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Voices of the Global Community

Susan Campbell, NACADA Assessment Institute Advisory Board Chair

[Editor's Note: This article is a follow-up to Why Do Assessment of Academic Advising? (Part 1)  featured in the September issue of Academic Advising Today.]

This fall the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) adopted updated academic advising standards that require the assessment of academic advising on our campuses and specifically the development of student learning outcomes. As discussed previously, assessment is a systematic, systemic, relational process. It that begins with the identification of reasons for doing assessment and ends with reporting and acting upon the assessment results. ‘Ending’ is really a misnomer since the ‘end’ of the assessment process really represents the beginning of the next cycle of assessment! Maki (2004) provides steps in the assessment process:

  • Determine your reasons for assessment.  What do is it you want to know and why? Be clear, be concise, and be honest. Maki suggests that assessment should be guided by questions of institutional curiosity and framed around what and how well and what students are learning.
  • Identify key stakeholders. Assessment is a collective, not solo, exercise. To be meaningful, you must engage individuals in the process who have ( or should have) a stake in your academic advising program. The collective nature of assessment adds value to its meaning.
  • Address the big four: values, vision, mission and goals. What values are important to your academic advising program? Values reflect beliefs that get translated into behavior. If you value the advisor/advisee partnership, this should be reflected in your mission, goals, and outcomes. What is your vision? A vision is a long-term view - where should your advising program be in the future? Where should you set your sights? The roadmap to your vision is your mission statement. The mission statement clearly articulates who you are, whom you serve, and how you serve them. Are your goals associated with your mission and intended to guide programmatic activities and initiatives? An advising center, for example, might have the goal to 'serve as a campus-wide resource for academic advising information.'
  • Develop outcomes: Programmatic, Student Learning Outcomes and Advisor Learning Outcomes (Process/Delivery). This step answers the question: what should students demonstrate they know, are able to do, and value/appreciate as a result of participating in academic advising? For the advisor, this step addresses the question: what should advisors know, be able to do, value/appreciate in order to be effective in the academic advising process. [The difference between these types of outcomes is addressed in the previous article.]
  • Map opportunities to learn. Mapping provides a way to identify learning opportunities and guides when we should offer them. Mapping also provides the opportunity to identify levels of learning for particular concepts as well as identifies campus experiences where the same (or similar) information is introduced or reinforced. The mapping process, therefore, helps us to think about the academic advising experience in relationship to other learning experiences (both curricular and co-curricular) that may share similar student learning outcomes. Looking holistically at the student experience is actually another key reason to engage in assessment.
  • Identify multiple measures and set benchmarks for performanceA survey that measures student satisfaction is but one way to gather evidence; indeed, in order to triangulate the evidence, we must gather evidence from multiple sources. Evidence must reflect both direct and indirect measures, and be both quantitative and qualitative. More importantly, the method selected must be appropriate to the outcome addressed. 'What evidence do we need to understand student learning and how best is this evidence gathered?' is an important collective conversation with regard to any student learning outcomes. Finally, performance benchmarks must be set for each outcome for these benchmarks guide our understanding of the impact of program improvements.
  • Design a report structure and a dissemination plan for assessment evidence. Simply put, information gathered through assessment should be formatted for the audience. Consequently, it is important that we design a report structure that is easily understood and highlights the important aspects of the gathered evidence. In addition, the report must reflect how the evidence should be used to improve the academic advising process and program.

Is it worth it? I know that engaging in assessment is worth it. Feedback from those engaged in assessment of academic advising points to its importance in changing how academic advising is perceived within a department and on a campus. This feedback makes it clear that the assessment process is not easy and that it requires an ongoing commitment to difficult conversations with key stakeholders regarding what is or is not important. This ongoing commitment to assessment means carving out time for collective conversations about what and how students learn things we deem important in the academic advising process. It means that we must pull ourselves away from the ever-compelling day-to-day issues that, quite honestly, will still be there the next day. We must use this time to converse about what academic advising really is and how we can improve the process in order to enhance and support student learning. How could that NOT be worth it?

Susan Campbell
University of Southern Maine
scamp@usm.maine.edu

Reference

Maki, Peggy L. (2004). Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution. Sterling VA: Stylus Publishing.

Cite this article using APA style as: Campbell, S. (2005, December). Why do assessment of academic advising? Academic Advising Today, 28(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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