Book by John H. Schuh & Associates
Review by: Michael H. Turpin
Director of Student Services
In this update of Upcraft’s and Schuh’s 1996 Assessment in student affairs, John Schuh collaborates with faculty and staff at Iowa State University to compile a “how to” volume on conducting assessment within student affairs. This newer guide not only provides information on the basics of assessment, but also addresses topics dealing with existing databases and assessment instruments, mixed methodology approaches, and ethical considerations of assessment. Although Schuh and his associates do touch on the philosophical and theoretical background of assessment, this is not a text for those who need to be convinced that assessment is a necessity. The current volume is for those who can benefit from information dealing with the technical aspects of conducting assessment within student affairs.
Schuh differentiates between assessment (gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence that describes effectiveness) and evaluation (using assessment evidence to improve effectiveness). As such, the text is organized in a way that covers those aspects that deal with assessment, rather than the use of assessment results per se. Contributors cover a broad range of topics dealing with selecting methodology, choosing participants (sampling), developing instruments and response scales, working with data, and communicating results. They also address the use of existing databases and instruments, which may negate the necessity for developing “home grown” products. Schuh is careful to address qualitative and quantitative methods, not advocating one over the other, but presenting the case for careful consideration of which method is more appropriate based on the particular situation. Schuh also proposes using a combination of methodologies, an approach which may give the most vivid and complete information about a program or issue. Case studies, examples, and tables are presented throughout the text; and additional practical information is given in appendixes.
In general, the text is well-organized and has very practical content. For each step in the assessment process, the authors address preparation, execution, and follow-up. Potential challenges to be addressed along the way are also presented. Schuh and his associates present a very readable resource, although some student affairs practitioners may find material regarding statistical tests and procedures to be overwhelming. While the text is not overly complicated for someone who has had a basic statistics course, it may be intimidating to some. The reader should remember that the purpose of the book is not to explain statistics; collaboration with research personnel, in fact, is encouraged in the text.
While the authors do not claim to be writing for the public university audience, potential readers should note that the authors do not address unique challenges faced by community colleges or with private institutions. For instance, the text mentions the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) numerous times but fails to mention the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE).
The text also includes very little information on the assessment of student learning outcomes for student affairs. With this issue being a slippery one for many student affairs professionals, some guidance and suggestions from noted authorities would have been appropriate in this volume.
Schuh’s new text on assessment in student affairs is an excellent read for student affairs administrators, student affairs researchers, and others who work with assessment in this branch of higher education. Administrators may get some new ideas of how to conduct assessment more effectively in their areas. Professionals whose job responsibilities center around research more than on delivery of student services and programs may get a better idea of the challenges that student affairs professionals face in the area of assessment. Others who are interested in what difference their student affairs programs are making may be awakened to see the value and the necessity of assessment in student affairs. Those with large academic advising case loads may see this text as a great idea for someone else to read. For readers who are directly involved with assessment in student affairs, this new update by Schuh and associates is worth the money and the time.
Assessment methods for student affairs. (2008) Book by John H. Schuh & Associates. Review by: Michael H. Turpin. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 304 pp. $40.00, (hardback), ISBN # 978-0-7879-8791-6