Book Reviews

Book by Daniel Friedman
Review by Stephanie Kirylych
Associate Registrar
Registrar’s Office, Wellesley College

What type of method should I use?  How do I collect and analyze the data?  Once I have the information, what do I do with it?  And then what?  The First Year Seminar: Designing, Implementing, and Assessing Courses to Support Student Learning and Success: Volume Five; Assessing the First-Year Seminar thoroughly outlines the nuts and bolts of assessment.  While focused on first-year seminars, the guidance offered in this volume could be applied to a variety of programs, courses, and fields.

In a time when the spotlight is on the outcomes of higher education, the need for assessment is heightened.  “For much of its history, higher education has taken what Hersch (2005) described as a faith-based approach to assessment.  That is, it has taken on faith that what we do works.  This is obviously no longer acceptable, as colleges and universities are under increasing pressure…to demonstrate their effectiveness” (xi).  Assessment can often be intimidating, especially in a student services setting.  How do you measure the impact and outcomes of an advising program?  Friedman’s approach to tackling assessment is clear and realistic.  The volume serves as an introduction to assessment and breaks down the major components including: the difference between assessment and research, various methods and assessment tools, developing measurable outcomes, data collection and analysis, ways to share the assessment results.

The target reader for this series is a first-year seminar administrator but many would benefit from this volume.  The section on writing learning outcomes is particularly relevant to academic advisors.  Friedman highlights the important difference between program goals and outcomes.  Additionally, he outlines the steps for writing measurable outcomes and provides multiple examples for readers.  Writing clear and measurable learning outcomes for an academic advising program will allow administrators to efficiently assess their services and provide students a concrete set of expectations. 

The chapter on analyzing, interpreting, and making use of assessment results is the one of the biggest takeaways from this volume.  This is the step of assessment that can be glossed over.  “Using results from assessment is perhaps that most important, and often most overlooked, aspect of the process” (65).  The goals of an assessment should drive design.  Friedman provides tips for organizing and sharing the assessment results and using data judiciously.  Targeted reporting to highlight assessment results can be more effective then a generic summary of data points.

Assessment is a crucial part of program and course design but can be a daunting process.  In The First Year Seminar: Designing, Implementing, and Assessing Courses to Support Student Learning and Success: Volume Five; Assessing the First-Year Seminar, the fundamentals of assessment are outlined through a higher education lens and clear examples are provided.  While the focus of this volume is the course assessment process for a first-year seminar program, the information can be applied directly to an academic advising setting.  It is a quick guide to assessment and could be as a refresher during the program development process.

The First Year Seminar: Designing, Implementing, and Assessing Courses to Support Student Learning and Success: Volume Five; Assessing the First-Year Seminar.  (2012).  Book by Daniel Friedman. Review by Stephanie Kirylych. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience.  112 pp., $25.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-889271-81-3

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