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Higher education is very good at reinventing the wheel. Why do something that another campus has done and demonstrated success with when you can do your own similar thing? Why not implement a packaged program or initiative when you can start out from scratch?
Assessment is very similar - most of the questions that ever need to be asked about a program, offering, or service have likely already been asked by someone, somewhere. Many ideas about how to do something, what to consider, who to include, or why to implement something in a given way have been discussed, presented, or published. In fact, many of those things are present on the Student Affairs Assessment Leaders blog!
If you’re like me, you read the most recently published post or two, but don’t dig into the archives to see what else is there - or to see if the solution to your problem has been provided in some way, shape, or form. The thing is, though, there are PLENTY of nuggets of the finest assessment gold, platinum, and silver just waiting to be mined from the last three years’ worth of posts.
Join me on this trip into the wayback machine as I uncover just a few of the wonderful things you might find…
Building data literacy: In May, 2018, Eric Walsh presented a fabulous discussion about being “a data person” and how all our colleagues are “data people” whether they realize it or not. Those asking questions about how to better serve a population or enhance outcomes were, in fact, wanting data to guide them. The challenge, he found, was that most lacked the language to articulate what it is they wanted, where they could find it, or how they could use it. They lacked data literacy skills, and this post provides some great tips on how to build that knowledge in your areas.
Transforming Higher Education and Student Affairs through Socially-Just Assessment: February 2019 brought us another post full of ready-to-use knowledge from Dr. Tracy Arambula Ballysingh and Dr. Ignacio Hernandez focused on how we can adjust the ways in which we ask questions, collect data, and provide results and commentary - all in an effort to ensure social justice principles are incorporated and attended to in our work. They underscore that accountability-based assessment, while necessary, is at odds with understanding the broader effect of an intervention or initiative measured with techniques other than objective tests or directly-observable outcomes. Drs. Ballysingh and Hernandez issue a challenge for us to bear witness to systemic oppression perpetuated by unjust assessment techniques, and provide resources to work toward transformation.
Telling our Story through a Departmental Blog: Kaitlyn Schmitt brought us some meta thoughts in August 2018 when she published about her departmental blog on the SAAL blog. She described in detail how she was able to provide in-depth information about her center, its work and programs, the students who participated, and the outcomes gathered by using an easily-accessible format like a blog. Tips on using infographics, language and rhetoric, when and how to post, and, most importantly, what to post about, are sprinkled throughout this post.
A List of Ways to Get Assessment Experience: To wrap up this dig, I bring you Christopher Patterson’s October 2020 post on ways graduate students can get assessment experience. (Spoiler alert: many of the things he discusses are applicable to non-graduate students, too!) Among other things, there are:
- listings of opportunities for internships;
- ideas for collateral assignments or committees;
- places on campus to talk to about learning while doing assessment work;
- applying assessment knowledge once gained in a classroom in your actual job; and,
- finding assessment presentations to attend at conferences.
The list is really long, and very well curated -- ideal for those looking for new experiences or ways to expand their work and hone their skills.
These are just a few of the nearly 90 posts that have been provided since December 2017 when the blog launched. My colleagues and I on the blog team this year hope to bring you many more compelling posts throughout the 2021 calendar year. But, as you wait for those to be written and posted, take some time and stroll through the archives. You’ll never know what you might find that could solve a problem for you or make things a bit easier for one of your own colleagues.
Matthew D. Pistilli, Ph.D., Iowa State University