AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | higher education

Well, hello there! I’m Michelle Baron, Academic Assessment Specialist at Utah Valley University, and an Independent Evaluation Strategist.

I’d like to share some tricks of the trade with you in building a culture of assessment in higher education. As an evaluator, the main idea for me is helping people understand what works, why it works, and how to use the resulting ideas and information to improve programs and organizations. These same principles apply directly to building a culture of assessment in higher education.

Why build a culture of assessment?

Building a culture of assessment in institutions of higher education is a multi-faceted process filled with both successes and potential pitfalls. Evaluators must take into account many internal and external factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • National and specialized accreditation requirements
  • Federal, state, and local government education policies and standards
  • Internal ease of access to information through institutional research or other entities
  • Internal capacity of entities to take the initiative for assessment activities
  • The willingness and ability of entities to use assessment results to enhance student learning and strengthen programs

Hot Tip #1: Speak their language:

Many times organizations do assessment, but because they may use different terminology, there is often a disconnect between the evaluator and the organization in communicating ideas and information. Understanding the terms they use and using them in your conversations helps get the message across more smoothly.

Hot Tip #2: Keep assessment visible:

In the daily activities of faculty and staff members, assessment is often last on their to-do list – if it’s there at all. I make a point to meet early and often with associate deans, department chairs, and assessment coordinators to help them develop and use assessment in their areas of responsibility. Regular communication with these entities keeps assessment at the forefront of their minds and helps them to make connections between assessment and their other activities (e.g., teaching courses, engaging in research, developing strategic plans).

Hot Tip #3: Recognize assessment champions:

There are often many people within an organization who see the benefit to assessment and actively use it in their departments and programs. I take opportunities to recognize these assessment champions in meetings and other public events and activities. This not only validates their efforts and helps them know their work is well received, but recognizing them also introduces them to other members of the campus community as potential assessment resources.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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I am Gregory D. Greenman II, the Evaluation and Assessment Coordinator at the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships at Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT). I am also the Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA at WIT. For the past six months, I have been working on evaluating and assessing the Center’s civic engagement programs and the impact of our community partnerships. I’ve learned a number of lessons about gathering information from college students.

Lessons Learned:

  • Tailoring the delivery of the instrument to the student and to the event is a must!
    • Programs that are single events easily lend themselves to paper surveys at the end of the day.
    • Online surveys work best for semester-long projects where students only come to the office a couple times.
    • Peers are often the best interviewers of students. (This means that the interviewer will have to be trained, but adding to the skills and experiences of a student is never a bad thing.)
    • Focus groups are great, but finding a time where everyone can meet is sometimes impossible.
    • Students can be great allies to evaluators; use them.
      • Teaching students about the importance of evaluation and assessment will help rally them to the cause. We increased the response rate from 6% to 76% in just one semester by teaching student leaders the importance of the survey data.
      • Informing students about the importance of evaluation can be just as important as getting data. College students want their voices to be heard and to impact future programming.
      • A little prodding is necessary.
        • Our typical student is balancing their coursework, one or two jobs, and a social life. Things frequently get lost in the shuffle! Occasional reminders are not bad, but one has to tread the line between reminding and nagging.
        • If you have any sort of deadline for the information, subtract two weeks from the time you need the data and make that your published deadline – but do not close the survey. Students will hand in surveys well after that date.

I hope this gives everyone a few ideas on how to gather data from students without resorting to the old tricks of raffles, prizes, and stipends. Tailoring your methods and involving students in the process is not only cheaper, but might even yield better data because you’re not incentivising.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello. I am Asil Ozdogru, an evaluation specialist with the Early Care & Learning Council in Albany, NY. In the realm of nonprofits and smaller-size organizations, capacity to conduct quality evaluations can be enriched through partnerships with local and regional entities. Establishing or enhancing relationships with key individuals and organizations plays an essential role in attaining additional technical and staffing support.

Hot Tips:

  • Form an agency-wide evaluation advisory or steering committee composed of experienced academicians and professionals from higher education institutions and research organizations in your region. Those committees can be very helpful, not only in improving the design and implementation of evaluations, but also in establishing working relationships with other organizations. To identify candidates, check with colleagues and stakeholders in your community of practice.
  • Develop a volunteer or internship program for college students in your agency. This kind of experiences helps students to develop skills necessary in workplaces; organizations benefit from additional staff support. You can reach out to the career offices in local colleges to advertise your program.
  • Establish relationships with local professors and professionals to solicit help on specialized projects. For example, some of the complex data management needs of evaluators can be appropriate class projects for advanced students in information and computer science programs. Local nonprofit organizations or a small business could be viable partners for design and marketing purposes.

Resources:

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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