Structured Conversations

Structured Conversations

In an effort to provide ongoing professional development opportunities for SAAL members, the Professional Development Committee hosts Structured Conversations. Structured Conversations are monthly interactive assessment webinars. A listing of upcoming webinars and past records can be found below. Check the professional development calendar for a full listing of events. 

Structured Conversations

Our next SAAL Structured Conversation is scheduled for Wednesday, September 23,  from1:00pm-2:00pm EST, titled Mindful with Measurements: Using Qualitative & Quantitative Data in Assessment” with Ciji Heiser of Western Michigan University, Ross Markle of DIA Higher Education Collaborators, and Kate McConnell of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. RSVP for the Structured Conversation here! 


Abstract: With conversation spurred by a blog post, this moderated panel seeks to explore the differences in qualitative and quantitative data in student affairs assessment. Panelists will discuss the theories and methods that drive practical assessment method decisions. How do broader concepts like validity, fairness, and use impact our selection or design tools such as rubrics and surveys? How do we build a sound process to get the data we need? Moderated by Joe Levy, the panel features a wealth of experience from Ciji Heiser of Western Michigan University, Ross Markle of DIA Higher Education Collaborators, and Kate McConnell of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Time will be set aside at the end for attendees to pose questions to the panel. 

As a result of this conversation, we anticipate that participants will: 

  • Summarize differences between qualitative and quantitative data
  • Identify at least two considerations for method selection
  • Identify at least two recommendations for implementing methods in student affairs


Presenter Bios:

Ciji A. Heiser is the Director for Student Affairs Assessment and Effectiveness at Western Michigan University. Currently, she coordinates assessment and strategic planning efforts, manages data integration and visualization, and leads evaluation and program review processes.  Prior to working at WMU, Ciji spent six years at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill working in assessment and at St. Mary’s College of Maryland as an area coordinator for international student support. Ciji received her bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Bucknell University, M.Ed. from Kent State University, M.S. in Educational Research Methodology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is pursuing a doctorate in the same program focusing on culturally responsive evaluation and measurement for equity. 

Ross Markle has focused on building a more holistic understanding of students' learning, development, and success. In his first job out of graduate school, as Director of Student Affairs Assessment at Northern Kentucky University, he applied these skills to support both student learning and student success initiatives. Then, in multiple roles at Educational Testing Service (ETS), he worked to transition research to practice, using noncognitive assessments to guide course placement, advising, and student success efforts in colleges and universities across the country. In early 2019, Ross founded DIA Higher Education Collaborators in an effort to provide support to colleges, universities, and other organizations in higher education as they seek to transition away from a century of student attrition.

Kate Drezek McConnell, PhD, is Assistant Vice President for Research & Assessment and Director of the VALUE Institute, AAC&U’s nationwide assessment system that enables any higher education provider (institution, PCE program, academic department, state, consortium, etc.) to collect and upload samples of student work to a digital repository and have the work scored by certified VALUE Institute scorers for external validation of institutional learning assessment. An educational psychologist by training, Dr. McConnell has written extensively on the VALUE approach to assessment. Her other research and campus consultations focus on using course-embedded assessment to improve teaching and learning while also addressing accountability and accreditation requirements; course-embedded assessment; aligning pedagogy with assessment efforts; faculty development; and leveraging the learning sciences in teaching, assessment, and evaluation. Before joining AAC&U, Dr. McConnell spent ten years at Virginia Tech working in assessment and evaluation as well as serving as affiliate faculty in Virginia Tech’s graduate program in educational psychology, teaching courses on cognitive processes and effective college teaching. She received a BA from the University of Virginia, an MA in history from Providence College (Rhode Island), and a PhD in educational psychology from Virginia Tech.


If you have topics and/or presenters of interest in the upcoming year, please complete the proposal form below.

Past Conversations

Structured Conversations are FREE and anyone can participate. If you are unable to attend a Structured Conversation live, recordings are available on the SAAL YouTube Channel. Visit our YouTube Channel or browse it below by clicking the playlist link on the top left of the video frame. PowerPoint slides and handouts can also be found in the SAAL Resource Repository in the folder titled "Structured Conversations."


Topic Proposals

Would you like to suggest a topic for a future Structured Conversation (SC)? The SAAL PDC welcomes your suggestions! You are also invited to apply to lead a SC and share your expertise with SAAL by completing the proposal form below. We look forward to hearing from you!