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Getting the Most from Your Fall Data Harvest

by Abby Stott, Manager of Client Engagement, Tk20

Anyone involved with assessment at a higher ed institution understands the importance of engaging a variety of stakeholders in meaningful conversations throughout the academic year. Without consistent buy-in and support from these key players, it’s incredibly difficult to achieve—let alone sustain—the critical mass institutions need for ongoing reflection, change, and improvement.

Now that the fall semester is coming to a close, you’ll need to begin your analysis and synthesis of all the data that’s been harvested during the last several months. Doing so now gives you the ability to report on it in relevant ways come springtime to various stakeholders across campus.  

Before heading into the winter break, take advantage of these four reporting tips to make the most of the data you’ve gathered and inform your conversations with key players next semester:  

  1. Set up dashboards with key performance indicators.
    Assessment of student learning can happen in a variety of ways. You’ll not only want to dig into data from the current semester, but also data that shows improvement over time. When creating dashboards each semester, be sure to include indicators that show monitoring data (e.g., 90% of students were assessed on Key Assessment #1) as well as aggregate data (e.g., 90% of students scored a 3 or higher on Criterion #1 on Key Assessment #1).The indicators you include should reflect the needs of your various stakeholders. For instance, Deans and Chairs want to see how students did on key assessments. Provosts want to ensure the institution continually improves. Faculty are interested in how well students perform in their classes. What you share with your Dean should be different from what your faculty may need to see, so keep your audiences in mind when determining which information your dashboards will show.
  2. Share your dashboard, and set aside time for discussion.
    After creating a dashboard, share it with the appropriate audience and dedicate some time to review the information together. Faculty and other stakeholders will engage in these discussions if given the chance. To facilitate interest and relevancy, let the numbers guide the discussion. What story do the numbers tell? Are there other questions that come to mind when looking at the data?Once those conversations begin, be sure to continue having them on a consistent basis. Doing so allows for richer discussions down the road, as you’ll be able to analyze progress over time, semester by semester. How does this semester’s data compare with the last? Has the institution moved in the right direction overall? These early conversations will likely prompt many questions and maybe even some confusion. But by reporting consistently over time, your stakeholders will know what to expect, prepare in advance, and engage at deeper levels.
  3. Use a robust reporting tool that can run and store data by different filters.
    To account for and report on new student populations entering your institution each semester, consider using a reporting tool that collects and stores student information in a comprehensive database on an ongoing, proactive basis. This will let you pull data from your SIS as soon as it is entered, which helps you keep up with ever-changing assessment requirements and expectations prioritized by accrediting bodies, institutional leadership, and faculty.Tk20 Instant Insight Reports™ is a new reporting tool that produces results instantly, allowing you to pull SIS and key assessment data simultaneously. With Instant Insight Reports, you can design your own reports that pull only the data you need that’s displayed exactly the way you want to see it, whenever you want, as many times as you like. Having immediate access and visibility into all of your institution’s data in one place lets you analyze your data and understand your school’s activities in real time, so you can confidently tell your story to a variety of stakeholders at any point.
  4. Iterate!
    In order to monitor performance and track progress over time, be sure to use the same dashboard reports for consistency, accuracy, and relevancy of data. As you analyze information from one semester to the next, you may find better ways to pull certain data points, identify any gaps in what’s being reported, or decide to adjust your filters along the way. The conversations you have with faculty and other key players across campus should drive the iterations you make. Incorporating others’ ideas and feedback into your dashboards will go a long way toward garnering (and sustaining) stakeholder investment in closing the loop on key assessments across your institution.

There’s nothing like having the satisfaction of knowing your students are performing well against all competencies and standards. Before heading into the winter break, take this opportunity to make the most of your fall harvest and prepare for the coming spring. If you create dashboards now that can be used over the next couple of semesters, your stakeholders across campus will thank you later. Then you can engage, engage, engage!

About the Author

Photo of Abby Stott, Manager of Client Engagement at Tk20

Abby Stott, Manager of Client Engagement

Before joining Tk20 in 2011, Abby held a career in Student Affairs with Residential Life, where she spearheaded assessment efforts for the department and collaborated with campus stakeholders to streamline assessment efforts across the division. As Manager of the Client Engagement team, Abby works closely with established clients in the Tk20 community to help them leverage their Tk20 solution in innovative ways that help drive impact on campus. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Feminist and Gender Studies at Colorado College and a Master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Indiana University. Away from work, Abby enjoys doing yoga, traveling, and exploring new things.