“Why am I being asked to do this?”
“Do you really think I have time to do that?”
“How am I benefiting from this?”
These are statements you may have heard from your faculty members or others when you’ve asked them to write assessment plans, create rubrics, or use new assessment software (we’ve heard it all, trust us!). The assessment process is extremely complex, with many different components to it: accreditation, assessment plans, program improvement, budget, outcomes, state funding, culture…we can go on and on. We also know that regardless of how well our software can manage these types of assessment needs, Taskstream is just a software. As we like to say around Taskstream, “Software doesn’t do assessment; people do assessment.” If members of an institution are not engaged in the process of assessment, having an assessment software is not going to help. So how do you engage everyone to be more successful in your assessment efforts?
There was a great workshop at the Middle States accreditation conference a few years ago on becoming an assessment facilitator that was adapted from other workshops by Linda Suskie and Jodi Levine Laufgraben. In that workshop, there was a segment about what obstacles and challenges assessment leads might face when moving forward with assessment, including faculty resistance. The workshop offered some great tips about getting faculty “on board” with assessment. Below, we share some of those tips with you to help with engaging your faculty in the assessment process and breaking down those barriers.
Let converts be your champions.
You most likely have at least one faculty member who is engaged in assessment. Perhaps because they see its value within their own courses, or because they were recruited to be on the assessment committee. Whatever the reason, see them as your cheerleaders who can encourage other faculty to hop on board the assessment train. Ask converts to share their success stories in assessment and (if they are comfortable) share some reports showing improvement in their students’ learning. This worked well in an assessment committee meeting that I was in a few years ago. Our general education coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences shared with the committee his assessment results for written communication comparing freshmen and senior scores, and other members were so impressed with his results that they decided to perform a similar assessment within their own colleges. If you are using an assessment software, have your converts run a training session to demonstrate how easy assessment can be. Having peers encourage and share information with their peers is an effective way to inspire your naysayers to be engaged in assessment.
Provide support and resources.
It is extremely important to support your faculty in the assessment process in any way that you can. Make sure that faculty have the necessary resources and support that they need to make the process as easy as possible. Providing support is something that I’ve used in my own experience as an assessment coordinator. For example, if faculty members were having difficulty with writing assessment plans, I would pay their office a visit and help with drafting the plan and offering advice. Even just being present while they work on assessment can make a huge difference. Small efforts like these help faculty recognize that this is a collaborative process that everyone is in it together. If the culture of assessment at your institution is relatively undeveloped, be mindful that change takes time and most people do not like change. When there is a lack of understanding of the value and importance of assessment, it will be very difficult for faculty to be excited about “doing extra work” for assessment. The more knowledge you offer, the more excitement and less resistance you’ll see in your faculty.
To continue with the resources theme, remember that knowledge is power. By educating your faculty on your assessment process, you are breaking down the wall and giving your faculty a clear view of the purpose of your assessment practice and why it is so important. Transparency is key! If faculty are asked to put effort into assessment but are none the wiser about what their efforts result in, there is no incentive for them to put in any effort at all. By sharing results and how you are using that data for continuous improvement, you might give faculty new insight to the importance of assessment and how it benefits their students, programs, and the institution as a whole.
No time? Find time.
It goes without saying that faculty have lots of work to do. Writing curriculum, grading papers, participating in administrative meetings, research, and teaching classes are just some of the myriad of responsibilities faculty have. If they are insisting that they do not have time for assessment, then help them make time by advocating that they be relieved of some of their duties so they can participate in assessment. Make it clear to all that assessment is not just “more work on our plates”, but simply a standard part of the teaching and learning work that we do as members of an institution.
Bonus Tip: Grants and Stipends.
This option may not be for everyone depending upon your budget, but providing a monetary boost is a sure-fire way to incentivize faculty to participate in assessment.
Hopefully these ideas will get you thinking of even more ways to get faculty “on board” with outcomes assessment. You know that assessment is worth it, and when others agree, you’ll be more likely to get the results you need in order to see a higher quality of teaching, improve your institution’s standards, and maintain continuous improvement.