Tommie Assessment Resources
Highlighting Assessment Consultant Darcy Turner
What are your roles and responsibilities here at St. Thomas?
I work as an Instructional Designer within STELAR. In this role, I guide faculty through the course development process, emphasizing learning outcomes and alignment and leveraging technology to enhance teaching and learning. I also teach a series of professional development courses as part of STELAR’s Online Teaching Certificate program, which provides faculty with knowledge, skills, and tools to design and facilitate high quality online and blended courses.
What are your professional experiences in education?
I began my career in higher education in 2006 as an instructor for St. Cloud Technical and Community College (SCTCC). I taught writing, literature, and business courses as a full-time adjunct until 2010, when I transitioned to the Writing Center Coordinator and then the Assistant Director of the Center for Academic Success. I taught my first online course in 2007, and was hooked. I got my first instructional Designer job at Saint Paul College in 2014 and worked there until I came to St. Thomas.
In addition to my official positions, I have been deeply involved in faculty development at each institution, and have served on numerous committees and work groups related to online teaching and learning, accreditation, assessment, and student success.
What are your previous experiences in assessment?
- I served on the committee for institutional accreditation and chaired the student services subcommittee as part of SCTCC’s self-assessment.
- I am a Master Reviewer for Quality Matters, an organization dedicated to quality assurance for online courses and programs.
- At Saint Paul College, I worked with the Automotive and Respiratory Therapy departments on program assessment and preparing for accreditation.
- I have worked with course-level assessment as a regular part of my job both as an instructor and instructional designer at SCTCC, St. Paul College, and now at St. Thomas.
How did you become interested in program assessment?
When I first became involved with Quality Matters in 2009, I learned about learning outcomes and alignment to assessments, and something just clicked for me. I discovered that I have a natural affinity for that type of work.
Why did you agree to be a St. Thomas Assessment Consultant?
I think that it is important to make sure we (the University) are setting clear expectations for students who go to St. Thomas. I think that when we advertise our programs (and our courses), we tell students, “This is what you will learn and be able to do by the time you graduate,” and we need to hold ourselves accountable to that list of knowledge, skills, and values. Our integrity and reputation as a University depends on our ability to follow through on this promise, and program assessment is one way we can measure what we are doing well and where we can do better in that regard.
What is your favorite program assessment experience?
In general, I live by the principle of continuous quality improvement, so my favorite part of program assessment is using assessment data to determine improvements to the program. I enjoy combing through the data in order to answer the question “How can we do better?” and then thinking through potential consequences of each action. It is like solving a puzzle.
What examples do you have of how you (individually or collectively) used program assessment to improve student learning?
At SCTCC, I was very involved with the Online Learning Committee. While we didn’t have official online programs, we did a lot of work assessing current online and blended courses, as well as what we wanted online learning to be and look like at SCTCC. Our Online Learning Committee led the way for the policies, practices, and standards for online learning that are currently in place. We did a before and after comparison of student grades and completion rates, and found that grades and retention in online courses improved after the minimum standards were adopted.
Just for fun! Please share with us something about you that few people at UST know.
I grew up on a farm in South Dakota and have many stories involving animals, such as the time I caught a gopher with my bare hands, the perils of chasing cows through a swamp, and the adventures of raising Rocky, our pet raccoon. My parents still farm, and I appreciate being able to show my daughter what life is like outside of the city.
If your unit or program is interested in utilizing St. Thomas Assessment Consulting Services, you can contact Tonia Bock at at or 651-962-5038. Please be ready to share with her what aspect of assessment you’d like to discuss with the Assessment Consultants. Depending on the nature of your request, one, a pair, or a team of three consultants may work with you.