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Articles

A New Course Assessment Process: Striving for Improvements

Mar 31, 2022

by Robert Stockman, Wilmette Institute Director

Forming a Course Assessment Team is the latest step the Wilmette Institute has taken to continually review and improve courses after they are finished and to recommend changes to make them more effective and learner-friendly the next time they are offered.

The team, appointed in January, includes two Wilmette Institute staff members, Dr. Robert Stockman, the Director, and Dr. Justin Scoggin, the Chief Academic Officer. The Assessment Team will also include two faculty who will serve six-month terms. This will allow a large number of faculty to participate in the process. Faculty Alex Blakeson and Jean Parker are serving on the team for the first half of 2022.

The Assessment Team’s work begins after a course ends. At that point, it has access to the following:

1. Statistics about the level of student activity 15, 30, and 60 days into the course

2. Student comments in the Course Evaluation Survey

3. Activity and course completion data

4. Instructor self-assessment comments

The Team reviews the four documents and drafts a report, often including suggestions for how the course could be improved. The report and the suggestions are then shared with the faculty so that they can implement them the next time the course is scheduled. The Chief Academic Office and his assistants will also review the comments and suggestions with the faculty before the revised course is due to be offered again.

The Course Assessment Team meets once or twice a month, depending on how many courses need to be reviewed, and is always looking for ways to improve its process as well. Continuous reflection and improvement is central to the Wilmette Institute’s institutional culture and are an important part of its efforts to be accredited by a distance education accrediting organization.

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Robert Stockman, ThD

Wilmette Institute Director

I have had a passion for researching and teaching about the Bahá’í Faith for more than half of my life. My fascination with American Bahá’í history and with the first American Bahá’í, Thornton Chase, caused me, in 1980, to switch my academic field from planetary science to history of religion in the United States. As I was finishing my doctorate in that field at Harvard University in 1990, I drew up plans to create a Bahá’í Studies institute that would offer courses, encourage research, and publish. Instead, I was hired by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to start a research office at our national Bahá’í headquarters in Wilmette, Illinois. Some of the responsibilities of the research office led to the creation of the Wilmette Institute, which ​focuses on most of the tasks of the institute I originally conceived. Meanwhile, I have also remained involved in academia, teaching religious studies part time at DePaul University in Chicago and currently at Indiana University South Bend, just a mile from home. I have also published four books on aspects of Bahá’í history (including a biography of Thornton Chase) and one introductory textbook on the Faith. Listen to Robert’s interview on ‘A Bahá’í Perspective’ podcastSee Faculty Bio

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