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Now that many colleges and universities have published solidarity and commitment statements in response to Black Lives Matter and calls for the eradication of structural racism, what’s next? Institutional racism is perpetuated on college campuses when colleges and universities hire and promote people to positions without having them address their own understanding of systems of oppression and consider what actions they will take to dismantle these systems. The recent hiring freezes that many institutions have implemented due to COVID-19 make this an opportune time for campuses to pause and begin reimagining hiring practices and interview protocols.

For the most part, the same principles that apply to assessments designed for use in-class also apply to assessments designed for the online environment. The most important consideration in any assessment design is validity, which is not a property of the assessment itself but instead describes the adequacy or appropriateness of interpretations and uses of assessment results. I explore three considerations about validity that faculty and assessment professionals should keep in mind as they design curricula, assignments, and assessments in their new teaching environments.

For too long, academics like us—white authors with safe and stable work in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia—have been allowed to remain complacent in privileged positions. As higher education works to dismantle oppressive structures and develop equitable practices in writing and publishing (as in every arena), we see new possibilities for writing within and beyond “traditional” (mostly Western, mostly white) genres that can move us closer to creating more just and more authentic institutions and educational practices.

At the start of most semesters, students arrive on their community college campuses motivated to succeed. This fall, however, many students arrived at college virtually, exacerbating the emotional fatigue and isolation they had likely experienced due to COVID-19. While colleges can’t solve all of the problems their students encounter, they can encourage students to build the relationships with faculty, staff, and other students that are essential to their success. In countless student focus groups that the Center for Community College Student Engagement conducted over nearly twenty years, students have consistently maintained that even if they thought about dropping out, a relationship with someone else on campus—an  instructor, a staff member, another student—gave them the encouragement, guidance, or support they needed to keep going.

In his book Higher Expectations, two-time Harvard president Derek Bok explores what it should mean to be liberally educated in the twenty-first century. Given the size and scope of the unprecedented challenges colleges and universities are confronting today, Bok calls for a radical reimagining of higher education grounded in the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative. This twenty-first-century vision for liberal education requires rethinking educational purposes and practices to better prepare students for global interdependence, innovation in the workplace, civic engagement, complexity, and rapid change. The key elements in a framework for high-quality learning include widely expected learning outcomes, high-impact practices that foster achievement and completion, evidence on what works for underserved students, and authentic assessments that raise and reveal the levels of learning.

For over a year, we—two undergraduate English majors (Emily and Samantha) and a tenured English department faculty member (Michael)—developed an assessment model for a newly redesigned general education writing class at the University of North Georgia (UNG). With the assessment project now at a close, we believe strongly in what we accomplished: hearing about students’ lived experiences, tapping into the high-impact practice of undergraduate research through a student-faculty partnership, and designing a project that is responsive to local contexts, answerable to local constituents, and mutually beneficial for faculty and students.

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