Lory L. King, NACADA Assessment of Academic Advising Institute Scholarship Recipient
When thinking about the word “assessment”, many advisors may shy away from the idea or concept because of its mere relationship with numbers. As advisors, we like to think about how to use student development theories and various academic advising models to best help our students to be successful. However, after attending the 2014 NACADA Assessment of Academic Advising Institute, I now understand that assessment is an integral part of the puzzle that connects what we do in our role as academic advisors. When we assess our departments, our students, and ourselves at our institutions, we are getting at the crux of the matter and opening ourselves up to a new conversation.
While working at Ball State University for six years as an academic advisor, I was afforded the opportunity annually to attend the NACADA Annual Conference, which helped me to develop my philosophy of academic advising. However, in December 2013, I began my new position as the research coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences, Advising and Student Services department at the University of Louisville. My supervisor, Tomarra Adams, who was also one of the faculty for the 2014 Assessment of Academic Advising Institute, urged me to apply for the Assessment Institute Scholarship. Thankfully, I was awarded one of the six scholarships, which offset the costs for our department and allowed me to attend this eye-opening Institute.
As I reflect on my time at the Institute held in February 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I remember it as a time of continuous mental stimulation. We had several plenary sessions which introduced various steps of the assessment process, but also allowed us to engage with the entire faculty who were the assessment leaders of the Institute. Something else that many of us found extremely helpful was that by working daily in our small groups, we were able to practice as we learned.
I was in one of the foundational-level working groups led by Jennifer Joslin, one of the excellent faculty members, and she truly wanted each of us to grow in our own learning of the assessment process. She shared many tips on how to understand the process and gave us all a clearer understanding of how to develop goals and student learning outcomes for our respective institutions. We not only had nightly homework, but also were able to share our ideas with each other in our small groups. As beginners, we found it helpful to hear from Jennifer as well as to learn from others who represented various institutions. What types of mission statements did they have at their institutions? What were their student learning outcomes? What were their goals? All of these questions came up throughout our working group sessions. As a first-time Institute attendee and someone who was new to my position at the time, I was more than interested in learning all that I could about this process.
I also came to realize through our plenary sessions as well as our small group sessions that assessment is an ongoing and systematic process that while oftentimes is lengthy, is a worthwhile process in which to engage. Another facet of the process that echoed throughout the Institute was that assessment should fit the values and mission of the institution. Lastly, and I feel most importantly, I learned that assessment is a process of improvement. If we do not act upon what we learn from our assessment, then what was the point? Departments that assess properly can have great outcomes for their students, colleges, and universities.
What I would most like to share with those who have not had the opportunity to attend the Institute is that if there is funding available, it would be a benefit for as many advisors who can attend to do so. Assessment and research are both becoming more important in the work that we do. In order to justify our work to both students and administrators, we must be able to show accurate data. This data can reflect the great work that we do with and for our students through academic advising.
Assessment is paramount not in just defining what we do, but in helping us to become better advisors for our students. Once we know the issues and assess them properly, we can create advising and student services that have a greater impact on our students. We are already implementing some of what was learned at the Institute to create better advising practices at our institution. I wish I could personally thank each faculty member for all that I learned through this Institute.
Lory L. King
University of Louisville
Cite this article using APA style as: King, L. (2014, December). Assessment is the key. Academic Advising Today, 37(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]