Why assessment?

If you are a cook, perhaps you are familiar with this process: you try out a new recipe. It turns out fine, but because you’ve been cooking for a while, you have some ideas as to how to make it better. Next time, maybe you’ll add some more pepper, or cook a little longer, or note that the recipe really only serves 2, not 4. You’ll probably scribble these ideas on the recipe so you don’t forget them.

Congratulations; you’ve just done outcomes assessment! When we talk about assessment, sometimes it seems like something mysterious or something we only do now and then to satisfy an outside party like an accreditor or the government. But actually we all do it all the time. We know what outcome we are looking for, we know what we did to try to bring that outcome about, we know how things turned out, and we have at least some ideas for what we would do differently next time. We just need to make sure we have kept records of each of these steps so that we can, in fact, go back and make the changes needed.

This is true in all areas of college activity, not just student learning. So it’s important that all offices have a few key components in place: a brief mission statement expressing what your area is charged with doing, some goals with some ways to measure progress, and an annual report documenting how things turned out. In the middle of August, we will all take some time to make sure that each area of the college has at least these minimum components—faculty during Fall Faculty Institute on Aug. 13 and 14, and non-teaching areas during “Assessment Boot Camp” on August 18th.  More details will be distributed next week, but we all have a role to play because each of us can contribute ideas for what we should be doing and how best to do it. We just need to get cooking!

~ Dr. Chris Holoman & Dr. Ron Eskew

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