An Assessment Conference for All Seasons

An Assessment Conference for All Seasons

by Jeff Burrow

Data from a recent survey of assessment practices in student affairs found that 80% of respondents said  that a lack of knowledge of the various ways to assess student learning and development was the biggest barrier faced within their division. Similarly, more than 80% of respondents indicated that the amount of time and work required to do assessment was also a barrier.

One way to help address both of these concerns is for staff to take part in professional development related to assessment. This blog post will highlight a few of the possibilities but also pose a some questions to help you consider the best options for you!

1. What are your desired learning outcomes? Are you interested in learning more about developing learning outcomes, rubrics, approaches to direct and indirect assessment, data analysis (qualitative or quantitative). These are important considerations and discussions with your supervisor.

2. What type of format? Assessment conferences can now range from 30 or even fewer in a very small hands-on workshop formats to full-scale conferences with up to 1,000 attendees. Both formats have strengths and weaknesses.

3. Role specific-or broader student affairs and higher education focus? Some are tailored very specifically. Conferences that focus on a specific topic like ‘First-Year Experience or Academic Advising’ may have pre-conference sessions focused specifically on assessment of those programs and services. Other more generalist conferences may also have pre-conference assessment sessions, or assessment topics built into the program. And there are numerous conferences that are entirely assessment focused.

What are (some of) the options?

1. Pre-conference Sessions at major annual Conferences. Check out what ACPA, NASPA, CACUSS and the program specific conferences and associations you are a part of are offering.

2. Assessment-Specific Conferences. In addition to pre-conference and regular program sessions, both ACPA and NASPA have their own assessment conferences. There are also other national conferences like the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE) Annual Conference, plus a few institution specific ones as well like the Texas A&M Assessment Conference, the Virginia Assessment Group Annual Conference and the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Assessment Institute.

3. Assessment Conference List. This site maintains a fairly large, on-going listing of conferences, assessment institutes and also highlights the intended audiences for each.

4. Online Resources. There are more of these available then we could possibly list however in addition to those above two more great ones are Student Affairs Assessment and the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

5. Follow the conference/institute backchannel using their hashtags? Most of these conferences have very active participation in social media. So even if you can not attend, you can follow along and collect some ideas by using the twitter hashtags.

The best advice is to ask around. Use your networks across Canada and beyond. Ask those who have gone what their experience was and try to get as much information before hand as possible. Then, let the learning begin!

Jeff Burrow is a PhD Candidate at OISE and Project Coordinator (Assessment and Analysis) in the Office of Student Life.

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