Just about any assessment guide will reiterate the importance of sharing assessment results (Maki, 2010; Palomba & Banta, 1999; Suskie, 2009; Upcraft & Schuh, 1996; Yousey-Elsener, Bentrim, & Henning, 2015), but institutions still struggle in this arena internally. The likelihood and willingness to share assessment information externally decreases exponentially. In general, institutions may fear sharing what is perceived as negative data, sharing information out of context, or may believe they are not allowed to share information externally. Assessment and Marketing can help work through these barriers or misconceptions:
- Data is neutral – it is not good or bad. Even if results are below established targets, there is still beneficial information to be shared in such a circumstance. There should be action steps or changes to be made to improve results. There may also be new insights gained from examining the data. Plenty of productive or “good” information to share out, without having to carrying a negative or “bad” tone.
- Intentionally craft your message. Effective sharing isn’t just sending out the report or spreadsheet of data. One should identify the audience, the medium and manner with which intended audience is most likely to engage with the information, and then which parts of the process or results will matter in the message. In other words, you are in control of the context in which you provide the information!
- Know institutional (and beyond) guidelines, rules, and policies. It’s important to understand institutional guidelines and considerations exist with respect to sharing data internally or externally. Be sure check the source of that information, too. Some folks believe or heard they can’t share anything externally without obtaining multiple levels of approval and legal scrutiny. While that may be the case in some situations, it may not apply at all to your survey about student satisfaction with campus activities.
Where the above elements may seem tricky, utilize your campus experts for assistance. Assessment folks can help interpret data and maximize the meaning and use from results. Marketing professionals can help with the rest. They’re subject matter experts in crafting messages and communicating with target audiences. They also know the rules, considerations, and processes for executing on any formal sharing. One might be surprised at how much freedom is granted to a department to share aggregated assessment information internally, as well as externally. Be responsible with any such freedoms and leverage content experts to help your sharing be effective.