I collected data! Now what?!

Abby photoWe’re coming to the close of yet another academic year and you did it! You surveyed students or tracked who did (and didn’t!) visit your office or understood the student learning outcomes from a program or whatever we keep preaching about on this blog. But, now what???? If you read any assessment book, at this point there are common next steps that include things like “post-test” and “close the loop” and a bunch of other common (and good!) assessment wisdom. But sometimes that common assessment wisdom isn’t actually helping any of us professionals DO something with all this data. Here are a few things I do with my data before I do something with my data:

  1. Share the data in a staff meeting: Your colleagues may or may not be formally involved in the specific program you assessed but they work with the same students, so they’ll be able to make connections within student learning and to other programs/services that you’re missing. Ask them about the themes they’re seeing (or not seeing!) within the data. It’ll help you clarify the outcomes of your data, bring more people into the assessment efforts in your office (more heads are better than one!), and it’s a nice professional development exercise for the whole team. Teamwork makes the dream work!
  2. Talk to peer colleagues about their version of the same data: Take your data* to a conference, set up a phone date with a colleague at a peer school, or read other schools’ websites. Yes, you’ll likely run into several situations that aren’t directly applicable to yours, but listen for the bits that can inspire action within your own context.
  3. Take your data to the campus experts: Know anyone in Institutional Research? Or the head of a curriculum committee? Or others in these types of roles? These types of people work with the assessment process quite a bit. Perhaps take them to coffee, make a new friend, and get their take.
  4. Show your data* to student staff in your office: Your student staff understand the inner workings of your office AND the student experience, so they’re a perfect cross section of the perspective that will breathe life into the patterns in your data. What do they see? What data patterns would their peers find interesting? What does it mean to them?

WOW, can you tell I’m an extrovert?! All of my steps include talking. Hopefully these ideas will help you to not only see the stories of student learning and programmatic impact in your data, but also to make the connections needed to progress toward closing the loop.

* This goes without saying, but a reminder is always good; make sure to autonomize the data you show students and those outside of your office/school!

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Assessment in a Year: A Sincere Thank You

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3 - headshot of AbbyOn No is a year old this month. Can you believe it?! What a year it’s been! I remember how it all started, like it was yesterday. Mark and I were up at the crack of dawn (which is our norm) during one of the few times a year that we’re actually in the same state, sitting in his kitchen discussing the idea of generating a conversation about assessment in student affairs and higher education. We simply didn’t know who (if anyone!) would want to participate. We thought, Well if nothing else we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing (which is either talking to each other about assessment or boring our respective significant others with our assessment talk), it’d merely be on a blog instead of via Google Hangout. But you all and our amazing guest bloggers made this year meaningful and brought in much needed topics we had been missing. Wow. THANK YOU all sincerely for reading, liking, reposting/sharing/retweeting, and sharing with us how this thing we love/hate called assessment looks in your world.

blogiversary ee card: "Happy blogiversary! Here's to another five years of beginning every day wondering if an event is blog-worthy or not. It always is."I’m excited about our future at Oh No. Here’s what it looks like so far:

  1. More guests: You all love reading our guest bloggers (and so do Mark and I). We will have as many as we can get! If you want to write about any assessment aspect (or maybe you know someone who you wish would write a post), PLEASE let us know!
  2. More time for simmering (read: less posts): I cannot count the number of people who tell me that they like the blog but they can’t keep up with the volume. WHAT?! You mean constantly talking about assessment 3x/week EVERY week doesn’t endlessly interest you????? Of course not, Abby and Mark! Duh! It can be overwhelming on your limited time (for us too!), so we’ve already been paring it down considerably.
  3. A new look is coming: GET EXCITED!!!! I know we are!!! Oh No is getting a facelift, so stay tuned!

Again, we cannot thank you all enough for reading and engaging in this assessment conversation with us. It’s so much more fun with you! Cheers to another year!

One Whole Year of Assessment

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-mark3The blog turned one year old last week. Our first post went out on April Fools Day. I spent a week convincing my friends that I really was co-starting a blog. No really. It was not a joke. Yes, we probably could have come up with a better launch date, but who doesn’t love April Fools Day? Should I be capitalizing April Fools Day? Who knows. Wait. Yes, it’s a proper noun. Nevermind that last question.

Some people say having a dog is like having a baby. I think having a blog is like having a baby. Perhaps you didn’t come up with the idea, but once the wheels were in motion, it was hard to turn around. After a while, all my friends knew I had a blog. Most of them probably didn’t want me to remind them weekly with a facebook post, but heck, those posts are not going to read themselves. I think that’s where the metaphor ends.

When we started this thing, we had no idea what it would turn into. I didn’t even know what I wanted it to turn into. Of course, I wanted it to be read. To get other people thinking about assessment. To start a conversation about assessment. Deep down, part of me just wanted it to exist as a place I could go to write things out. Much like a journal (but, at times, significantly less interesting), the typing helps me organize the cluster of assessment thoughts passing through my mind.

<<<TIMEOUT: This is starting to feel like a blog-ending post. It is not. I repeat, not, the last post. This is merely a “one year in thoughts” post. Proceed. >>>

Generating content is tough. We went from 3 posts per week, to a short summer break, to 2 posts per week, and I think we’ve now settled in a sturdy (yet approximate) 1 post per week. It was easy to come up with ideas at first, but as we’ve worked through them, I find myself starting with single sentence assessment-related statements, and wondering “can that be stretched into a post?”

Marketing a blog is equally as difficult. Why have a blog if I don’t want people to read it? If I don’t try to publicize the blog, it feels like I’m not even trying. So, onward we go, collecting a few followers at a time. On the upside, wordpress gives us site statistics, and it seems folks are in fact reading this — enough folks, in fact, that they cannot all be family members.

Assessment, man/woman/you. Sometimes I wonder if assessment is inherently boring. While I’m always getting better at it, and I’m often interested in the results, discussing assessment in a universal way is difficult. I find myself often thinking “will anyone care to read this?” But here you are, paragraph 6 and still reading.

Onward we go. I will continue to generate content as long as I feel it ads value (to myself or others). I will continue to spend time staring at a blinking cursor trying to get started. I will try to make assessment sexy. I will not continue putting off blog entries. How do I know this? I’m almost out of new Mad Men episodes to watch.

Keep on assessin’!