Best wishes for 2010! Those of us who are involved in assessment are frequently asked “Why would anyone want an assessment job?” All of the assessment people that I know love their work and are passionate about the benefits that assessment offers. As we start a new year, perhaps we should stop now for a few moments to reflect on why we “assessment people” believe so strongly in our work.
As a director or coordinator of assessment, you are always balancing the demands from your stakeholders. The administration wants the institution to meet improvement goals while meeting the standards of the accrediting agencies. The faculty members, already overburdened, often view assessment as another chore to accomplish and want assessment to be as easy as possible. Meanwhile, the “shifting sands” of the accrediting space are always demanding changes in established (and comfortable) assessment practices. In addition to being an administrator and assessment evangelist, you must also find the time to remain current in your practice.
So, why would someone want to take on a job that is filled with long hours, frustration and constant change? Because, as my friend Karen Yoshino would say “Assessment is a powerful gift.” There is nothing more satisfying than helping the faculty of a program discover the root of a student learning challenge or demonstrating that a new teaching methodology is effective. “Assessment people” see the power that assessment can provide.
As I reflect over my experiences as director of assessment, I am filled with satisfaction when I think about the benefits that the growing assessment program brings to my former institution. Faculty members and administrators alike now have the tools to collect real data on which to base decisions. Assessment programs are always works in progress. As assessment coordinators, we are one part coach and one part task master. On the one hand, our job is to teach those around us about the tools and techniques of assessment while, on the other, we need to ensure that all of the documentation is completed and turned in on time.
For those of you serving in this role, thank you for your time and dedication! As we begin a new year and a new semester you are probably full of energy and plans for growing your assessment program. Later in the semester, when you grow weary of the deadlines, challenges and changes, remember why we do this job. You are helping your faculty by equipping them with the tools to become more engaged in the design and delivery of their programs. You are benefiting students by helping the faculty to improve their learning experience. And, finally, you are empowering the institution to move forward and to meet accountability demands.
Dr. Charlyne L. Walker
Director, Outcomes Marketing