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Partnering Across Campus for Better Assessment

Higher ed has often been left in silos but collaboration is key into order to strategically move the institution forward in meeting student needs.

Assessment spurs collaboration for many areas across our institutions.

Literature has not been shy to encourage such collaboration and involvement, as assessment is not just the responsibility of one person or office (Maki, 2010; Suskie, 2009; Yousey-Elsener, Bentrim, and Henning, 2015).

Before we go any further, it’s important to solidify that assumption for yourself. As I know it to be a relevant litmus test, consider the following questions:

  • How can we be better stewards of resources?
  • Are we improving our quality where necessary?
  • Are we providing the support needed for students to be retained and successful?
  • What student trends or issues are emerging to which we need to adjust?
  • How can we articulate what we do to outside parties?
  • What are students learning?

All of these questions can be answered by assessment through proper planning (Upcraft & Schuh, 2001). This means, if you’re still reading, assessment applies to you.

Assessment doesn’t have just one method or function, either. Consider the following examples of assessment supporting activity across a few functional areas:

  • Tracking involvement can inform the Library on the most popular books/resources and peak times of visitors (both traffic volume and times)
  • Updating electronic contact forms and surveys can inform Alumni Relations on alumni interests about initiatives, feedback on elements they wished they learned in a program, or impactful experiences during college career
  • Intervention-specific assessment can rightfully scope effectiveness of Admissions or Enrollment offices in contrast to unfair pressure of overall retention as success metric

Knowing assessment techniques applies to just about everyone on campus. It’s silly to think you have to execute on this work alone. Without collaboration, the following multi-area assessment efforts wouldn’t be possible:

  • Conduct Services and/or Campus Safety provides data on types of incidents occurring across campus; Health Services uses some of this data to identify pertinent behavioral prevention or safety programs; Orientation retains the new student orientation program information to promote resources to incoming students each year.
  • Facilities shares tracking data on common space utilization; Housing measures student interests/preferences for themed communities; Colleges/academic programs uses information from both entities in considering viability to expand or create learning communities around educational interests in different settings.
  • Student activities offices and any department that houses student organizations track student involvement and engagement through student engagement software to identify trends and utilize co-curricular transcripts; they also use software to market events
  • Financial Aid assesses financial literacy with students; Tutoring shares data with respect to students demonstrating information literacy

These are just a few individual and collaborative examples of how assessment can apply to various functional areas. If you notice, every example highlights a potential assessment practice for a different area. I could provide more examples and permutations of collaborative assessment possibilities, like the important relationship between marketing and assessment.

If you’re not sure how best to start a collaborative effort with another area, start with the basics of your assessment plan. Articulate the core functions of your area. Identify what you need to know about your operations and impact on students. Think about what data you have to inform you on those pieces. Now, consider who else on campus may also be interested in the results, have complementary data, or be involved in similar work. Reach out to those people. It is through established collaborative partnerships we can best share resources and advance efforts to improve student success.

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