Monday, March 5, 2012

Quantifying the Un-Quantified

Greetings Commissioneers!

As I struggle with the request for assessment data on my campus, I've found myself (yet again) in a very familiar place--wondering how to quantify qualitative results. When Associate/Assistant Provosts/Deans/Presidents ask "what students taking away from meetings with advisors," they are usually uninterested in anecdotal responses. So, we're left with the chore of producing some sort of quantitative data to show students are mastering concepts in our learning outcomes. This is an issue across the advising continuum and not just one for U/E advising units, but I thought we could benefit from a conversation here despite the universality of the issue.

So, what do some of you do? Do you have U/E-specific learning outcomes? If so, what methods do you have in place to deliver an advising curriculum in support of those outcomes? And how is the student's mastery of the outcomes measured--are there assignments they complete, how are they collected, what is done with the data, etc?

OK, dazzle me with your knowledge, Commissioneers!


  1. As it turns out, we're revising our learning outcomes for U/E students ahead of an anticipated policy change that will mandate major declaration by a specified credit hours. We're starting with some overarching goals that have to do with students making an informed choice about a major based on personal interests/skills and career goals. Some of that can lead to quantitative measures, like how many students took the SII or attended this program or that.

    But we're also wrestling with the meat of Art's question, how do we know that the decision is "informed"? Asking them about their perceived comfort level will be an indirect measure, but a direct measure will be fairly challenging. One we're exploring is to see how many student change majors after the initial declaration--presumably an informed initial decision would lead to greater stability. But I think we'll also have to develop rubrics so that as we deliver the program, we're also evaluating how well students are mastering the material.

  2. Our office works with undeclared and first year students. Our goal is to prepare them to succeed in the less intrusive faculty advising environment. The measurable/assess-able outcomes we've established are:

    - How to interpret a course number (department designation, class level, credit hours)
    - How to "drop" [withdraw from] a class, impact of grade on GPA
    - Grade forgiveness policy (classes retaken here can replace grade in GPA calculation)
    - Main components of a bachelor's degree (gen ed, major, minor, special BA/BS requirements)

    We give them quizzes after the initial summer/orientation appointment and again in the spring semester (they've met with us anywhere from 1-5 times since the summer). This year is our best year yet for data. Finally getting good response rates on the spring survey/quiz and the numbers imply they are actually obtaining the desired information during their first semester.

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