What I Think #studentaffairs Assessment Should Look Like

  1. We need to track individual student’s attendance at events over the course of their time at the school.  I’m not particularly interested in doing this for any purpose other than to see that student affairs programming is actually reaching all of the students.  I suspect we’ll find that we’re hitting a small portion of the population.  To my knowledge, the infrastructure does not exist to do this, but what I’m seeing in my head is an enormous spreadsheet with individual student ID #s and tracking of what events they attended.  Frankly, this could be an entire student affairs (as well as athletics) effort to figure out what experiences our students are actually attending.
  2. Learning outcomes listed and justified for EVERY event.  I posted about the CAS standards here previously, and i’m thinking that you could list out individual learning outcomes for each event and then track these over the course of the year.  In theory, each office (even better if this was a collaborative SA effort) should be hitting all of the learning outcomes repeatedly.  Being able to cross reference these to determine what portion of our students are getting hit (not just shots in the dark, but actual individual students) by each learning outcome will give you some idea of what’s actually happening.
  3. Cost per student for each event.  If you’re tracking who attends, you should be able to get actual attendance numbers instead of estimates as well.  Calculating cost per student will help to determine whether students are actually getting the value that they should be getting out of their student fees.  A healthy look is to determine how much a similar experience might cost elsewhere; if cost per student is lower, you’ve done your job.

A few thoughts:

  • This plan places the responsibility on staff for accountability instead of surveying students to determine whether they’re engaged.  We’re responsible for creating an environment for student learning and this plan tracks whether we’re actually creating that environment.
  • For the most part, student affairs learning/community building is tracked over a longer time frame than classroom learning.  You can definitely learn chemical structures (okay…maybe you can’t…but i did) over the course of a day of studying.  You can’t learn how to have meaningful relationships over the course of a day.  Short time frame assessment, in light of this thought, is rather pointless and this system would provide the infrastructure to do a more meaningful long term study.
  • Self reported assessments of students are of marginal value anyway.  Incentive exists for students to either not take these seriously, say what they think the surveyor wants them to say, or outright lie.  In light of the incentives, the data received from these assessments (unless you’ve managed to limit these incentives somehow) is questionable.
  • Tracking financial expenditures with more accountability for said expenditures is imperative.  I’ve heard SA folks refer to activities fees as “play money”.  Please.
  • Tremendous research opportunities would be made available by tracking all of this data.  I think we all know that’s needed.

I’m genuinely looking forward to reading the comments.