As professionals who have been there ourselves, these tips supported us through the assessment process. It is our hope that these takeaways will provide new strategies to those who find themselves or know of colleagues who struggle with completing assessment due to not having time.
ASSESSMENT AS A CATCH 22
Assessment is paradoxical in the sense that to help identify where you can find more time in order to do assessment, one must do assessment.
Good assessment benefits you in the long term as it informs your practice. It allows us to provide intentional and meaningful programs and services to students. If you have ever wondered whether or not a program or service is actually effective and worth the time you put into this, quality assessment will give you the answers you seek. These insights will direct your yearly strategic plans as you can clearly identify strengths and weaknesses to funnel your time in ways that meet the intended student outcomes. It’s all about working smarter with assessment, not harder, to make the most of your time as a resource.
FIND YOUR ASSESSMENT ZONE
For some practitioners, our offices can be inundated with students, colleagues, and emails that keep piling on which makes it hard to focus on designing assessment. Chat with your supervisor, schedule an hour or two in a morning or afternoon, and set up your mobile office at your favorite coffee spot or location around campus! Dedicate that time to clearing your mind of your other professional responsibilities, and find your assessment zone. Sometimes you need to find a new space to refocus your mind, and get creative!
KNOW WHERE TO START AND DO SO MODESTLY
Thinking about assessment may feel overwhelming at first which leads many to the inaccurate conclusion of not having enough time. In these cases, the “I don’t have time” response may really mean “I don’t know where to start.” Take a few deep breaths before starting to begin an assessment project and find ways to relax – You can do this! Identifying the couple of steps to begin assessment helps to create a focused plan that will lead to successful assessment.
To begin, identify one program or service that you want to assess – do not feel like you need to create an assessment for your whole office/department right from the start. Once you have identified a program or service, answer the question “what do you want to know about that program or service?” Now that you know where to start, you are better able to move forward and not feel so overwhelmed which may lead to the “I don’t have time” barrier. These first couple of steps are where you should start and will support you in creating an assessment plan!
CREATE A PLAN
Not everyone is a planner but when it comes to assessment it certainly helps. A well-developed assessment plan is able to help ensure you complete assessment by effectively closing the loop. Assessment, at first, may seem like a lot of time but when you see it written down as an assessment plan, you will recognize it is very much doable. An assessment plan is based on the cycle of assessment which helps you manage your time in a well-crafted plan.
After you have developed an assessment plan for one program/service, it becomes much easier to design a plan for others. And, if you get really stuck, that is okay! Identify other assessment experts around campus who may be able to steer you in the right direction.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH AN ASSESSMENT GURU
Save time by identifying and getting to know the assessment gurus on your campus. If you are unsure on how to write a learning outcome or thinking about methods of data collection, assessment experts and champions are there to help you.
If you do not have an assessment office in student affairs, there is likely a colleague who has a lot of experience in this area. If you already know who this assessment champion is, invite them out to lunch or coffee as a way to intentionally build that professional relationship and support. Trust us, assessment gurus love to talk about assessment and will likely welcome the invitation!
TALK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR
Conveying the relationship between assessment and your unit/department’s goals and responsibilities to your supervisor is a helpful strategy to find time for assessment. Ask your supervisor to hold you accountable with assessment, and clearly communicate its importance to your work. After chatting with your supervisor, they should be more willing (and excited!) to support you in taking time for assessment, and even involving you in other assessment professional opportunities!
QUICK TIPS & TRICKS TO FIND TIME FOR ASSESSMENT
- Use your breaks in your work cycle wisely! If you find more availability during summer, use that time to create an assessment plan.
- It takes two to tango! Partner up with a colleague on an assessment project.
- Use student workers to save time on data collection, analysis, and communication of results. Graduate assistants and interns are helpful as well!
- Schedule some time on your calendar.
- Find the joy in assessment and make it fun for you.
- Stop assessing outcomes that you are not finding meaningful or useful in your work. Use that time for more purposeful assessment.
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!
This post was cowritten by the following professionals:
Megan Forecki serves as Coordinator for Student Governance and Programs at the University of Arizona. In her role, she oversees volunteer programs, including Alternative Breaks, as well as assessment efforts for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA) and Graduate Professional Student Council (GPSC). You can reach Megan on LinkedIn.
Jessica Litvack is the Program Coordinator for Faculty Programs in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives and Student Success. Her responsibilities include oversight, assessment, and development of the Faculty Fellows program and the Student/Faculty Interaction (SFI) Grants program. Jessica’s role works to effectively build partnerships between student affairs and academic affairs at UA with the common goal of fostering students’ connection to the institution at large. You can reach Jessica via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lucas Schalewski is the Assessment & Research Specialist in Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, Academic Initiatives, and Student Success at the University of Arizona. He is passionate about advancing purposeful outcome-based assessment for the demonstration and improvement of student learning and development. You can reach Lucas on twitter @LucasSchalewski