ERBIL, June 2013—The Institute of International Education (IIE), in collaboration with IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund®, held a major conference on the topic of the principles of assessment and evaluation in the higher education sector from June 25-27 in Erbil, Iraq. Approximately 160 Iraqi scholars, Iraqi public and private university presidents, vice presidents, and deans, Iraqi government officials, U.S. Embassy officials, and international experts participated. This was the fifth in a series of conferences held by IIE in Iraq and designed to engage key stakeholders in advancing higher education discussions and development efforts in Iraq. The first conference took place in June 2011; IIE and IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund plan to hold two additional conferences in Iraq over the next year, with the next event scheduled for January 2014.
Goals and Themes
A sequel to the January 2013 conference on “Modern Teaching Methodology and Excellence in University Teaching,” the June 2013 IIE conference and training workshop focused on assessment of both teaching and learning in higher education. Measuring student learning outcome attainment and exploring strategies and tools to assess success was a continuance of the January event which focused on articulating learning goals and outcomes, designing course syllabi, and promoting ‘deep learning’ and student engagement.
At the June 2013 conference, with its focus on varying dimensions of assessment in higher education, participants explored: grading based on achievement of curricular rubrics; models for evaluating faculty effectiveness, including student feedback mechanisms; classroom assessment techniques which allow teachers on an ongoing basis to assess student learning and achievement of goals; and program assessment approaches, such as curriculum mapping and capstone courses, that demonstrate if students have met overall curricula goals. Over the three days, facilitators modeled various techniques faculty can easily incorporate into their classrooms and labs.
The conference focused on three major topic areas:
- Assessment: What Is It? What Is It Not? Why Do We Do It?
- Assessment in the Higher Education Classroom—Tools and Strategies
- Assessment Writ Large: Programs, Schools, and Curricula
Presentations and breakout sessions focused on topics such as formative vs. summative assessment strategies, faculty assessment and evaluation approaches, developing rubrics and assessment goals, assessment strategies for both large/lecture and small/interactive classroom settings, curriculum mapping, capstone courses, and moving from classroom assessment to institutional accreditation. Throughout the three-days, participants experimented with a variety of assessment tools and techniques.
Key Themes that Emerged from the Conference
- Assessment, taken from the Latin word ‘to sit next to’, is a continuous process in which both the teacher and students determine if content is comprehended and the extent to which learning outcomes are met.
- Assessment is a formative process that advances learning and promotes effective teaching. It differs from grading which is a summative evaluation of performance. As one participant stated, “Assessment is a mirror in which the professor sees him/herself.”
- Assessment at the classroom level begins with the teacher and the students. It is informal and does not need to be approved by a higher authority. Further, information gained at this informal level can be strategically used to improve a course, assess attainment of overall curricula and program goals, and can also be one type of information used to weigh overall quality of a program or institution.
- These types of discussions, in the words of one participant, “push us to discover some latent power we have and still not used.”
Iraqi university leaders, officials from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, and scholars presented on key higher education trends in their country and on the challenges and opportunities associated with educational reform efforts in Iraq.
Mr. Paul Sutphin, Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, provided opening remarks at the conference. Welcome addresses were provided by Dr. Ali Saeed, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Kurdistan Regional Government-Iraq, and Nada Al-Soze, Director of the Iraq Scholar Rescue Project of IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund. Dr. Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education, delivered the keynote address.
Conference sessions were conducted by expert trainers from universities in the U.S. and Lebanon who work in centers of teaching, learning, and assessment excellence including: Dr. Amal BouZeineddine, Associate Director of Center for Teaching and Learning at the American University of Beirut; Dr. Eric Metzler, Instructional Support and Assessment Specialist at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington; and, Dr. Becky Reed Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment at California State University Monterey Bay. Nine scholars from Iraq also served as speakers or discussants. Linda Tobash, Director of University Placement Services at IIE, served as the conference leader and moderator.
About the Institute of International Education
Founded in 1919, IIE is one of the most experienced not-for-profit organizations in the field of international education and scholarship management, and has worked extensively in areas of leadership development. IIE currently administers over 250 programs benefiting over 29,000 men and women from 175 nations.
About the Scholar Rescue Fund
In 2002, IIE launched the Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) to provide fellowships and additional support for scholars threatened in their home countries. These fellowships support temporary academic positions at safe universities and colleges anywhere in the world. IIE-SRF scholars contribute to their host universities through teaching, research, lectures and other activities and often return to their home countries with new skills and connections to important international higher education and scientific research institutions.
This event was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Department of State. The contents are the responsibility of IIE and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of State or the United States Government.