Friday, September 09, 2011

What to Expect When You're Assessing

Along with Kaye Crook and Terri Flateby, I will be leading a one-day pre-institute workshop at the 2011 Assessment Institute in Indianapolis. This is a large national conference led by Trudy Banta and her team at IUPUI. It runs from October 31- November 1, with the pre-institute workshops on October 30.

The description of our workshop "What to Expect When You're Assessing" is:

This workshop is intended for faculty and administrators who have responsibility for administering assessment activities at the program, department, or higher level. Through hands-on activities, participants will learn essential skills for supervision of the whole assessment cycle, including good reporting, tips for data analysis, avoiding assessment pitfalls, good practices with tools like rubrics and curriculum maps, as well as management approaches to get the best out of your team using calendars, policies, and institutional readiness assessment. The workshop is appropriate for those with little assessment experience as well as those who would like to further develop their existing practices to create sustainable and meaningful assessment programs.
 The reason for offering the workshop is to help institutions grow their own expertise in leading assessment processes. Because gaining trust of faculty and administrators within the organization is so important, it's a good strategy to find someone who already has that trust and teach them about assessment rather than hiring an assessment expert from outside who then has to win everyone's trust.

I asked the ASSESS-L email list for their "Must-knows for a new assessment coordinator" (thanks to Katy Hill, Sean A McKitrick, and Rhonda A. Waskeiwicz for their responses). The results were interesting for a noticeable dearth of technical items, and an emphasis on political and personal skills, some of which actually de-emphasize technical knowledge, including:
  • It's okay for things to not be perfect.
  • One has to 'suspend disbelieve' at times with regard to rigor
The lists are insightful, and have helped me think about the one-day program we're putting together. Roughly, it's about one half technical stuff:
  • The basic idea of assessment loops
  • Common terms and what they mean in practice
  • How to write good reports
  • Use of rubrics and curriculum maps
  • Data analysis and presentation
One quarter is strategies for working with people toward a common goal:
  • Appreciative inquiry
  • Responding to specific challenges (this was a topic on ASSESS-L too)
  • Setting expectations
The rest, which is heavily represented in the results of my email are about management of the process, including:
  • Assessing institutional readiness
  • Calendars
  • Working with other groups on campus (e.g. faculty senate, center for teaching and learning)
  • Administrative buy-in
  • What software tools can do and what they can't do
The overall objective is for participants to walk out of the workshop with a concrete plan in hand, as well as more resources and contacts that will help them find success.

I welcome comments or suggestions. More materials will be forthcoming.

Edit: In addition to the ASSESS-L archive, there is a wonderful site Internet Resources for Higher Education Outcomes Assessment hosted by University of North Carolina and maintained by Ephraim Schechter, a familiar name in assessment circles. That page is a familiar open window on my browser, and an essential bookmark for anyone interested in assessment.


  1. Hi, Dave --

    Some sections in Internet Resources for Higher Education Outcomes Assessment ( point to online information and particularly ASSESS-list threads that may be useful. For instance, there are entries in the section on institutional support for outcomes assessment that point to threads on the qualities & characteristics of an effective assessment director and on supporting faculty involvement in assessment. The section on faculty attitudes towards outcomes assessment mentions ASSESS threads on developing/fostering positive attitudes and a "culture of assessment," on frequently-encountered objections to outcomes assessment, and on responding to "Our assessment says we're doing just fine!"

    I'll be interested to see how the workshop develops. Sounds like a fun one.


  2. Thanks Ephraim--it was an oversight of mine not to hyperlink directly to the outcomes assessment site. I had that page open as I was writing. Thanks for the reminder and the wishes. I'll add the link.