Although most of us did not grow up saying “I want to be an assessment person”, we found ourselves attracted to the field for various reasons. Perhaps a mentor helped us find the field or maybe we participated in a committee, but now we find ourselves doing assessment work full-time, sometimes without a lot of training or support.
Since the early 80’s the field of assessment has evolved, matured, expanded, and become known as a profession. Early leaders and organizations helped shape the student learning outcome assessment movement when there was not a lot of direction or support. Now, almost 40 years later, those leaders and organizations helped bring forth communities of practice, books, journals, and conferences dedicated to assessment, as well as another generation of assessment leaders.
Weave hosted a panel of assessment experts for a fun discussion about falling into the assessment field. Drs. Tisha Paredes, Tara Rose, Claudia Stanny, and Catherine Wehlburg shared valuable insights and stories to help guide fellow colleagues on their assessment professional journey.
Getting into the Assessment Field
While many are volunteered for this work via a meeting or committee, more are actively seeking (and posting) positions as the field has evolved. The panelists shared some overarching qualities and mindsets that make a good assessment professional:
- Logical thinker: Accreditation and assessment processes can be complex, and seeing all parts of the project and prioritizing are critical.
- Varied skill set: For applicants, reflect on your background and abilities, and describe those in how they overlap with the job – even if it’s not the exact same terminology. Consider data skills, interpersonal strengths, and teaching experience. This is good advice for hiring, too!
- Engaged in current events/topics: Find ways to educate yourself on what is new in assessment (see the Resources section at the end of this post for ideas!).
- Sees more than data: Understand the focus on student learning, which is informed by assessment data.
Hiring Tips for Current Assessment Professionals
All the panelists have worked at multiple institutions in various roles, as well as led many types of teams. Reflecting on those experiences, they had great advice for hiring new additions:
- Campus culture: Does your campus house and share a lot of data? Or, is your campus more siloed with various platforms and assessment methods? Finding a person that fits the campus culture will make the work more successful.
- Gaps: Looking at your current team, what does it lack? Do you need a person to help with data, or to work directly with faculty on writing assessment plans?
- Diamond in the rough: If you have an applicant that is almost perfect, are there resources you can provide that person to grow and contribute in a larger way?
Top Tips for Successful Assessment Leadership
Assessment and accreditation is high stakes work, while also usually unseen by most of the campus and community. For faculty and staff it can seem like an extra burden, or even pointless. Our panelists had many good ideas for making assessment a continuous and valuable exercise:
- Always begin with the love of teaching and learning: Have everyone – faculty, staff, leadership – answer the critical questions: Why do you do this? What do you hope will happen if you do this well? Then help them develop the how.
- Remember that assessment is not one size fits all – across institutions and even disciplines. What you have done before may not fit elsewhere. Provide options, get input.
- Communication is key: Being a good listener, kind, thoughtful and open to their feelings of frustration helps others see you as a colleague.
- Teach to fish: Faculty and staff really DO want to engage. I can’t do it all myself, and it won’t turn out well anyway. Don’t write their reports – it won’t have the right intent. People generally want to be asked and included.
- Find a mentor and resources: There is no need to reinvent the wheel – this field is very generous with ideas and materials.
- Lead by example: Your unit should assess, too!
- Don’t underestimate perks (food, praise, certification, tenure and promotion items): The little things matter. Determine what your faculty and staff see as rewards – it could be as simple as copying the provost and dean on a thank you email.
- Begin and end with student learning: If you really want to make change, you must facilitate informed conversations around student learning. A nice report that no one talks about will not impact anything. Arrange for those conversations informed by assessment data.