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David von Miller, Texas State University-San Marcos

David von Miller.jpgAssessing academic advising is critical for any institution that wishes to improve advising services for students and create a culture that values academic advising (Cuseo, 2008). Institutions of higher education and advisors have a professional and ethical responsibility to determine if the services provided are effective in meeting the needs and goals of students and the institution (Troxel, 2008). To these ends, in May 2009 the professional advising community at Texas State University worked as a team to create an academic advising assessment plan. Advisors gathered for a two-day Academic Advising Summit to create and map student learning outcomes. Rich Robbins (2009), chair of the  NACADA Assessment Institute Advisory Board and our Summit facilitator, stated: "The most significant outcome of the two-day event was the building of a sense of teamwork, unity, and ownership of the process among the participants from the respective advising units. Assessment of academic advising efforts have put the institution “ahead of the curve” not only within the state but nationwide as well. The [Texas State] university can become a true model for assessment of academic advising for other higher education institutions."

During this same time period, Texas State University underwent reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Part of the reaffirmation process included development of a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). Our QEP theme for this accreditation cycle is “Enhancing Student Success through Personalized Advising and Mentoring.”  Our academic advisors wanted to develop an assessment plan to support this QEP and to take ownership of the assessment of academic advising.

Assessment team leadership developed a structure for the Summit that allowed full participation of all professional advisors on campus. A pre-Summit meeting was held to educate advisors on the importance of assessment, student learning outcomes, and communication. The following ground rules were implemented to enhance teambuilding and ensure the full participation of everyone involved: respect others’ opinions, share and listen openly, share airtime, avoid side conversations, adhere to time frames, and take responsibility for your own learning. On the first day of the Summit, advisors formed small teams to develop learning outcomes for the following three advising goals derived from our QEP:

  1. Ease the transition to the university experience
  2. Encourage student engagement for intellectual and personal growth
  3. Teach students to use resources and relationships to maximize their educational and personal potential.

Each goal was shared by two teams. Following an initial brainstorming activity, teams with identical goals worked together to identify the top five student learning outcomes developed from each group’s initial work. Next, all teams came together and each advisor identified three preferred student learning outcomes for each goal. This resulted in a group consensus of three student learning outcomes for each advising goal. During the second day of the Summit, each group mapped out the student leaning outcomes and identified multiple measures for each outcome. This team approach helped advisors understand how assessment data is used and allowed advisors to be involved in the process from planning through implementation to data review. Importantly, the Summit and the resulting university-wide assessment plan connects to the institution’s strategic planning process with the goal of improving academic advising services.

The teamwork principles used in our summit can be applied to the development of an assessment plan on other campuses. Effective teamwork principles that increase productivity are well documented in business and higher education settings. Grant and Moore (2008) noted that characteristics of successful teams include: a clear elevating goal, a results driven structure, competent team members, a unified commitment, a collaborative climate, standards of excellence; external support and recognition, and principled leadership. Our shared goals guided us in the process, including our desire to claim ownership of the assessment of academic advising. Additionally, academic advising leaders at Texas State wanted to involve all advisors to create a sustainable assessment process that would support the QEP and SACS accreditation.

The Advising Summit provided a results-driven format that allowed each academic advisor to learn, participate, and provide input on how to assess and improve advising services. All advisors were able to participate in developing and mapping student learning outcomes for assessment. Texas State University has a diverse and committed group of professional advisors who are dedicated to providing excellent academic advising services to our students. The assessment plan created a framework for data-driven decisions for improving advising services. As advisors learned about the importance of assessment and began creating and mapping student learning outcomes, the level of commitment and collaboration increased significantly. The standards of excellence that guided this team process included a commitment to professional excellence and a desire to support both the QEP and the university’s reaffirmation of SACS accreditation. Upper level administrators provided leadership and support through this process.

The Advising Summit at Texas State resulted in a unique team approach involving an unusually large number of stakeholders. This arrangement allowed for the professional advising community to take ownership of the assessment process and create an effective, sustainable assessment plan. This accomplishment and the resulting sense of teamwork increased advisor enthusiasm for assessment. Engaging this large group of advisors increased the knowledge, experience, and idea sharing for improving the assessment process and advising services. Following the Summit, there was a significant increase in the number of advisors who wished to assist in planning, data collection and analysis, report writing, and the development of action plans for the improvement of advising services. The Texas State professional advising community hopes that the process we developed will be valuable for our colleagues.  Additional resources for developing and sustaining academic advising assessment are available in theNACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website.

David von Miller
Director, College of Science and Engineering Advising Center
Texas State University-San Marco
sdv12@txstate.edu

References

Cuseo, J. (2008). Assessing advisor effectiveness. In Gordon, V.N, Habley, W.R. & Grites,T.J.(Eds.). Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook, second edition. (pp. 369-385). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Grant, M. and Moore, M. (2008). Teambuilding. San Marcos, TX:  Texas State University. Unpublished.

Robbins, R. (2009). Conversations in advising: Creating an impact. San Marcos: TX: Texas State University. Unpublished.

Troxel, W.G. (2008). Assessing the effectiveness of the advising program. In Gordon, V.N, Habley, W.R. & Grites,T.J. (Eds.). Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook, second edition. (pp. 386-395) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cite this article using APA style as: von Miller, D. (2011, December). Creating and sustaining assessment through teamwork. Academic Advising Today, 34(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]  

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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.

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