Assessment Summer Retreat

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3Hello assessment friends! The summer has been fun, but flying by. It kicked off with Mark’s Bachelor Party (in Niagara Falls), and then wedding – there were beautiful vows, dancing and pie; I was a groomsmaid; a rooster loudly crowed throughout the ceremony; and it was a happy day.

mark and kate

Congratulations Mark & Kate!

Then, I went to Disneyland and it was truly magical.

disney

And now it’s time to get back to work! 

What I hear from people all the time is that they’ve done so much good and diligent work throughout the year collecting program attendance numbers, and student feedback and surveys, but with no time (and maybe some analysis paralysis) to dig into what does all that delicious data say about what students learned.

If you’re like me, you work amongst thoughtful, passionate, student-centered professionals. And, summer in the office is THE time to reflect, work on projects, and retreat. So, bring all of these elements together – your student usage/engagement data/feedback, great colleagues, and summer reflection time – to tackle the question of how did all of our initiatives and efforts with students impact their learning?

Next week my colleagues and I will be retreating (well…not actually away from campus, but you get what I mean) to do just this: review our office goals and student engagement data, figure out what it all means, and strategize and vision for the coming year. Specifically, we’ll be focusing on:

  • What patterns you see in our student usage data?
  • What do the data and patterns say to you about how students engaged with our initiatives and services?
  • How did all of our initiatives and efforts with students impact their learning?
  • How does our student engagement data relate to our annual office goals?

Don’t be afraid to not have all the answers, and don’t be afraid to struggle as a group through these types of questions. This will help you make data- and assessment-driven decisions that ultimately help students (and, hopefully, it will be a little fun too!).

Happy retreating!

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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!

Assessment on the Road: Boise State

Images of Idaho

My summer of travel is sadly coming to an end. I just got back from one of my last destinations: Idaho! (Boise, to be exact) It was my inaugural trip and I’m happy to report back what so many already know: Idaho is beautiful. (Thanks Wear Boise for the great beard image!)

Being the lover of colleges and campuses that I am, I had to visit Boise State University while I was there. By all of the extra signage around campus, clearly I was there on a summer orientation day (which I love because I love orientation).

Boise Career Center welcome

Once again, the Career Center of this new-to-me campus grabbed my attention. I REALLY loved their graphic representation of their career learning goals. What a great way to be transparent about and engage students in what goals the Career Center has for students. I think that is a pivotal step to students actually successfully learning and achieving those goals!

CC make it count detail

Another data visualization from Boise State that I loved was through their admission office. Here’s what I love about it:

It’s simple. Easy graphics, consistent color palette. Clean.

BSU data brochure5

It has numbers AND text. They bring life and strength to each other.

BSU data brochure

There is lots of different kinds of data. I think more and more the public wants LOTS of data all at once so that they can quickly skim and find what is most meaningful to them.

BSU dad brochure2

It’s a nice size. Folds up as a small brochure (6″x3″) and folds out as a small poster (18″x12″).

BSU data brochure3

It’s a nice paper weight. I know, this sounds weird, but if you’re going to be printing nice graphics, you want to have nice paper on which to put them.

Thanks for the great visit Boise State U! Until next time!

Assessment on the Go!

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3Summer is busy! Between attending conferences, catching up on planning items, and (hopefully) a little R&R, people are here, there, and everywhere. What’s a data head to do?

As you know, my summer goals include all things data visualizations. In my search for learning and inspiration, I stumbled across the podcast Data Stories. With my 32-minute commute to work everyday, listening to hosts Moritz and Enrico on Data Stories is perfect. I first got hooked on an episode with Miriah Meyer about exploratory data viz tools. Imagine talking about data visualizations, data tools, and methods with your friends – that’s Data Stories. Was Miriah’s research waaaaay beyond me?? Yes. BUT it was so enjoyable to listen their banter AND it gave me lot of ideas, so I was drawn back to DS for more.

data-stories_original

Here’s why I like it:

  • Data + friendship = my favorite
  • Cataloged points in each episode, so you can pick and choose the parts of an individual episode you want to listen to – just visit their website. Some of the episode topics are over my head, so this is a useful tool!
  • Learn, get inspired, and brainstorm ideas all while on your way to work
  • Resources galore – they always provide related and discussed links from each episode on their website – very handy!
  • You can subscribe (read: automatic updates! no thinking invovled!)

