Susan Campbell, NACADA Assessment Institute Advisory Board Chair
This October, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) will give final review to updated academic advising standards that require the assessment of academic advising on our campuses and specifically the development of student learning outcomes. This should come as no surprise to those who have attended one or more of theNACADA Summer, Administrators’, or Assessment Institutes, where we have discussed the importance of assessment in academic advising. Not only must we assess academic advising to respond to external notions of accountability, e.g., accreditation, CAS Standards, etc., but we must assess in order to gather evidence to make improvements to our programs. More importantly, and drawing from the work of Peggy Maki (2004), we must engage in assessment to understand how and what students are learning through their involvement in their academic advising experiences. The evidence we gather for understanding should then be used to support improvements in the academic advising process and student learning. Let’s look a bit more closely at assessment in academic advising and explore three questions: What do we assess in academic advising? What are the steps involved in the assessment of academic advising? And, finally, is it worth it? [Editor’s note: The first of these three questions will be addressed in this piece. The final two will be discussed in Part 2, in the December edition.]
What do we assess in academic advising?Assessment in academic advising is really about:
- Developing consensus around our collective understandings of academic advising and expectations of student learning;
- Gathering evidence so we can understand student learning and the delivery of academic advising; and
- Using evidence to support improvements in the advising process that will contribute to improvements in student learning.
Let’s explore these a bit more. One of the most important reasons for engaging in assessment in academic advising is to develop consensus – through collective conversations – about what academic advising is and what advising is not. In the absence of dialog to clarify meaning, we each create our own in order to inform and guide our behavior. When we engage in conversation, assumptions about meanings are affirmed or discarded, and what emerges is a shared understanding of academic advising within the context of our college or university. These collective understandings of academic advising become codified through the development of values, vision, mission and goal statements that are essential to the assessment process. Our conversations provide opportunities to affirm academic advising as part of a teaching and learning paradigm which, in turn, guide the development of student learning outcomes and advisor outcomes.
There are two dimensions to assessment in academic advising. These dimensions relate to expectations regarding student learning and expectations within the advising process. At the program level, learning outcomes identify the general parameters for learning, that is, what we expect students and academic advisors to know, be able to do, and value/appreciate as a result of participating in the academic advising experience. While not directly measurable, programmatic outcomes flow naturally from the values, vision, mission and goals for the academic advising program and serve to guide the development of more specific learning outcomes for students and academic advisors that are measurable because they are expressed in behavioral terms. At the student level, learning outcomes reflect what we expect students to demonstrate they know, are able to do, and value/appreciate as a result of participating in the academic advising experience. Confused? Perhaps a simple example will help. At the programmatic level, a learning outcome might be that “Students and academic advisors will understand the nature and importance of academic advising to the educational experience.” The question becomes “what does a student need to demonstrate they know, are able to do, or value/appreciate in relationship to this programmatic outcome?” At the student level, this outcome takes on behavioral dimensions, such as “Students will be able to describe how academic advising has contributed to their educational experience.” Evidence of student learning could perhaps be gathered through focus groups, surveys, and other evaluation tools, such as those used in specific courses or on an institution-wide basis.
Learning outcomes for the advising process are anchored in the academic advisor and reflect what we expect advisors to demonstrate they know, are able to do, and value/appreciate in the context of the academic advising process. Extending the previous example, an advisor outcome might be, “Academic advisors will be able to articulate how academic advising contributes to student learning and the overall student experience.”These outcomes can be (and ought to be) used to inform the design of professional development experiences; for if we expect advisors to demonstrate a set of knowledge, skills, and values related to academic advising, as with students, we need to provide advisors with the opportunities to learn what we expect. These outcomes can also inform the performance evaluation process in that they delineate knowledge and behaviors associated with being an effective academic advisor.
Ultimately, assessment is about understanding and improving. In this regard, the assessment process provides a systematic way through which information about student learning and program effectiveness can be obtained. Done in the collective and continuous way intended, the assessment process provides a systemic way to use that information to support improvements in student learning and the advising process. In the end, assessment is systematic, systemic, and relational; there are steps to the process; the process is intentional in the gathering of evidence to support improvement in learning and process; and all of the steps within the process are inextricably intertwined.
University of Southern Maine
Maki, Peggy L. (2004). Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution. Sterling VA Stylus Publishing.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more on this topic from Susan in our December edition! But, in the meantime, begin planning now to attend the upcoming Assessment of Academic Advising Institute. The AS webpage for more information.
Cite this article using APA style as: Campbell, S. (2005, September). Why do assessment of academic advising (part 1). Academic Advising Today, 28(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]