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AHE TIG Week: Tamara Bertrand Jones on Creating an Assessment Culture

Hello, I’m Tamara Bertrand Jones. I’m an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Florida State University and a former Director of Research and Evaluation in Student Affairs.

Assessment in higher education has largely been used for external accountability. Divisions and departments can use these external mandates for internal improvement and make assessment part of daily practice. Cultivating a culture of assessment on your campus or in your division/department requires a few steps.

Hot Tip #1: Develop Divisional Commitment

A lone department’s assessment efforts or even those of a few innovative areas will not permeate an entire Division without support from the Vice President and their associates.  Gaining VP support for assessment efforts is key to integrating these efforts into your work and throughout the Division.  Some areas even have their own assessment staff dedicated to this work.

Hot Tip #2: Cultivate Departmental Commitment

Once the commitment from the appropriate Division level or other administrator is received, then departmental support has to be cultivated.  I hate to encourage a top down initiative at any time, but if there was any aspect that requires a top down approach, it is that of assessment.  Often upper level administrators can incentivize assessment or other activities in order to build support for this work.   Of course, if other professionals at all levels in the department are proponents, then these activities will only be easier.

Hot Tip #3: Solicit Student Involvement

Involving students in your assessment efforts not only helps to build their capacity to conduct and become better consumers of assessment, but also creates buy-in of your efforts.  Student responses to surveys or participation in other assessment efforts increases as a result.

Hot Tip #4: Relate to Institutional Strategic Plan

Divisions or departments usually develop strategic plans used to guide their work.  Linking the Division’s plan or Departmental plan to the University’s broader strategic plan ensures a direct connection.  This intentional action demonstrates how the Division/Department contributes to larger university goals and can reap many benefits for the Division/Department, including increased financial support or additional human resources.

Hot Tip #5: Ensure Accountability

Lastly, an assessment culture encourages accountability.  Programs are developed using a solid foundation of assessment, not using gut feelings, or what you think students need.  Our work becomes intentional and we also build accountability into our daily work.  Our actions become even more meaningful as every action can be tied back to a larger purpose.

Rad Resource: The Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education’s ASSESS listserv is a great source of current discussion and practice related to assessment.  To subscribe, visit  http://www.coe.uky.edu/lists/helists.php

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Assessment in Higher Education (AHE) TIG Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AHE TIG members. 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.

1 thought on “AHE TIG Week: Tamara Bertrand Jones on Creating an Assessment Culture”

  1. Tamara,

    Thank you for describing such functional evaluative tips. I am currently assessing a University Writing Program, and am open to learning about best practices, and knowledge mobilization within the university of the data collected.

    At the university I work, unit evaluative reports are often summarized into simple bullet points to then be passed up to department supervisors and then included in larger reports – often as an infographic. I find these larger reports showcasing several units merely scrape the surface of the work that is being created, and accomplished within their smaller units.

    Your suggestions are wonderful ways to actively involve the student affairs hierarchy and values while still maintaining some control over the data collected in student evaluative surveys.

    Much appreciation,
    Carly D.

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