Since 1985, we have developed, validated, deployed, analyzed, and reported findings on more than 12 million end-of-course assessments administered in more than 600,000 courses. For many of these assessments, we have captured, taxonomized, and analyzed the open-ended responses of students and faculty to open-ended questions about instruction, curriculum, other learners, the learning environment, and support services. These data sources have been integrated to answer the common and the not-so-common questions about the merit of end-of-course assessments. This 30 year span of work has brought me face-to-face with more practical problems, more challenges to validity and usefulness, and more inferential dead-ends than I could have imagined in my early days, days I now see as naive in retrospect.
This Briefing shows that prevailing ideas about academic quality are outmoded and inadequate when applied in colleges and universities. It shows that these shortcomings are both logical and empirical in nature and that they do not exist in comparable sectors of the economy. Executive understanding of quality matters because it affects how we write policy, set goals, compensate individuals, present ourselves to the public, and how we measure inputs, processes, outcomes, and impact to convey to others and with which to manage our and improve own practices.