September 4, 2018
Let’s call out the shocker from the start: I am absolutely and completely terrible at assessment.
For me, this is actually not a shocker. I have never enjoyed assessment and have always gravitated to more of an organic, heart-pulse, hippie-ish approach to our work. “Well, that felt great!” means a program went really well. “Hmm…they seemed distracted!” means a part of RA training needed to be tweaked. And “Look! He’s on stage receiving a diploma! And smiling!” means that things generally went well for meeting the goals of development with one particular student.
On paper, my lack of passion and skill for assessment might be a bit more surprising. Yes, I totally have a Ph.D. Yes, I was a dean of students for a decade. And yes, I am a legit professor who (fingers crossed) is about to get tenure in a few months and is also the director of a graduate preparatory program in our field, actively pushing students every week to question their assumptions. And all the while, I am using a “thumbs up” as my most sophisticated metric of assessing the efficacy of all things good around me.
It was thus with great sadness that I received the news that I needed to submit an assessment plan for the six outcomes of my M.A.Ed. program. My first response was to whine.
Come on! I know we’re doing those things! Gain knowledge about student development theory? Develop their sense of ethical leadership? Increase their awareness of self, place, and power to effect change in a multicultural environment? We do all those things in class and in their internships. What more do you need to know? We just do it! I promise! Isn’t my promise enough?!?
After being told that my promise was apparently not enough, I began to panic. How was I going to approach assessing my program outcomes when I had neither the skills nor the inclination to complete such a task?
And then it suddenly occurred to me, as I was leading a national presentation on the Rubrics for the NASPA/ACPA Professional Competency Areas – hey, I could use these!
Let me break down that previous sentence into three important details for your total comprehension:
Though I have spent so much time extolling the virtues of how useful the Rubrics can be to our efforts in this field, somehow that mantra didn’t get through my own skull. And then in the middle of the presentation, it clicked: every one of my six program outcomes coded EXACTLY to a rubric. The Leadership Rubric bailed me out of one outcome, the Social Justice and Inclusion Rubric made sense of another, the Student Learning and Development Rubric got me unstuck with a third, and so on and so forth. Within 20 minutes (no joke: 20 minutes!), I had a three-year assessment plan for all of my M.A.Ed. program’s six outcomes about which I not only felt great but was actually excited. Really and truly excited! About assessment!
Ultimately, this post is yet another plea to urge you take a few minutes to check out the Rubrics. They are not just a random, superfluous bunch of pages buried on the NASPA website with no utility. They are guideposts that are there to scaffold the hard work that you are already doing. They can help inform hiring, program evaluation, annual goal-setting, syllabus creation, capstone development, dating, family Thanksgivings, staff on-boarding, and really anything else in your life that needs more direction and intentionality.
In short: Use the Rubrics. They actually can help you do your job, but only if you choose (and, in my case, remember) to use them.
Dr. Ken Schneck is an Associate Professor and director of the Leadership in Higher Education Program at Baldwin Wallace University. He currently serves as the liaison between the NASPA’s Professional Standards Division and the Knowledge Communities. He’d want you to go check out his books on Amazon.
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