Go ahead, peruse the Data Stories archives, get onto your favorite podcast app, and binge! Next in my queue are about data art and data journalism. The perfect complement to a summer on the go.

See you next week!

Visualization Mapping

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3I’m on an Edward Tufte kick – you’ll see this throughout the summer from me. I went to Edward Tufte’s one day course a month ago (I HIGHLY recommend it for anyone interested in doing data visualizations). One newer thing that Tufte showcased was an app he designed with Adam Schwartz called ImageQuilts (IQ). It’s an app that works with Chrome. (After you download the app) When you Google Image Search something you can click the “IQ” button next to your browser IQ app button and have it make a collage (“quilt”) of the images. Very cool. You can change each image’s size, pick what goes into the collage, use grayscale, etc. I’ve used it to quickly map ideas for how to best visualize data about student learning, or how to best use Excel 2013, or to make a visual list of the best task apps (it’s a summer goal). Instead of having a written list of ideas, I now have a visual list of ideas. Not to mention, IQ makes great quick images for presentations. IQ has been helpful in my quest to do better and more compelling visualizations with my data.

Here’s *one I made of my summer travels (can you tell where I’m headed this summer???? I’ll give you a hint: there are 5 locations total):

Abby travels image

You can download ImageQuilts in the Chrome Web Store. It’s free! There are easy instructions on the ImageQuilt website (as well as some examples). So go ahead you assessment geeks and play around with IQ and see how it helps you. I’d love to see what you make!

*Quick disclaimer: I created none of these images. They were gathered by Google Image Search. I take no credit for any individual image.

Assessment in the Sun: Summer To Do List

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3It’s summer and while I’m excited  to relax, I’m also looking forward to CRUSHING my summer office to-do list. There are many tangible items I need to complete (like hanging these 2 pictures that’ve been on my desk for 2 years – bah!), but with more consecutive hours of uninterpreted think time in this season, I’m focusing on those to-do’s that are less task-y and more nebulous. Most of the listed items center around the theme of “get caught up on thinking” – reflecting on our programs and learning goals and what is needed to make these more effective. So here I am, declaring to the world (well…er…the tiny portion of the world who reads this blog) my non-S.M.A.R.T. (yet smart?) assessment goals for the summer season. Maybe some of them will be similar to or complement assessment summer goals of your own (or not!):

  1. Check in with the office’s overall purpose and place in the institutional goals (read: are we on the right direction?)
    1. Review the College’s strategic plan (for the billionth time, but still, I see some part of it differently every time)
    2. Review the office mission statement (and fully memorize it…right now I know it like people know the song Sweet Caroline – I am confident and loud during the favorite parts and then mumble the rest)
    3. Review office 2014-2015 goals
  2. Channel the greats of compelling visual storytelling
    1. Edward Tufte
      1. “Loot” (as ET would say) through Beautiful EvidenceBea Evi coverand The Visual Display of Quantitative InformationVis Display cover
    2. David McCandless
      1. Watch his TED Talk The beauty of data visualization 
    3. Maria Popova
      1. Brain Pickings
    4. The New York Times
  3. Learn a lot of needed stuff (I warned you that these wouldn’t be S.M.A.R.T.!)
    1. Check out my Lynda.com playlist for the summerLynda.com watch list
  4. Figure out the impossible secret solution to how to effectively simultaneously manage (read: juggle like crazy) the dream and the details…the big picture and the little picture…the yearly and the daily…whatever you call it
    1. Commit to relationship with ONE task app (currently I’m courting about 4 – successfully but inefficiently)
    2. Which task apps do you all like? Trello? DropTask? Google Tasks?
  5. Hang those two damn pictures on my desk! Arggg!! (Ok, not an assessment goal, but important nonetheless…)

What’s on your summer assessment to-do list?