To conduct an effective graduate program assessment, you need to have clear ideas on what your teaching goals are and what you're trying to assess.
Here are my suggestions of what to consider when shaping a curriculum and developing an evaluation to ensure your students are learning skills to help them excel in the lab and beyond.
What Will Your Teaching Focus On?
Consider the vital skills your students will need to be excellent and responsible scientists. Concentrate on their ability to:
- Think critically.
- Identify important questions and hypotheses and design experiments to answer them.
- Feel confident to fail spectacularly.
It’s important to note what's not on this list: specific curricular design and content. Programs often get tripped up by focusing on that too much.
What Are Strategies for Developing a Curriculum to Address These Goals?
Start by explicitly asking, "What are our teaching goals?" You should:
- Include past and present students in these discussions. The goals of what you're thinking you want to teach them need to be aligned with what students want and where they're going.
- Focus on quality mentoring.
- Define what “developing a broader set of skills” and “becoming a scientist” mean for your program.
How Do You Assess What You're Doing?
With a curriculum that develops critical thinking and appropriate experimental design, exams and student-committee interactions should focus on questions related to how that knowledge might be expanded. Students may be evaluated on:
- What kinds of experiments are essential?
- How are experiments developed?
- How do you develop specific aims for grants and design experiments that may go on those grants?
Before assessing your program’s curriculum, it's essential to first frame what the students need to know in order succeed. Then, determine what the students need to do to develop those skills. And finally, figure out how you'll know if the students have developed those skills.
Adapted from the webinar, Maximizing the Effectiveness of Graduate Programs Through Assessment.