Guest Blogger: When Assessment and Data Are Too Much of a Good Thing

Shamika Karikari photo headshot

I love coffee. Strong and black. Coffee does something to my soul when I drink it. The smell of roasted coffee beans and steam coming from my favorite mug brings a smile to my face. Beginning my morning with a hot cup of coffee is sure to set a positive tone for the rest of the day. I love coffee. Then something happens. It’s 3 o’clock and I realize I’m on my fourth cup of the day. During this realization, I begin to notice my higher heart rate, funny feeling in my stomach, and that I’m a bit more energized than what is good for me. The truth is I had too much of a good thing.


coffee mug with quote about courage

What is your “too much of a good thing”? I’m convinced we all have it, whether we want to admit it or not. Nowadays it seems assessment and data has become one of higher education’s good things that we have too much of. I want to be clear; assessment and data are necessary in higher education. Both assessment and data are good, just like coffee. However, when we have too much of it and do not use it effectively, this good thing turns into something bad. I see this most often show up in three ways that I will describe below.

  • Quality over quantity. Assess more and have more data has been the message given to many higher education professionals. More isn’t inherently bad, but it also isn’t always necessary. When we expect professionals to assess more, are we equipping them with the tools to build effective assessment tools? Are we being thoughtful about targeting what we assess instead of assessing everything? Do we consider survey fatigue? We must consider these questions. Creating fewer effective assessment tools that provide rich data instead of conceding to the pressure to assess everything will serve professionals well. Switching the focus to quality over quantity is a shift higher education must consider.
  • Dust filled data. When we leave something in a corner and don’t attend to it dust will collect. The same happens with data in higher education. When we conduct multiple assessments we have data that is filled with dust because we do not do anything with it. Because most of our data is stored electronically we don’t see the dust, but it’s there. It’s not enough to say we did an assessment. We must go a step further and use the data! We must analyze the information we’ve collected, share it with folks who need to know, and adapt a plan for how the data will be used. When we do this, our assessment becomes purposeful. When we do this, our investment in that specific assessment is justified. When we do this, our colleagues and students are best served. What timeline can you set yourself to avoid dust getting on your data? What data currently needs dusting off?
  • Over our heads. Some higher education professionals have done a great job assessing in effective ways and utilizing the data collected. However, the dissemination of data is over our heads. The pressure professionals feel has turned into the need to create 30-page analysis of data. What happened to one-page summaries? When will we use technology to disseminate our data? How can we make the analysis and presentation of the data interesting, so people want to read and use it? These are all questions we should be asking when considering the dissemination of data. I have found infographics to be a highly effective way to disseminate information in an accessible way. Making changes to better share our stories is beneficial and necessary.

Assessment is a good thing. Making data driven decisions is a good thing. We know this to be true. To ensure it doesn’t continue as too much of a good thing, professionals must consider the implications of the current way we do assessment in higher education. The survey fatigue students experience, the pressure to have data when making any size decisions, and the expectation that we assess everything under the sun have clouded the goodness of assessment. How are you doing with quality over quantity? What data needs dusted off in your office? How can you make data accessible to all? Considering these questions will get you one-step closer to keeping assessment good. Because remember, like my fourth cup of coffee in the afternoon, you want to steer clear of having too much of a good thing.

Mika Karikari is currently a doctoral student in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Miami University as well as an Associate in Career Services. Additionally, her professional background also includes academic support, residence life, and new student programs. You can follow Mika on Twitter @MikaKarikari or email her at

7 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: When Assessment and Data Are Too Much of a Good Thing

  1. Great article Mika! I couldn’t agree with you more. I find this issue of excessive assessment tools to be a major obstacle the future of education faces. Many of my friends in education find this issue challenging as the revolving door of research is ever changing, improving, than disproving, Effective than ineffective, that is is hard to not grow frustrated and cautious in using recommended assessment tools.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chavonne- Thanks for reading my post! I agree that we have gotten excessive with assessment tools. I hope enough educators will challenge current practices to bring about real change!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this important message, Mika! I tend to get pretty riled up about assessment in Student Affairs and Higher Education, exactly for many of the reasons you shared. I feel assessment is one of those things that can be real barriers for many professionals in terms of time spent on something that won’t make a difference for them, their departments, or their students. That being said, using data effectively, when done well, can be a powerful way to demonstrate the effectiveness of our work. Thank you again for this refreshing perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading Kyle! I’m glad my perspective was refreshing and hopefully reminded you that when done well, there is still good in assessment!


  3. This. is. spot. on! Mika – thank you for sharing this insight that so many of us need to read and/or be able to communicate. A valuable perspective that really encompasses the value and purpose of assessment, when used effectively and efficiently. Grateful I read this – looking forward to sharing it with my colleagues as we prepare our strategic plan!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Mika. I agree with your description of how we can go overboard with data, specifically the three dangers you’ve outlined.

    I would add one more to that list, and that’s the effect that the presence of heavy-handed assessment itself can have on the experience that we’re assessing. We are doing some research on civic agency at UMBC, and we’re finding that students who sense that they’re encountering experiences pre-designed or pre-scripted for them tend to check out because they don’t perceive the experiences to be real. Students report heightened efficacy when they experienced spontaneity in their educational experiences; participating in budget decisions or launching a new student organization, for example.

    I’m now thinking twice about sharing learning objectives or outcomes on the front end of experiences because I’m concerned that in doing this, we’re merely signaling to students turn off their authenticity and prepare to play the role they’ve been socialized to play in order to check off the requirement.

    I’m now very interested in how we design and assess experiences that preserve the spontaneity that is so critical in the development of students’ agency.

    Thanks again for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

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