Fair, accurate testing meets the mark

Carol Myford

“It’s really important to determine what students are getting out of your courses and whether or not your courses are meeting the mark,” says Carol Myford, associate professor of educational psychology. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Each year, UIC honors some of its most dedicated and outstanding teachers with the Award for Excellence in Teaching. The winners, who receive a $5,000 salary increase, are selected by past recipients.

How can students and educators work together to get the most out of their courses?

By creating clear course goals, carefully designed instruction and fair assessments to measure whether those goals were met, says Carol Myford.

“It’s really important to determine what students are getting out of your courses and whether or not your courses are meeting the mark,” says Myford, associate professor of educational psychology.

“Assessment can be very powerful and empowering for students when it’s done well. But the key is doing it well.”

Myford teaches courses on assessment design, program evaluation and measurement. Faculty and students from a variety of disciplines — including education, social work, psychology, medical education, criminal justice and public health — enroll in her face-to-face and online courses.

“Practitioners in many different fields use methods of assessment and evaluation,” she says.

Her own teaching philosophy stems from her background in assessment.

“We need to make clear to students what it is that we want them to know and be able to do, and how we will assess their performance,” she says.

In addition to traditional courses, she teaches the EPSY 561 online course for measurement professionals and helped develop the online EPSY 560 course.

“What’s most exciting to me about online teaching is that it allows me to extend the reach of my courses beyond the Chicago campus,” she says.

“In the four years that I’ve been teaching online, I have had students from Singapore, Uganda, China, Korea, Great Britain, Canada and the United Arab Emirates taking my online course, as well as students from the East Coast to the West Coast.

“It’s great fun to be able to interact with students who are living all over the world.”

Myford’s research focuses on scoring issues in large-scale performance and product assessments.

“I carry out research on those who rate complex performances and products and the assessment tools they employ,” she says. “I work on developing new methods for monitoring and improving rater performance, and on methods for detecting and measuring different types of rater errors.”

Myford took a nontraditional path to academia, working for many years in government, business and industry. She spent 12 years as a research scientist at the Educational Testing Service before joining the UIC faculty in 2002.

“I was drawn to academe by the prospect of teaching the next generation of folks who were going to be in the kind of jobs I’ve been privileged to hold in my career,” she says.

“It’s been an interesting life journey filled with lots of unexpected twists and turns. I look back on it and can see that with each job, I acquired valuable knowledge and skills that have shaped my work here at UIC in significant ways.”

Myford provides assessment expertise across the globe as a Fulbright Specialist. She spent six weeks in South Africa in the summer of 2012, leading assessment training for faculty members at Ekurhuleni West College who teach vocational training courses such as bricklaying and cosmetology.

“It was a great experience,” she says. “The faculty members were eager to learn about how to create high-quality assessments of students’ work in their courses. They learned about assessment, but I learned a whole lot from them about teaching and learning in vocational education in South Africa.”

She has provided assessment consulting with medical educators in Thailand, and public school teachers and administrators in Russia and Australia.

“As an assessment specialist, I work with practitioners in a lot of different fields,” she says.

Myford and her husband, David, a school social worker, love to travel for fun.

“We have the travel bug,” she said. “We especially like to visit places that are off the beaten path to learn about cultures and interact with the locals. Our bookshelves are lined with travel books, and we enjoy watching ‘Globe Trekker’ and dreaming about where our travels might take us.”

Always on the lookout for a new assessment adventure, she hopes to go to India, Japan or China next.

“My bucket list is filled with lots of intriguing travel destinations,” she says.

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