I. Questions I Wanted To Answer
a.) How do I design and implement effective assessment projects, utilize assessment instruments, and create protocols that allow for thorough research of key issues and questions within student affairs?
b.) What are the best methods for conveying key findings to stakeholders?
Prior to graduate school my assessment experience was confined to my work as an undergraduate orientation leader and my time in AmeriCorps. As a orientation leader, I had distributed and facilitated surveys to students who had come through our program and also helped to input this information into our database. Despite my limited experience and lack of in-the-moment reflection on the process, I can now identify a number of things I learned. The most important thing I learned was how many elements go into whether a survey is successfully administered. Things like the time of day, location, and mode of information gathering had a huge impact on how we felt about giving the surveys and how students felt about taking them. During my time in AmeriCorps, I took two end-of-the-program surveys. These surveys asked a number of questions about our thoughts and feelings on national service as well as about the housing, projects, and personnel that AmeriCorps provided. Reflecting upon this experience I realize that my teammates and I did not invest time and energy into answering surveys thoughtfully because we didn’t know how the information we provided would be used. I now realize that providing people with an understanding of why the survey is being given is essential. Reflecting on the AmeriCorps assessment more, I think that it would have provided better information if it was given as both an entry and exit survey, in order to access whether the program exceeded our expectations or not. It would have also been nice if corps members could have had access to the results of the survey in order to gauge our own personal growth and reflect on our expectations of the program.
a.) In order to create effective assessments it will be essential to decide on what questions or pieces of information need to be obtained, why is it important to answer/obtain them and how the information gathered will inform future practices. Identifying the significant issues or questions to be discussed must be a team effort. All interested and invested parties must have an impact on the design and implementation of the assessment project. Assessment instruments must be easy to use, both for those taking and those giving the assessment.
b.) In order to convey credible findings the presenter(s) needs to explain the assessment method they chose and (why they chose it), the population being surveyed, and their reasoning for doing the project. The findings should be displayed visually and explained verbally in order to accommodate both learning styles. The presenters should be able to explain how the information answers or does not answer the questions the assessment was trying to answer and how the information gathered will inform future practices. If the information or research had flaws that make the information gained unusable, then the presenters should be able to address how to improve upon the assessment for next time or new projects that may be more useful in the future.
IV. Methods and Materials
V. Data and Analysis
Given the proliferation of assessment in student affairs, I find it necessary to take a step back and ask myself “Am I asking the “right” questions and am I assessing the “right” things?” While I remain utterly convinced that what is right in this instance is always subjective, I also think that assessments must be created with great intention and thoughtfulness.
I need to seek out and take advantage of the personnel and tools dedicated to assessment at the institutions where I work and make sure to get input from interested and respected parties before creating and executing assessment projects. By the same token, I need to be confident in the knowledge that I have and will continue to gain in regards to assessment. I can’t rely on others to be the absolute experts or to understand the things that make assessment unique in my department.
Precautions must be take to ensure that data collected is correct and unaltered, analyzed properly while maintaining proper confidentiality and distributed to the appropriate stakeholders.
When conveying messages to stakeholders it is important to send the information out through the proper venue. How the information in compiled, what messages it is sending, what results or conclusions can be drawn, and what kinds of conversations need to be had about the information should all guide decisions about venue of delivery. Conveying information is many different formats, percentages, charts, quotes, pictures, etc. will help to ensure that people with all different learning styles are able to process the information being presented. Lastly it is important to tie the information generated by assessment back to a program, department or university’s goals and mission. If this connection can’t or isn’t made the information provided is far less important to the “bigger vision” that most stakeholders have in mind.