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Points to Ponder: Examining the Culture of Assessment on Your Campus

by Bhupi Bhasin, Tk20 President & Co-Founder

At the 9th Annual Tk20 User Conference, Dr. Trudy Banta delivered a very timely keynote address titled “Assessment Changes Things… and That Could Be a Good Thing!” Assessment, after all, is about much more than data collection – it’s about using your data to facilitate continuous improvement. Several customer-led sessions at our conference addressed the challenges and successes of assessment activities in higher education. Here are four thought-provoking questions you should be asking to examine the culture of assessment on your campus. 

Who is involved in assessment at your institution? 

In her keynote address, Dr. Banta challenged us to engage all stakeholders in the assessment process. On your campus, you probably already involve assessment officers, faculty, and students in assessment but might consider adding other units like student affairs, libraries, or physical plants, and external stakeholders such as employers. Think about it – is there any constituency you’re missing? What challenges do they bring? Is there better way to involve them? 

Are you sharing assessment results with your stakeholders?

Many of our partner institutions have implemented “Data Days” to share assessment findings internally with faculty and involve them in developing action plans to address areas needing improvement. It’s also becoming more common for institutions to share assessment results with faculty, students, parents, donors, and employers on their school website. While this may be a touchy subject on some campuses, the benefits of sharing findings and action plans with stakeholders far outweighs any perceived risk, helping build credibility and generating a greater understanding of the rationale behind changes that are being implemented in a program or across the institution. 

How can you overcome resistance?

In one of our conference sessions led by Prince George’s Community College, Dr. W. Allen Richman reminded us that faculty buy-in can be improved by staying focused on student learning, involving teaching faculty in identifying outcomes, encouraging collaboration within departments and with the assessment team, and cultivating a culture of trust and support. As perceptions of assessment change, faculty will begin the transition from fear and resistance to understanding and participation. Developing those relationships and collectively striving toward the same goals will help bridge the divide that often exists between the Office of Assessment or Institutional Effectiveness and teaching faculty. 

Do all courses have to map to program and institution outcomes? 

Ideally, course outcomes should map to program outcomes which should map to institutional goals and strategic plans. If a course doesn’t align with program outcomes and desired institution goals, perhaps there should be a discussion about why it is being taught. Mapping outcomes to each other will help demonstrate the performance relationships between them and can help pinpoint areas for deeper analysis to generate suggestions for improvement. 

Dr. Banta emphasized “It takes a campus to develop a graduate” during her keynote address, and she is right. We are all stakeholders challenged with bolstering student success and encouraging continuous improvement across programs and the institution as a whole. So make a plan, collaborate with each other, and don’t be afraid to share how well you are doing and where you need to improve. As the culture of assessment on your campus matures, the path ahead will be illuminated by the lessons learned along the journey.

About the Author

Portrait of Bhupi Bhasin

Bhupi Bhasin, Tk20 President & Co-Founder

Bhupi Bhasin co-founded Tk20 in 2002 with a passion for collaboration, a commitment to partnership, and a focus on continuous improvement to ensure complete customer satisfaction. This approach guides Tk20’s mission to give colleges and universities a better way to manage assessment and accreditation with the highest quality products, support, and services available.