We need to involve students more in assessment.
Despite assessment usually being shorthand for assessment of student learning, faculty, staff, and assessment pros are all guilty of not engaging students as much as we should.
And it’s not like including students is merely a nice thing to do. We owe it to students to make them partners and valued stakeholders in the process. Because that’s what they are! Assessment data is both for and about students, making the processes and the results relevant and pertinent to students as an audience.
There are many possible ways to involve students in assessment. It can be helpful to first think through the assessment cycle and common practices in order to identify realistic opportunities and activities for which to include students as collaborators. Although institutional models for assessment may differ, consider the following student inclusion efforts grouped by four categories: assessment planning, data collection, reporting, and taking action.
1. Articulating learning outcomes
Talk to students about services, programs, and offices to explore what the intended outcomes or learning areas might look like. Invite students to collaborate in choosing the language for the outcome statement, plus be sure to share the draft outcome statement with students to review for clarity and relevance.
2. Prioritizing projects
Give them a voice in thinking about your area’s priorities in relation to institutional strategy and culture. This is a great opportunity to invite feedback from student org leaders, student government members, and student employees. You can share past assessment plans and results with students to help inform their perspectives.
3. Selecting and creating instruments
As much as you may assume that students are experiencing survey fatigue, talk to them to get their actual thoughts on survey activity. You may be surprised; they may think certain surveys are ok or expected, while others seem irrelevant or too much. And if you opt for an observation rubric that staff will fill out, students can offer their perspective as to how to introduce or contextualize the purpose of rubrics to students being observed.
Once instruments are selected, students should be included when you pilot or share a draft for review. They can offer feedback on language, instructions, and even give some test data to ensure that you capture the intended data.
4. Supporting administration
Just as students can (and often will) tell you if they’re receiving too many surveys, they can also inform your data collection strategy.
Should surveys be sent to students’ school emails or their personal ones? Would students participate in a survey posted on the school’s website? These are the sorts of questions students themselves can help you answer. Moreover, the students you engage as stakeholders can help solicit participation and be part of the data collection process!
5. Entering data
While this may not be appropriate for all assessment efforts, you could leverage students to enter data in many scenarios. This could include compiling survey results, entering paper and pencil results into a digital format, or pulling data from multiple sources into a single spreadsheet. Just be sure to exercise appropriate judgment whenever data has personal identifiable information or is sensitive in nature.