CARS Newsletter December 2019

As we turn the page on another calendar year, we have to reflect on all that we have accomplished in 2019. We hope this newsletter will shed some light on just a few of those things that took place in December. While this newsletter won't go out until January when we return from break, let me say that we wish everyone had a joyful and relaxing holiday season. We hope you are as energized and excited as we are about the year to come!

2019 SACS-COC Annual Conference

CARS faculty Keston Fulcher, John Hathcoat, and Brian Leventhal, along with Assessment & Measurement (A&M) doctoral student Derek Sauder attended the annual Decemeber SACS-COC conference in Houston, TX. Keston facilitated a workshop on learning improvement with A&M alumni Kristen Smith, Ph.D. (now at University of North Carolina-Greensboro) and Chris Coleman, Ph.D. (now at University of Alabama) Brian and John teamed up to facilitate a workshop on the roles of reliability and validity when interpreting assessment data. In addition to the presentations, Derek and Keston ran the CARS consulting booth in the vendor hall throughout the conference. During the three days, they talked to over 100 different people; many of whom were interested in JMU's summer offerings of Assessment 101. Robin Anderson, Director of Graduate Psychology also attended where she presented with A&M graduate and former CARS Graduate Assistant, Nick Curtis (now at Marquette University). As always, it was a great conference with lots of engaging presentations and opportunities to engage with higher education colleagues from all over the region. The titles of the presentations can be found below...

"More Than Results: Integrating Assessment with Learning Improvement" - Chris Coleman, Kristen Smith, and Keston Fulcher

"Reframing Assessment Evidence: How Evidence Should Be Used to Make Valid and Reliable Interpretations of Assessment Data." - Brian Leventhal & John Hathcoat

"Student Partnership in Learning Outcomes Assessment: The Path to Meaningful Assessment." - Nick Curtis & Robin Anderson

Last month we started a feature in our newsletter to share with you what goes on in the months between Assessment Days. Last month we shared with you our "Stars of CARS" - our undergraduate work-study students and how much they help us prepare materials for each testing instance. This month we look at the some of the administrative tasks that go into planning a smooth and successful event!


Assessment Day is a university-wide event that involves thousands of people each time it is held. In addition to the 4,000+ students we assess, we interact with many other people on campus. An event of this size includes many "behind-the scenes" arrangements to ensure success. The wizards behind planning these arrangements are the CARS Administrative Team (the A-Team), Paula Love and Susan Nicholas. Paula works with many different offices on campus to coordinate logistical support for the event. Reserving classrooms for testing, hiring proctors, ordering catering to feed our proctors and staff, working with parking services, and coordinating the transport of testing materials to and from the testing sites are just a few of the things Paula handles leading up to an Assessment Day. When asked about the coordinating of these tasks Paula said the following...

"Assessment Day has been going off without a hitch since long before I got here. When you've been hosting an event like this for 20+ years, there is a lot that is routine about the planning which makes things easier. However, the University is a rapidly changing environment so we have to be adaptable. We also strive for continuous improvement, so there is always something new to think about. Each Assessment Day, Dena, myself, and the GA team ask ourselves 'What went well, and what can we do better next year?' and I think that is the recipe for success. It also keeps things exciting and fun."

Susan is the Fiscal Coordinator for CARS, and she manages the budget for Assessment Day. All of the things that Paula coordinates have to be paid for. Susan helps process the payroll for all of the hired proctors. She also deals with vendors and orders all of the supplies needed for Assessment Day (more Scantrons than you could ever imagine!), and reconciles the invoices for payments made to Catering and Facilities Management. She also works with our Vice Provost's office on funding requests and budget initiatives to ensure the continued success of Assessment Day. Susan also makes sure that we have funding available to hire the previously mentioned work-study students. Both Susan & Paula are instrumental in making sure each Assessment Day is well supplied and supported. They're both also on-site at 6:00 AM or earlier to greet proctors and get everything set up. A big shoutout from CARS to this A-Team for everything they do!

As part of his first-year project, Assessment & Measurement PhD student, Sean York, is collaborating with Ethical Reasoning in Action faculty to develop a module that merges instructional design and assessment. On November 21, 2019, the team met to engage in a story-crafting workshop. Using a scenario originally developed by CARS faculty member, Brian Leventhal, the team is developing an interactive story to teach and assess ethical reasoning skills. The story will act as a framework within which a series of fine-grained, connected questions will help guide a realistic ethical reasoning process. Materials created for this workshop can be used for future story-crafting sessions and other applications, such as creating scenarios for use in group ethical reasoning activities.

Pictured here is Sean (left) working with the faculty from the Ethical Reasoning in Action (ERiA) office as they work through the story and scenarios.


Briana Craig is a second-year Master's student in the Quantitative concentration of the Psychological Sciences program. Bri joined us in CARS a year-and-a-half ago and is going into her final semester in the Master's program! Bri is also a Double-Duke, meaning she received her undergraduate degree at JMU also. Her undergraduate major was Psychology with minors in both Statistics and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. When I asked Bri why she chose our program for her graduate work, she she loved her time here as a student and grew attached to the Harrisonburg/Shenandoah area (something we often hear from Double-Dukes!) Once she knew she wanted to stay in the valley, she decided on our program because the "faculty seemed incredibly supportive of the students, and there were many opportunities for relevant and interesting graduate assistantships."

Bri's research interests focus on quasi-experimental research methods - particularly the use of propensity score matching and generalized boosted modeling. In layman's terms, these techniques are both ways to minimize group differences on selected covariates when a researcher is unable to randomly assign participants. Ok..so maybe not "layman's terms" but hopefully you understand! Bri works closely with her advisor, Dr. S. Jeanne Horst on these topics and has had the chance to present some really interesting workshops related to these topics.

Bri is a little bit different than the other students we have featured so far because she holds an external assistantship. Meaning, even though she is a student in our program, and is doing assessment work in her assistantship, she doesn't work here in CARS. Bri works in the Office of Community Service-Learning (CSL) as an assessment GA. CSL is just one of multiple offices that we provide graduate student assistance for. These offices are doing meaningful assessment work to measure student learning outcomes and our Master's and Doctoral students have skillsets that are aligned well with the support they need. When asked what her favorite experience has been so far, Bri recalled a time during her training in CSL when the office took her around Harrisonburg and she got to learn about the history and people of the area. "Despite attending JMU for four years, I realized how little I knew about the local community. I've treasured this experience because it taught me the value of being an active member in my community, rather than passively drifting through it without taking time to appreciate my surroundings" Bri stated. Outside of classes and her assistantship, Bri loves being a pet parent to a wonderful cat named Navi. If you ask her about it, she would gladly share lots of pictures (like any proud parent would!)

Looking forward....

2019 was a fantastic year in CARS and we have no doubt that 2020 will be twice as exciting. The students will return to campus shortly, and classes begin on January 13th - but not before we tune in to watch the JMU Dukes football team play for a National Championship on January 11th. We have a CARS Talk scheduled in February - Dr. Bo Bashkov, a 2015 graduate of the Assessment & Measurement Ph.D. program will return to campus to give a talk on standard setting. You can find the details for that talk below, as well as on our Facebook page. We will have more to share next month! Happy New Year, and we wish you all a great start to the spring semester! And GO DUKES!

Upcoming CARS Talks:

Standard Setting at the American Board of Internal Medicine - presented by Bo Bashkov, Ph.D. ('15) | February 14, 2020 9:30 am - Noon in Lakeview Hall, 1104. All are welcome!


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