Director’s Letter

CATEGORIES: Foundation Courses
Lesley Erin Bartlett (Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Dear all,

One of my dearest friends has a Ph.D. in assessment and measurement. Mine is in composition and rhetoric. One thing this means: when she was learning to create assessments, I was learning to critique them. We both care a great deal about student learning, but we don’t always agree on the best means to that end. 

When we worked at the same institution, we regularly collaborated on research projects and faculty development workshops. I went through as many of her assessment workshops and certificate programs as I could, and she attended my writing across the curriculum programming. I raised my hand with questions a lot, and so did she. One of the traits I admire most about her is that she appreciates being challenged—particularly when she knows the person challenging her is on her side and shares important values and goals. We agree that telling the truth as we see it, even if it’s temporarily uncomfortable, makes our work and relationships stronger. 

We don’t agree on everything, and we make a very good team. 

Naturally, I asked for her help with the Foundation Courses Instructor Survey. We met on Zoom during a Tornado Watch on a day when my kids’ daycare closed early because of an impending storm. Assessment with cute, toddling obstacles! Here’s the gist of what she reminded me about surveys: keep it short, and only ask about things you can do something about. Reader, I have done my best. 

At this friend’s birthday party several years ago, the host asked everyone to share something we love about the guest of honor. When it was my turn, I said, “She has a big ol’ brain and a big ol’ heart, and she brings them both to all the things.” (We lived in Alabama, my friend grew up in Appalachia, and I grew up in the foothills of the Ozarks. I assure you “big ol’” was genuine and rhetorically appropriate in that particular parlor, on that occasion, at that moment in time.) 

Please bring your big brains and big hearts to our survey about Foundation Courses. It should take 5-10 minutes (unless you fill out all the comment boxes, which you are welcome to do). As I said in our last department meeting, I do not expect to make sweeping curricular or programmatic changes for AY 2023-2024, but I will use your feedback to inform a phased revision plan. I hope you will tell me the truth as you see it. You can expect the same from me when I report the results. We don’t have to agree on everything to make a very good team. 

All best,