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Past Faculty Development Activities: OARS INITIATIVE

The OARS Initiative was active from 2015-2018.
It has been re-imagined and now called

Otis Assessment Research & Scholarship Initiative (OARS)

Assessment has always been a vital part of an arts’ education but a process that is not always visible to students and external audiences. To address WASC standards in the area of teaching and learning for our re-accreditation processes, and in support of faculty teaching excellence and student success, all faculty members are encouraged to research and experiment with teaching methodology and related assessment practices their courses and document the results.

The goal of OARS is to encourage faculty research in arts pedagogy and assessment, and to support faculty members in sharing results with colleagues to improve student learning and serve as a teaching resource for colleagues. Such research activities also serve as Contributions to the College in the faculty advancement system. The OARS initiative seeks to build faculty knowledge and interest in teaching effectiveness as evidenced through simple assessment practices.

OARS projects will enhance and promote a culture of evidence and community of pedagogical practice at Otis. As Chase, et al. (2014) argue, the scholarship and practice of assessment in the creative disciplines is “at an exciting stage of development as leaders attempt to provide evidence-based arguments for the relevance of the creative disciplines and simultaneously articulate and address some of the challenges of assessment in the creative disciplines.”

Stipends are granted to faculty members of all ranks who have been at Otis at least one year to support of classroom and programmatic research that leads to recommendations for improvements in teaching and learning through specific assessment practices. The recommendations should also draw on the scholarship of assessment that includes case studies of effective institutional assessment practices and structures.

It is hoped that the faculty research projects will serve as examples for future faculty research, encourage faculty to become involved in further developing their teaching and related assessment practices, and support faculty members’ interests in the scholarship of teaching, learning, and assessment.

Ideas for Research Projects

Does a grading rubric (or clearly articulated and weighted criteria) enhance the level or effectiveness in the process of critique?

How can student attributes such as risk-taking and creativity be productively measured or “evidenced?”

How can visual design contribute to the efficacy and clarity of assessment and feedback tools?

What kinds of assessment or feedback works best for students, and why?

How forms of assessment are best matched to the activities of a specific course, and why?

What is the most effective way to document specific student learning, in addition to evidencing more general learning?

Are there research strategies that might be particular to art/design teaching, as compared to the teaching of other subjects?

The critique as assessment: how to measure and chronicle the positive effects of effective critical discourse with students.

Application Process

Research Grants Application

Grants of $1,000 (taxable) are available.

Deadline for submission of request  mid-October.

Requests will be reviewed and recommended for funding by the Faculty Development Committee; final coordination and support for proposals will be fulfilled by the Provost and Associate Provost for Assessment and Accreditation

Application should include a research question and the methodology for the faculty-led research in the classroom.

Faculty will report on the research and its findings in a format appropriate for dissemination (publication).

Reports should cite current research from the literature of assessment (Debra Ballard and Sue Maberry will advise), and should include what the faculty member learned and recommends for improved teaching at Otis, and beyond.

Literature Resources are available here: Faculty Assessment Readings.

Rubric for Evaluating Applications

  1. Goals--clarity of proposal—what is the question or problem?
  2. Clarity and effectiveness of proposed methods of assessment
  3. Clarity and appropriateness of proposed research methods and strategy
  4. Suitability for college assessment purposes (WSCUC and NASAD)
  5. Likelihood that this will add to our current teaching, learning, and assessment practices
  6. Does the proposal place the project within the current literature?


Current arts and design assessment literature is available here.

Reading on diversity are available here.

Best Practices information is available here.

Successful OARS reports can be published on the Otis websites and grantees are encouraged to also publish in venues such as

2016-17 OARS Faculty Research Grants

2015-16 OARS Faculty Research Grants

Not available:

  • Renee Petropoulos (unfinished)
  • Rory Sloan (unfinished)
  • Kerri Steinberg (withdrawn)

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