If you look at many program and institutional assessment plans, they contain a grid. They usually look something like this:
Outcomes | Data Needed | Groups Assessed | Methods | Who | Timeline
This is a very useful and practical way to get organized with assessment, particularly the parts about using data that is already available. Many programs, however, hit a roadblock when completing the timeline column. A common entry in the “timeline” is column is something like this:
– Fall 2013
– After Thanksgiving break
– Summer 2011
– End of the semester
These timelines almost never work. The problem is that people get busy with the most crucial elements of their work, and the parts of their job they care about most. Additionally, the timeline is so vague, it’s very easy to just put it off.
Even when programs are specific about using assessment results, problems can still occur. It’s all too easy to easy to put off a meeting, particularly when these discussions are slated to occur at the end of the semester.
A better strategy is to focus on the where, as opposed to the when. Rather than planning to discuss or use assessment results in “March 2015,” state that you will discuss and use the results at the Annual Planning Retreat in March 2015. Instead of setting aside “Spring 2013,” maybe set aside the second bi-weekly meeting of every month to talk about assessment results. Instead of planning to discuss and use the results at “on-going curriculum committee meetings,” maybe include a presentation of assessment results as an agenda item one or two meetings before the curriculum revision meeting.
Keep in mind that it is the conversation and dialog that occurs as a result of assessment that is much more important than the results themselves. Assessment data, by itself, doesn’t do anything until actual human beings place value on and use the data. Assessment is a form of action research, and its ultimately utility lies in whether it is used for improvement.