By: Lia Kelinsky
"I think you say assessment like 10 times per day" remarked one of my colleagues.
"Only 10?" I thought. "More like 1,000" I responded.
I make no apologies for my quick and persistent efforts to bring up assessment in my office. You have the ACPA Student Affairs Summer Assessment Institute to thank for that. Following the institute, I came away with a long-term goal: to foster a culture of data-driven decision making and prioritization within my office. This would require culture change, which is not easy. Thus, I knew that this would require a multiphase approach. Thankfully, the Institute prepared me to actualize this goal and I want to outline my approach for you.
First and foremost, I make assessment the topic of recurring conversations as much as possible and I advocate for its place on meeting agendas, websites, and other visible arenas. I try to ask questions that will lead us to a data-driven place, and I am currently asking questions around how our newly revised mission statement compares against CAS Standards. In addition to this, I encourage the adoption of assessment techniques that show up as activities within a program (also known as Classroom Assessment Techniques). For a while, I have been wanting to adopt a practice of unobtrusive assessment. A practice so secret that students need only to focus on their learning and having fun (this means no surveys!) Thankfully, everywhere from our keynote session with Gavin Henning to the Choose your own Adventure sessions we were provided ample ideas and tools.
The second phase of my long term goal is to encourage data usage. To initiate this, I added a column to our 2016-2017 assessment plan that asks how the data will be used. As a result, every outcome we plan to assess this year will have a call to action for the data collector. One of my passions is clearly communicating our work’s impact. As a result, this year I created a one-page infographic of our annual report employing data visualization techniques that make our data easy to understand quickly. In the coming year, I hope to adopt a communication plan for our results and publish our results where students are able to see them. I am also incorporating formative assessment into a recurring student leader program. In the future, I will also consider adding another column to our plan asking how and to whom the results will be communicated.
Finally, the third phase to my plan is to go through the data that we currently possess. I have only been with my department for 6+ months, and I know there is rich data lurking around. I would be remiss if I did not go through it all to see what we have and to avoid duplicating efforts. This will not be something I can do in isolation, and will have to become an office-wide effort. This is my third phase for a reason because
our entire office most of the world is guilty of data hoarding. I cannot come in and clean it up in isolation. Once there is a consensus that we owe it to our students to use and present data, we can move towards eliminating stacks of data that won't be used.
My hope is that through these phases, we will be able to build an office-wide culture where assessment is seen as an effective tool that helps us reach our goals and fulfill our mission. What do you think? Any feedback on my approach? What have I missed?
Lia Kelinsky is the Assistant Director of Intercultural Initiatives at Cranwell International Center. Prior to joining CIC, she served as Technical Assistance Project Coordinator at the Office of International Research, Education, and Development and a Project Manager at Continuing and Professional Education. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from Hollins University, and a M.S. in Agricultural Extension and Education from Virginia Tech with focuses on leadership and program evaluation. She grew up as the daughter of a diplomat, and attended four different high schools in three different countries. She speaks French, Spanish, and basic Czech. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Agricultural, Leadership and Community Education. When not in the office, you can find her riding up mountains on her road (or mountain) bike, working on a home garden, trying out arm balances in yoga, or hanging out with her partner and black lab named Olive.