Author Archives: Marc Gillespie

About Marc Gillespie

Marc Gillespie is a Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in St. John’s College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions. He has served as the interim director of the Institute for Biotechnology and Chairs the Institutional Biosafety committee at St. John's University. A molecular biologist with specialties in protein biochemistry, bioinformatics, proteomics, and toxicology, Dr. Gillespie leads a research group focused on bioinformatics and biomarker discovery. Current projects range from the identification of chronic low-level lead exposure and manganese toxicity biomarkers to the mechanics of inflammatory inhibitor release. He teaches Pharmacogenomics, Public Health, Human Anatomy & Physiology and has experience from academia and industry to public health policy. He holds a Ph.D. in Oncological Sciences from the University of Utah and is currently a Reactome Editor, a human centric curated knowledgebase of biological pathways. He is active at all levels of science curriculum development including early and intermediate science teaching. Dr. Gillespie has been learning, conducting, developing tools for and teaching science for more than twenty years.

The Federal College Scorecard Site Is Up!

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.47.50 AMThough it has been sometime in the making the Federal College Scorecard site is up and running.

The site uses a combination of Federal data sources including loan and tax return data. The upside of this is the documentation that goes with the site here, contains a wealth of information on how the analysis was done, what data sources were used, and instructions how to tap into (or download) the data using a pretty straightforward API.

There is much discussion concerning the pros and cons of using the data this way. Each position is worth a read. You can read a sample of the concerns from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. The issues raised include fears that this represents another step in the view that Higher Ed Institutions can be viewed as and shopped for. While there is lots of data present here, there is also the underlying worry that the data is incomplete, or provides a skewed view of the institutions.

As with any new data source it is worth a look, especially with the open nature and full descriptions of the data used.

Site – College Scorecard

SJU Information – St. John’s University

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 9.48.25 AMThere are also a number of nice US Department of Education Blog posts available on their HomeRoom Blog. For College Scorecard specific posts, have a look here.

This type of data is definitely the direction that the new knowledge based society is taking us in. It provides a snapshot of how students fair after school and it deeply lists the data sources that were used. Incomplete or not, there is only going to be more data like this released and used.


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Science Isn’t Broken

Cross-posting here. This is also very relevant to those using statistics in assessment, or really anywhere for that matter…

Science Isn’t Broken It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for.

Science Isn’t Broken
It’s just a hell of a lot harder than we give it credit for.

Great piece by by Christie Aschwanden with graphics by Ritchie King. Could have done without the expletives (makes it harder to share with younger kids), but other wise love the tone and the interactive examples. I wish that more science writing was done this way; fantastic to have a little widget embedded within the article that helps explain the statistics.

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Why Send Faculty To A Middle States Commission on Higher Education Annual Meeting

The 2014 MSCHE Annual Meeting in Washington DC

The 2014 MSCHE Annual Meeting in Washington DC

Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is holding its annual meeting in Washington DC and we are here. As we listened to the plenary talks and met other folks in higher ed, I wondered if it was as apparent to others as it is to us why our assessment team is here?

As an assessment group we spend a lot of our time thinking of ways to link the fantastic work of our faculty and students to measurable outcomes. The work that it takes to define what is to be measured, how it will be measured, and how it will be fed back into improving the educational environment or back to the student is far more taxing than the actual measuring itself once we have a plan. As a group we work with all of our stakeholders to determine what plan is best for our students and faculty. While we do that, we look to see how we can feed these results back into the loop to assure our accrediting body that we are doing what we set out to achieve.

At the institutional level, MSCHE is that accrediting body, and like many higher education accrediting bodies, it is made of higher education faculty and administrators. In short: it is us. Middle States is rolling out new standards and unsurprisingly those standards reflect many of its stakeholders aspirations and challenges for higher education. As a faculty member working in the trenches, splitting time between research, teaching, and scholarship it is a challenge to take the time to measure how that effort contributes to the good that higher education provides. It is difficult to see what society expects from higher education institutions and how they are reacting to our work. Taking the time to listen to the accrediting body that credits us as a degree granting institution and meeting with other stakeholders, provides a moment for faculty to pause and reflect on where higher education is today and where it may be going.

As I listened to the talks and the crowd, I thought about how important it is for faculty to reflect upon the mission of their institution, but also their own goals as a teacher, scholar, and educator. If we are to have an impact in a meaningful way, we must take time to think carefully as to what we can reasonably achieve and what society wants and expects of us.

So why should faculty attend an annual accreditor’s meeting?

As I listened to one of the talks a speaker paused for a second and noted that faculty should be able to describe what the standards are. The standards? “Those esoteric rules and chains that we are held to”, I thought. And then it struck me that, yes, we really should be able to. In fact if the standards are any good, they should aim to quantify the very characteristics that drew us to higher education in the first place. The standards serve as a description of the good that a degree can provide to a student and the good that an institution can provide to society.

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Filed under Accreditation, Education, Practice, Self-Study

Assessment Perspectives from the 2014 NMC Horizon Report

ImageThe New Media Consortium (NMC), a group of leading universities, colleges, museums, and research centers, has recently published the “The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Edition”, a collaborative effort between the NMC and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). This report is a readable blend of higher education trends and predictions of the impact that those trends will have on higher education institutions.

The really nice part of this package, unsurprisingly since we are covering it here, is the tip of the hat to assessments role in mining new troves of data that new modes of education are producing. We have seen this trend noted elsewhere as well as on this blog here, where we covered MIT’s approach to using usage data for the assessment of MOOCs.

In a chapter entitled “Rise of Data-Driven Learning and Assessment”, the report touches on the sensitivity of personal data, the possible use of this data to drive adaptive response, and the value of this data for assessing learning.

You can get get a pdf copy of the report here, or go to the NMC site, here to learn more.

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Filed under Computational Tools, Planning

How to Build a Faculty Culture of Change

Robert Zemsky makes a case for a culture of change and what steps faculty could take to get going in How to Build a Faculty Culture of Change. We are trying to make the same changes here at SJU. It is great to read other perspectives as to how we might move forward.

Stop in and we can take you through what we want to accomplish.

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Wall Street Journal Gives MOOCs A Preliminary Grade

WIth all of the eLearning hype out there, the Wall Street Journal has been a voice of calm, often publishing balanced articles covering the different aspects of eLearning. They continued this here in an early take on how MOOCs are doing. The nice thing about this article is the embedded graphics that provide a nice snapshot of what is happening to the students who register for these courses. Much like the eLearning assessment article that we described previously, this article examines what happens to students as they register and try out a course, as well as ultimate passing rates.

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Institutional Transparency and Shared Resources

One of the simplest ways that we have found of keeping our stakeholders on the same page is the use of simple shared servers. These are accessed using a mechanism that administrators, faculty, and other stakeholders are very familiar with.

The resources can be browsed or actively searched, and as they are kept up to date, they represent an institutional timeline of our progress.

First, How do I connect to the shared resource?

The links have already been sent to all of our stakeholders. If you feel you should have received an email with this link but did not, please contact Anthony or Gina in the Assessment Office. Once you have the link you will need to access the drive.

Map A Network Drive In Windows 7

Map A Network Drive In Mac OSX

Okay, so you have access to the shared resource, what now?

The simplest answer here is to browse and look around. In many ways the directory structure is meant to reflect our College committee structure. This model means that you can quickly access resources by selecting years of interest and the then selecting the college committee that you are interested in.

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Filed under Education