate methods can be applied to improve students’ learning progress. The whole procedure will create the necessary instruments for the instructors to use.
From these instruments, instructors will be able to assess the students’ work and give feedback. From the feedback, students can make changes to their studying practices in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.
This procedure is conducted at the beginning, middle and end of the course in a process called “formative assessments” that will help students throughout the entire learning experience. One final analysis will be made to give “summative assessments” — final evaluations of students’ overall satisfaction with the course.
A workshop was held last October to work on the current evaluation process, Shared Assessments Method 1, which is expected to be put into trial application by the four committee members from Lawrence during winter and spring terms this academic year.
In the fall of next year, another workshop will be held to discuss the success of SAM 1, and improvements will be made to create SAM 2, and later, SAM 3.