Assessment in Student Affairs

Assessment serves as a way to evaluate whether or not the Division of Student Affairs and the departments housed in the division are progressing towards reaching their goals. In the division, we develop outcomes for our various programs and services to clearly articulate the purpose and objectives behind our services. Assessment allows us to measure whether or not we are meeting those outcomes and demonstrating progress towards our goals.

In addition to outcome evaluation, assessment methods are used to gain a better understanding of what aspects of the student experience contribute to student success. By using data from various sources to evaluate the relative contributions of different aspects of the student experience, we serve to gain a better understanding of how much influence one aspect may have.

SP&A leads the division's assessment efforts by providing resources for conducting various types of assessment, managing reporting processes, leading the Assessment Committee, administering Student Affairs related surveys, and overseeing the the Program Review process.

Assessment Vision

While each of our departments play a unique role in the student experience, it is vital that we acknowledge that we exist within the structure of a larger entity. Our assessment vision seeks to accomplish this by ensuring alignment between the Departments, the Division, and the University at large while allowing our departments to establish their priorities and methods of alignment.

Assessment Vision

University Level

The Division of Student Affairs seeks to uphold the Mission, Vision, and Goals of the University of Louisville. As such, the Mission, Vision and Goals of the Division of Student Affairs are heavily influenced by the Mission, Vision, and Goals of the University to ensure alignment.

Furthermore, as the university develops plans to achieve its goals through Strategic Planning, Accomplishment Tracking, and Student Success Initiatives, these plans become engrained into the assessment plan of the division and our departments through the development of outcomes to address our contribution to the university’s broader mission.

Divisional Level

The Division of Student Affairs is comprised of several departments who share a common mission: to serve our students. As such, the Division has identified common objectives to which each of the departments is expected to contribute. These objectives ensure that the departments are continuing to contribute to the impact of the Division as a whole.

Department Level

Each of our departments serve a unique purpose. As such, the departments develop their individual Mission, Vision, and Goals while ensuring alignment with the Division’s Mission, Vision, and Goals. The departments use their Mission, Vision, and Goals to develop individualized outcomes. This allows each department to evaluate their services, identify possible areas for improvement, and address these areas based on their internally established priorities.

Programmatic Outcomes

As a means for achieving their goals, many of our departments develop programs, events and/or experiences for students. These experiences are expected to produce a benefit for the participants. While the exact benefit is highly dependent on the program, event and/or experience, it is necessary that we can demonstrate that these experiences are having the desired impact.

Outside Standards

While every university’s organizational structure is unique, it is vital that there is some consistency in the role that similar departments play across higher education. To address this need for consistency, professional associations often develop standards to establish what shared qualities are to be expected. Our Division ensures alignment to these standards via the Program Review Process. The goal of a program review is to identify areas of improvement for the department. The department is then expected to act on these areas and demonstrate their improvement.

Assessment Cycle

When conducting assessments, we approach our process through the lens of continuous improvement. As such, our assessment cycle is essentially never ending with the results of the current cycle resulting in improvements and changes for the next cycle.

Assessment Cycle, contents listed below.

Step 1: Identify Need/Want: I have identified an area/program we want/need to assess
Step 2: Conceptualization/Planning: I have begun thinking about how we may want to approach an assessment of a program/area
Step 3: Pre-implementation: I have begun developing/designing assessment tools and planning how we will conduct the assessment
Step 4: Implementation/data gathering: I have distributed the assessment tool and/or have been collecting data
Step 5: Post implementation evaluation: I have completed collecting data for and am reviewing the result
Step 6: Redesign: After completing the assessment, I have started to make changes to improve the process.

When determining what changes need to be made in the redesign phase, areas for improvement fall into two separate but related categories: process improvements and content improvements.

Process Improvements

Any assessment requires the implementation of a process to gather the evidence you need in order to evaluate your outcome. The method you use to gather your evidence, store it, and subsequently utilize it to make claims about achieving your outcome will influence the quality, and perceived difficulty, of your assessment. When possible, we address any potential barriers to the ease and quality of our assessment processes through multiple methods. A few of our standard changes include utilizing technology to automate manual processes, implementing data protocols, and ensuring joint access so that data is not lost and/or forgotten.

Content Improvements

Content improvements are necessary to ensure the validity of the claims we make about achieving our outcomes. At the end of each assessment project, we ask ourselves: Does the results of this assessment address the question I really want to know? If the answer is no, we take the time to re-evaluate the question we are asking, the outcome we are measuring, the data we are gathering, and the way we are utilizing the data to pinpoint where adjustments are necessary to ensure that, during the next cycle, we are able to produce results that lead to meaningful changes.