AAC&U News, May 2019

Reflections on VALUE: Where We Have Been, Where We Are Going

It is hard for me to believe that we are almost halfway through the tenth year of the VALUE approach to assessment. For four of those ten years, it has been my extreme privilege to get to say, only slightly in jest, that my job has been “All VALUE, all the time.” In collaboration with colleagues at AAC&U and literally hundreds of institutions—two- and four-year, public and private—we have collectively shepherded an upstart proof-of-concept into a robust, faculty-centered, growth-minded approach to helping ensure that quality and equity are truly the cornerstones of excellence in undergraduate education.

When I have the opportunity to share the VALUE approach with an institution’s community of educators on one of my campus visits, I often explain that I extolled the virtues of the VALUE rubrics long before AAC&U paid my salary. Of late, I have found myself often reflecting on my time as an early-career professional tasked with helping my institution navigate myriad calls for accountability, while at the same time engaging a righteously skeptical faculty whose past experiences with assessment as an institutional mandate had been less than positive.

The release of VALUE rubrics, however, represented a lifeline to us. Not because I instantly had a silver bullet to “fix” all that ailed our assessment work. Not because the methodology was fully formed. And not because we all instantly agreed on every definition, every dimension, or every performance level on any one VALUE rubric. Rather, the VALUE rubrics represented, first and foremost, an expression of trust. Trust that educators could indeed articulate what learning looked like for the range of outcomes we extolled in our brochures and on our websites, and that educators themselves could be trusted and should be empowered to bring their expertise to bear on determining the quality of student learning.

As stewards of the VALUE approach, AAC&U has spent the last ten years working to earn the collective trust of the higher education community in the VALUE approach. We readily admit that VALUE is epistemologically, pedagogically, and methodologically complex. With our release of work like On Solid Ground and We Have a Rubric for That, we have provided our best thinking on the strengths of the VALUE approach, as well as articulated future directions for VALUE. 

Building off the success of early innovations like the Multi-State Collaborative, AAC&U is thrilled to make nationwide scoring of student work broadly available to everyone through the VALUE Institute. As the academic year comes to a close, AAC&U is working with approximately forty institutions submitting student work for scoring by certified VALUE scorers who are being trained through our enhanced VALUE scoring curriculum and new learning management system. Registration for next year’s round of this exciting initiative will open in early fall 2019.

For the rest of this year, and as we begin VALUE’s next ten years in earnest, AAC&U will continue to look out on the landscape of learning in higher education and renew our commitment to building the next generation of VALUE resources, be they tips and tricks for making VALUE work locally or improvements designed to enhance our methodology. As always, we welcome not just your feedback, but your enthusiastic engagement as cocreators and critical friends, reminding us why VALUE exists as well as where it needs to go to further our core goal of student success for all. To that end, we invite you to share your reflections on your own VALUE story with us, whether in a conversation in passing at a conference coffee break, as a feature story in one of our publications, or as a presentation at an AAC&U meeting. VALUE’s future will be written by us all.

About AAC&U News

AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.


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