Archive for July 2014

Assessment Planning as Peer Review

July 7, 2014

When I first started my professional career, I never thought that assessment would end up playing such a major role.  I was never in the strong anti-assessment or pro-assessment communities.  I appreciated the importance of making sure the programs that I was leading (RA Training, Selection, RA Programming, etc.) all ensured that student learning was part of the process and that we were able to get feedback to improve these endeavors annually, but I wasn’t as concerned with how my non-Res. Life peers were conducting their assessment.

All of that changed in spring of 2011 when I was asked to sit on our newly created Student Affairs Assessment Committee.  Our VP charged the Associate Dean of Students with creating, revising, or updating all SA departmental mission statements and student learning outcomes.  This was a daunting task as each department was at a different stage with regards to their SLOs and mission statements.

Over the course of a year, we worked with each department and developed new mission statements and SLOs for each SA department.  Many departments retained aspects of their previous missions and SLOs, but these changes streamlined the division and aligned with revised SLOs for the Division of Student Affairs as a whole, as created by our VPSA.

With that done, the next two years were spent working with directors on finding ways to assess their ongoing programs and services both in terms of student learning as well as general satisfaction.  Again, this was a struggle, as some departments were resistant to assessment as a slightly nebulous term.  This phase of our project saw a divide in the departments that sought out the Student Affairs Assessment Committee and those that continued doing their own assessment projects and data collection.  With everyone gathering data that was deemed useful, we chose to not try and mandate any particular approach for assessment, and merely offered our assistance if any department needed help developing an appropriate measurement tool for a particular program or initiative. 

As we head into the fourth full year of the existence of the Student Affairs Assessment Committee, I’m excited for the changes that are coming.  With the support of our VPSA, it is our plan to have the Student Affairs Assessment Committee serve as a form of peer review for the assessment tools for each department, to ensure consistency and to act as a sounding board to offer ideas/input/suggestions to the department regarding their assessment plans.  With membership consisting of SA professionals from the Dean of Students Office, VPSA Office, Counseling Center, and Residential Life on the committee, almost all of whom hold terminal degrees in their field of expertise, I am hopeful that this will give each department the opportunity to gain feedback from a colleague not in their specialized field to help them refine and enhance their assessment measures so that they are able to be understood by students and are reliable tools that can be used to demonstrate both student learning and more general satisfaction.

With that said, I’m curious if anyone is using a peer review approach to assessment initiatives, and if so, what do yours look like!?  Feel free to comment below or tweet me @adamcasler 

Thanks for reading!