3rd Annual Assessment and Evaluation Poster Fair Call for Proposals
The 2013 Assessment and Evaluation Poster Fair features our colleagues from the Duke University Division of Student Affairs, the larger Duke community, and surrounding institutions sharing their studies and methods of assessment used to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of their programs, initiatives and policies.
Why do we need to assess? We create programs because we know we need them, so why is assessing them so important -- we know they're good, and we'll get complaints if they are not good. We know our students and what they're like, so why profile them? It's all just related to accreditation, isn't it?
Over the years the term "assessment" has cultivated quite accidentally a very negative connotation. To "assess" brings images of extra work, data that sits and is not analyzed, reports looked over perhaps once but which then sit on dusty shelves, and surveying fatigue. Additionally, to many, to "assess" something seems to imply that there exists a problem and we are using some methodology such as a survey to search out this flaw.
Personally, I prefer the term "information gathering". It is not that we program then we must "assess it", investigating the program to see what is wrong. Instead visualize the following: we have some important question that we would like answered, and whose answer we will use in some predetermined way. How do we gather the information? We look to see what information we are already collecting and if we can slip our question in there, or perhaps we are already collecting this information and are just not documenting it in any systematic way. We may need to come up with a new way to collect this information altogether. Since this information is important to us, we know how it will be used, and we've thought about the least effortful ways possible to collect it, it is not a waste of time to us.
This is assessment to me.
The information you collect may be about students' profiles, experiences, needs, thoughts, attitudes, the campus environment, your department's needs, predictors of needs etc. -- any question/kind of research that is important to you (important being defined as being necessary and/or usable). To close the circle, information on a program can be collected too, but think of it more as a profile of your program -- what are its characteristics and how well do they fit the planned characteristics of the program?
If we think of assessment in this way, "information gathering", most will occur before programs are initiated, and will feed into how the program is shaped. Information about the program itself would be as a follow-up, and would be just one of the types of information a department would collect.
Happy information gathering!
Assessment Alliance members represent the Division of Student Affairs at both the Division and the department level by promoting a departmental culture of providing evidence of student learning and programmatic effectiveness. They also encourage the integration of pro-active assessment into the fabric of the Division of Student Affairs through departmental collaboration on, sharing of, and discussion of assessment results and their decision-making impact.
In Spring 2006, 19 individuals representing various departments and functions across the Division were charged with identifying key issues for future consideration and divisional preparedness to respond to these issues over the next few years. The dialogue and review of many documents resulted in a thematic analysis, which formed the foundation of the Division’s Strategic Plan. These five goals articulated within the Student Affairs Strategic Plan have provided the philosophy and direction by which our practice has actualized over the last few years.
Although research into the co-curricular aspect of college and iniversity students' lives is not a new concept, the emergence of Student Affairs Assessment areas is relatively new. We do feel very supported though by higher education personnel associations who have carved a niche for student affairs assessment discussions as well as by the vast amount of assessment information available online.