Planning and reporting are two critical aspects of the assessment cycle.
Planning helps you connect your office or department’s mission to services, explicitly stating what your area does for students in terms of learning outcomes and how you will measure those outcomes. Reporting helps tell the story of what you found, what it means, why it matters, and what you plan to do about it.
And there’s one thing that’s crucial to both planning and reporting: setting targets for success.
WHAT IS A TARGET?
When I talk about targets in assessment, I’m referring to the desired or expected level of performance for student learning. Ultimately, they are an indicator of whether or not an outcome was achieved. These go by a number of names – including targets, goals, success criteria – but I’ll use target for clarity and consistency here.
Targets are useful because they help ease reporting and interpretation of results to determine achievement or success in relation to student learning outcomes and operational objectives. Without a clear target, determining success or achievement can be subjective. After all, a workshop resulting in 75% of participants being able to articulate their leadership philosophy may sound like a “good” result at face value. But it’s much less impressive if last year’s workshop yielded a 90% rate. Having a set value to compare your results against makes reporting and interpretation easier.
TYPES OF TARGETS
You might set different forms of targets, including:
- an expectation target – there is no further action or effort needed to achieve the target since the results are what you’d expect based on historical data or performance (for example: a target of achieving a mean score of NSSE results to meet the National Average score).
- an aspirational target – you may need to focus and make some effort in order to achieve this target based on inconsistent or slightly lower past performance (for example: a target of achieving a mean score that’s higher than the NSSE National Average in at least four areas)
- a stretch target – you need to exert a major focus or efforts to work with students to achieve this target (for example: a target of achieving a mean score higher than the NSSE National Average in at least 10 areas)
- Targets can be both qualitative or quantitative. You can set qualitative targets focused on the number of focus groups, interviews, or listening sessions conducted, as well as specifying more or less of certain themes being present in the qualitative and narrative data. Quantitative targets could take the form of averages/means, medians, percent of the total, or proportions of students.
Below is some sample text for quantitative targets:
- Mean score
- At least 80% of students will indicate their grades improved as a result of receiving tutoring
- The average student will have 90% or more correct responses for the student org officer renewal process
- Rubric Scores
- Overall score of 23 or higher for the rubric
- Average score of 3.0 or higher on rubric criteria number 3
- Proportion of students
- 90% or more of students perform at the basic or proficient level
- Less than 10% of students perform at the beginner level