From the VALUE Executive Director

Welcome to this special issue of Peer Review, in which we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the VALUE rubrics’ release. Although it was not known at the time, 2009 began a decade of the public’s questioning the worth of higher education for students’ success. There was a decline in public funding and support for colleges and universities, and a litany of complaints about lack of student learning and faculty disinterest or bias.

The creation of the VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) rubrics was an intentional response to that environment. VALUE was built on the premises that the best indicators of student accomplishment or attainment of Essential Learning Outcomes was the work students produced from assignments given by faculty and other educators both in formal classroom settings and outside activities; that professional educators did exercise practiced expertise and judgment about the quality of student performance; and that it was possible to articulate the shared core dimensions or elements of the Essential Learning Outcomes so students, faculty, employers, and others could judge for themselves the quality of learning that students’ work demonstrates.

The assumptions underlying the VALUE rubrics are (1) that all students bring with them a set of skills and abilities that offer a basis upon which further growth and development of learning is built; (2) that the better higher education can articulate what outcomes and corresponding levels of learning are expected for successful completion of educational goals, the more likely it is that educators can design and deliver intentional practices that will enhance student ability to achieve quality performance; and (3) that learning is an iterative and complex set of experiences that need to be integrated and practiced over time, with educational settings designed to be progressively more challenging and assessed for high levels of attainment.

This issue’s content—selected and guided by Kathryne (Kate) Drezek McConnell, AAC&U assistant vice president for research and assessment—includes a range of authors who have been involved with different aspects of the development of the VALUE rubric approach over the past ten years. Several authors were active through the Multi-State Collaborative that piloted the large-scale implementation of the VALUE approach (www.aacu.org/value/msc). Michael Ben-Avie, Kevin Kuna, and I examine how VALUE is a strategic approach to learning connected to the work of the campus rather than a test or isolated initiative. John Hathcoat explores the meaning of the rubric scores and how each score represents important learning opportunities rather than failures or inadequacies. Martha Stassen and Anne Harrington direct attention to the ways in which faculty are engaged by the VALUE assessment approach in pedagogical and learning improvement. Eric Vanover connects the curriculum to civic engagement and the historical conception of community colleges. Kimberly Filer and Gail Steehler dispel the myths that perfection in assessment is possible and that more good may come from the imperfect measurement of the messy reality that is learning in practice. Gary Pike and Kate McConnell discuss the ability to generalize from data generated by using the VALUE rubrics. Finally, David Eubanks argues that inter-rater reliability and rubric methodology have often masked the actual usefulness of rubric scores and results for learning and improvement. He also considers the potential and pitfalls of reconceptualizing assessment based on large scale examination of student work and generalizability around technical and social requirements for learning improvement.

This broad dive into the many dimensions of the VALUE approach to assessment continues to illustrate the strength of critical friends in enhancing assessment of student learning. A single number, score or grade is not sought through the VALUE approach, but rather multiple measures over time and circumstance that together make meaningful sense of essential learning and abilities for translating learning into practice to improve lives and societies for oneself and others.

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