Believe it or not, assessment has been around longer than you may think. In fact, it’s been around since student affairs played a role in formal and informal student learning. In the past decade, it has evolved to fit the needs of the ever-changing traits of today’s college student and has shaped learning outcomes to engage students in profound ways.
Accomplishing assessment tasks across a division or department is no easy feat. In order to accurately measure student learning, assessment must be integrated into work of all student affairs staff. How do we create and sustain a culture of assessment at institutions of higher education? Who is responsible for spearheading assessment initiatives? Where does it start?
Here are four considerations when starting to on-board assessment practices with professionals on your team:
1. Start at the top.
It’s difficult to create expectations around assessment when senior student affairs officers (SSAOs) do not value them. According to Seagraves and Dean (2010), creating a culture of assessment from senior leadership is most important to the longevity and success of any assessment initiative. Here are some of the best ways to implement them from a senior role:
– Approach assessment with a positive attitude
– Provide adequate training and resources for your team
– Incorporate expectations of assessment into job descriptions and performance evaluations
– Create an assessment committee or block time for check-ins during regularly scheduled meetings
– Use data collected from your team, determine priorities, and determine how to improve practices on both a micro and macro scale
2. Break it down.
Assessment doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Resources put towards assessment do not need to be terribly extensive either, but they do require staff time and resources. As a manager or supervisor at any level it’s important to explain the exact materials you and your team will be using to conduct assessment practices throughout the year. Taking time at the beginning of the year to clearly layout the foundation of assessment practices will help in the long term when compiling reports or evaluating programs.
3. Train, train, train.
Talk the talk, walk the walk. If you’re highlighting how important assessment is to your department and you don’t train your staff, you may run into a few hiccups down the road. Providing the tools and training for student affairs practitioners is vital for their success at conducting assessment in an effective way. Additionally, if your department or division is new to assessment, it will further help with on-boarding professionals who may be resistant to change.
4. Share the responsibility.
When one person is solely responsible for assessment, it won’t become a sustainable process. For example, if that person happens to leave the institution, it will be hard to provide continuous assessment and pass on knowledge accrued from that person to the next. Creating a system of how data will be collected and knowledge will be shared will make practices transparent and accessible for the entire team.
SSAOs have the important role of sustaining assessment processes at their institution due to their informed perspective of strategic goals of both their direct reports and the university at large. Senior leaders of divisions or departments have the ability to articulate assessment activities and share results with other departments or division to make a large impact at all levels. Although a shared obligation among all staff, senior leadership sets the tone of making assessment a priority at the institution.
What are some ways you’ve on-boarded assessment practices to your division or department? How have you shared responsibilities among your team?
This post is part of our #SAassess series on the importance of assessment in student affairs as a state of mind. A
variety of knowledgeable and relatable perspectives will be portrayed throughout the month of November. We hope you will gain inspiring insights and take time to reflect on how you make meaning of your data collection and assessment practices. For more information, check out the intro post by Kim Irland. Be sure to read the other posts in this series too!
National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) & American College Personnel Association (ACPA). (2004). Learning reconsidered. Washington, DC.
Rhatigan, J. J. (2009). A brief history of student affairs administration. In G.S. McClellan, J. Stinger & Associates, The handbook of student affairs administration (3rd ed., pp. 3-18). San Francisico, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Seagraves, B., & Dean, L. A. (2010). Conditions supporting a culture of assessment in student affairs divisions at small colleges and universities. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 47(3), 307-324.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Lisa Endersby on Assessment in Student Affairs