Meaning, Methods, and Measures: Challenges and Solutions to Assessing Student Affairs Impact
Supporting the Profession Assessment, Evaluation, and Research LEAD Initiative Senior Level
While assessment is critical to both accountability and improvement of efforts in student affairs, there are challenges to adapting academic assessment practice to co-curricular programs, resources, and initiatives. This Live Briefing will focus on assessment best practice, keeping in mind the challenges that can exist when applying those concepts to co-curricular endeavors. Although rooted in theory, the content will focus on practical strategies for building effective assessment processes.
Ask anyone for three things they learned in college, and many lists will contain things that happened outside of a classroom. Indeed, much of higher education’s impact is a result of student affairs initiatives, but is not articulated by traditional academic learning outcomes and is often missed by assessment practices. Regardless of their auspices under academic or student affairs, many co-curricular experiences and outcomes present significant challenges to assessment. This session discusses – and presents strategies to address – three common issues that arise in assessing the co-curricular.
First, how do we meaningfully measure “soft skills,” which are called so because of their inherent resistance to measurement? Second, how do we meaningfully connect data to our co-curricular programs and initiatives? Third, how do we organize the many sources of data that could be gathered to assess our impact?
In each area, we will review some of the practical and theoretical challenges to applying common (i.e., academic) assessment practices in the co-curricular context. We will then examine best practices and research to addressing these challenges. Finally, we will provide practical tools and strategies to addressing each challenge in your own work. While the session will use civic engagement as a context, the issues and strategies discussed impact nearly all areas of student affairs.
As a result of participating in this session, attendees will be able to:
- identify one similarity and one difference between academic and co-curricular assessment;
- identify possible frameworks for aligning student learning outcomes; and
- distinguish between various data sources for assessing co-curricular impact.