Skip to main content


Inquiry and Action

June 8, 2020

Dear colleagues,

As the spring 2020 term draws to a close many in our community are exhausted—intellectually and emotionally-- from the disruption wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. The impacts of this upheaval have been borne disproportionately, and for many members of our community who are people of color, this pain is further punctuated by rage and sorrow as the evidence and legacy of anti-Black violence in our society are laid bare once more.

As educators, we are mindful of the impacts of systemic racism in our country and on our campus. We acknowledge our own agency to understand and interrupt those systems. The Education Research and Assessment Hub invites your partnership in this moment of crisis to pursue inquiry and action.

Why assess in times of crisis

It seems reasonable to ask, at a time like this, who can be bothered to ‘do assessment’. When the day-to-day tasks of our professional obligations and tending to the well-being of our families and communities can seem so daunting, assessment might seem a nicety, something far from urgent.

But there are two reasons why assessment is essential in a period of crisis.

How to assess in times of crisis

For most academic units, there will be new questions that have emerged this term, and priorities for assessing student learning will have shifted. Curricular coherence, sequencing of courses, and disparities in student outcomes may be at the forefront. There are straightforward steps that can be taken to examine these concerns.

  • Pause and reflect.
    Debriefing with colleagues in your department, including instructors and instructional assistants, can help to identify the most pressing challenges. Many will have a hunch where the trouble spots are, and setting aside time to reflect can spark creativity in framing questions and solutions. Review best practices as a department body.
  • Collate and review feedback from students.
    We are fortunate that our exceptional student body has been clearly and consistently reporting back to their student representatives on the challenges students face. If you have access to open-ended student feedback collected within your department, we can assist you in reviewing it to identify common themes and opportunities for your students. Or you can review existing data from a statewide poll or from the spring 2020 administration of UCUES on our campus.
  • Take a data dive.
    Comparing data patterns for grade distributions, pass rates, drop rates, and incompletes—across terms and across student groups can help to identify impediments to learning. We can assist with data access and analysis.

The Education Research and Assessment Hub is here to partner with faculty and their programs as they reflect on the past months and develop their plans. Contact us to schedule a consultation, a data review, or training.

Campus resources

  • Associated Students advocates on behalf of students and has taken a central role in supporting educational continuity.
  • The Office for Faculty Development and Inclusion offers advice to educators for supporting students through this transition.
  • The Teaching + Learning Commons Engaged Teaching Hub offers advice to educators for closing the quarter with compassion.
  • The Teaching + Learning Commons Engaged Teaching Hub outlines teaching best practices to support student well-being during a pandemic.
  • The Teaching + Learning Commons Education Research + Assessment Hub offers tips for leveraging course and program-level assessment as a tool to promote equity.
  • The UC San Diego Office of Institutional Research is administering the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) this term. The survey includes questions about impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • UC San Diego Student Affairs has compiled resources for learning more and taking action.

References and further reading