So, you have people on campus engaged in assessment work.
That can be a big win and worthy of celebration, but at the same time, someone needs to make sure that the nature of their work is meaningful and manageable. Sometimes, the people to rein in are those who are most excited or eager to participate in assessment.
This is certainly a good problem to have, but it’s still worth addressing.
Your biggest assessment champion may want to assess anything and everything. They took to heart the principle of data-informed decision making — so much so that they want to administer five more surveys, conduct spontaneous focus groups whenever students are present, and are willing to collaborate with anyone collecting data about student experiences. (And why wouldn’t they? Knowledge is power, right?)
While having multiple data sources is generally great for assessment work, such a high volume of activity may result in more data than can be meaningfully interpreted or acted upon. It can prove challenging to walk the line between encouraging enthusiastic approaches and reinforcing manageable expectations.
You may also connect with people who believe their interventions (such as courses, programs, and other resources) achieve every outcome and satisfy every need of every student. Although they may be stellar experts doing amazing things on your campus, they can be what I call “map happy” when it comes to intervention mapping or alignment. For example, they may believe that a single course or workshop covers all of their department’s, and maybe even all of the institution’s, learning outcomes.
In light of the wondrous benefits they assume students must be receiving, these individuals may plan to assess every aspect of the experience because surely this is an exemplary practice yet to be recognized — or so they believe.
I’m sure you can fill in the gaps or identify people or areas on your campus where some of this activity may be playing out. The underlying problem is that people might be allowing their interests and wishes to dominate their assessment approach, letting real data needs – when captured – to get lost in the shuffle.
Data needs may not generate as much excitement or interest as wishes, but they are needs for a reason and should be treated as such.
I want to provide some tips and considerations for framing data collection. The elements below can help you and your team separate critical needs from mere wants, wishes, or interests.