The assessment process is full of opportunities to recharge an organization and increase power and energy systematically. Remaining intentional and focused throughout the process will produce an outcome favorable to the growth and development of any given institution. By recharging the assessment process, we recharge our organizations.
Ask the right questions
Well, what are the right questions?
The right questions are specific enough to show which aspects of the initiative were strong and which were weak. Often times we assess things generally and broadly; this makes it difficult to identify where exactly the feedback connects. Effectiveness is revealed in the details.
The right questions don’t prompt a positive response. It is easy and tempting to create survey questions that naturally result in positive responses to vindicate the hard work put in. However, in order to ask the right questions we have to be ready for the difficult answers. We have to be ready for the honest, raw feedback and comfortable with the flaws it identifies. We must not look at this feedback cynically, but as an opportunity to improve, expand, and celebrate the student voice. Just as there are two ends to every battery, there are two ends to assessment. We need both the negative and positive aspects of feedback to recharge, and both should be equally embraced for optimal progress.
Apply the Feedback
When we ask the right questions, we gain a clearer picture of what needs to happen as the next step(s). Applying the feedback is the heart of effective assessment. This is where and when campus cultures begin to shift in a positive direction, collaboration takes center stage, and partnerships are bonded between administration and students. Feedback must be addressed promptly and efficiently for effectiveness. When we lose sight of feedback through time, we are more likely to forget what exactly required action. As a result, we begin to have consistent negative feedback year to year in certain areas.
Any repeat of negative feedback shows a lack of intentionality in the assessment process. Therefore, when we take the necessary time, resources, and energy to apply the feedback, we automatically increase the effectiveness of the assessment process.
Have you ever asked for advice on a decision and not applied the advice given? We’ve all been there when someone doesn’t take our advice and the feeling leaves you a bit disappointed. This is often how assessment works when we get the feedback, and don’t act on it. We are accountable for what we learn. Choosing to ignore feedback is often worse than failing to ask.
Collecting student feedback without using it indirectly silences the voices of those who provide the feedback. It is important to not wrap up an assessment process with an ellipsis. The application of the feedback, however, is not always obvious. In order for change on campus to be fully appreciated, students must be able to discern their voices were the reason for any dynamic shifts/decisions.
Announce the Application
There is significant behind the scenes work in institutional decision-making processes especially when it comes to addressing feedback. Candid and open announcements of how feedback is applied greatly assists with adding value to those giving feedback. Without follow up, those giving feedback may be discouraged to participate in future surveys feeling their voices were not heard. In reality, students have excellent ideas and suggestions, but there can be challenges in implementation and execution. When we explain the why, even if it is a why not, we prove we listen and value their voices enough to address their feedback.
By announcing the feedback we are doing one or all of the following:
- Publicizing statistics from assessment results.
- Being intentional about highlighting what the institution/department/organization is able to implement at the time.
- Providing the campus with a candid action plan based on feedback.
- Marketing their feedback by developing a feedback official emblem for promotional materials which recognizes there’s been a modification based on feedback submitted.
AAA Model Recap
Survey fatigue is real, but we have assumed it is simply because there is too much of it. We often attempt various perks and incentives to encourage students to complete surveys and evaluations. It is time for us to assess our assessments and remove the ironic silencing that occurs in the process. At the end of the survey-infested academic year, the greatest incentive we give isn’t the opportunity to win a gift card, but the opportunity to genuinely be heard. Proving we listen. Proving their voices matter and will continue to matter in all aspects of their experience moving forward. When we Ask the right questions, Apply the feedback, and Announce the application, we enter a vulnerable place where only significant progress and change dwell.
Ready, set, recharge.