You finally did it! You completed your first intricate event for the semester and it went swimmingly.
[commence Eye of the Tiger song]
Shortly after, you realize things haven’t panned out exactly how you’d liked. After a few weeks of running events and gathering assessment, you’re generating what seems to be helpful data and information from events on campus, but now see you really have no said assessment priorities.
After providing you with an extensive list of 100 factors to assess at an event, we’ve decided to put together some resources to further guide the direction of how to improve events on campus.
Below are some suggestions on how to improve and actually assess events to prioritize your needs and ensure you’re getting the results you deserve as a busy student affairs professional.
Why do I assess?
Answer that question first. Do you know why you assess? Or were you just assigned the task of assessing and encouraged to figure it out?
We need to re-frame assessment to make it a personal priority, beyond a checklist for institutional accreditation – we need it for personal accountability.
When we don’t listen to data, we’re choosing not to listen and connect with students.
For some professionals, it seems like another ‘to-do’: one more item you have to delegate to your team, manage, and follow up on. Assessing programs and practices not only gives you insight to as to what you can improve upon, but assessment also justifies budgeting and your role as a student affairs practitioner. It shows that what you do really matters.
There’s plenty of ways you can improve your current event or assessment practices, you’re just unsure how to get there.
What institutional assessment data are you already collecting?
– Do you need the NSSE survey? (administered to first-year and senior students)
– EBI (Educational Benchmarking) survey? (administered to resident students)
– Student Satisfaction Survey?
– Alumni survey? Advising survey?
Do you see trends with data?
Are there items you can add/edit for the upcoming year to better align with institutional or strategic goals of your institution?
No matter the survey administered – you and your team need to determine if they are useful. Once you’ve determined this piece you can move on to the next step!
Understand how to assess
Take a look at how professionals use an assessment cycle for assessing events and programs on your campus. We feature James Madison University’s assessment cycle below.
Utilizing an assessment cycle for your event(s) is helpful to to help coordinate and facilitate assessment for your whole department.
We adapted this template of questions from the University of Southern Maine‘s Student Affairs assessment committee. Answer these questions before an event to plan your assessment ahead of time:
1) Identify the event(s) you want to assess.
2) What are the intended student learning outcomes for this event? (Create 3-5 outcomes)
3) What type of assessment project will this involve? (Choose all that apply)
Learning outcomes: How this event has an impact on student learning, development, and success
Tracking participation/student demographics: Who actually attends our programs? (i.e. raw numbers at events, age, class year, gender, race, resident/commuter students, etc.)
Needs assessment: Which student populations are succeeding/transferring/leaving the institution (emerging trends that inform our events)
Satisfaction: Measuring student satisfaction at events on campus
Environmental: Understanding the perception of the student life experience (campus climate, quality of life)
Benchmarking: How do our events and programs compare with other peer institutions?
Cost Effectiveness: Determining if the events we offer are worth the cost
Program Evaluation: Use any national guidelines, self-study, or external review to further assess our events and services on campus
4) How will you physically collect the data?
5) How are you going to analyze the data? (qualitatively, qualitatively, mixed-method) Who is going to conduct the analyses?
6) How to you plan to report your findings? To whom?
7) How will you use the findings to improve the event?
If you are using assessment practices to improve a program or service internally (i.e. within a department or your role), you do not need Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. Learn more about IRB approval here.
How are you collecting program data?
Before the days of using up-to-date technology, it was hard to paint the picture of before, during, and after an event. However, new engagement and assessment tools make it easier than ever to break down each portion – from planning an event to obtaining feedback about each event. Software tools infuse events and data that give student affairs professionals the information they want and need to make informed decisions.
Reviewing what went well and what can be improved upon before, during, and after event can seem messy. Improve processes from the beginning with a game plan to encourage evaluation of every program from the start!
Before the Event
Prepare surveys, evaluations or any other assessment documents before your event. Create a standardized event checklist that can be used for all events. Some checklist items include:
Prepare signage that leads students in the right direction of the event
Update organization social media accounts
Create a hashtag for the event
Create a rubric or quick survey to get event organizer’s on the same page post-event. Make it consistent for each event so you can compare team performance and gain feedback about how the event went from your organization’s point of view. Weaving feedback practices into each portion of the event will help you gain a clearer picture of things you may have missed that attendees are looking for.
Determine which factors are most important for each event with this all-inclusive list. Meet with your programming board or event team and look specifically at how goals and visions align with learning outcomes created for the event.
During the Event
Remind yourself it’s not all about participation numbers.
Student affairs professionals often get caught up in asking themselves, “how many students attended the event?” and stop there, only looking at pure numbers of overall attendance at a program.
At the beginning of the event, use card-swipe technology to understand who’s attending. By digitizing this part of data collection it gives you the ability instantly connect attendees directly to the event, hosting organization or department, and other data points as well – making assessment that much deeper, meaningful, easier, and real-time.
Personally engage with students one-on-one and ask questions in person. Get a feel for their raw energy and nonverbal behavior while speaking with them. Use a prepared template to be ready to jot down any important ideas they bring up. If you’re looking to be eco-friendly (and want to read your notes later) try using an app like Boximize, Evernote, or Google Drive to organize every piece of important feedback.
After the Event
Use forms to connect with attendees and create surveys to gain quantitative and qualitative feedback. Here’s two examples of questions you should ask:
Would you recommend this event to a friend?
Also called a “Net Promoter Score” which gauges the loyalty of attendee or customer relationships. This question gives you a lot of information about student loyalty and gives you more than just a “yes” or “no” answer. You’re asking students to put their own credibility on the line by recommending a program or service to a friend. When someone says “yes”, they are more likely to remember the event having a positive impact on them.
How likely would you attend an event like this in the future? (Likert scale 1-10)
This question makes attendees consider if they spent their time wisely and will want to again in the future. It also gives you an idea if people were connected: were they engaged and did they enjoy themselves? Asking them to rate the event gives a glimpse into their behavior for the future and, again, their loyalty.
Asking the right questions is key. Compile questions, surveys, and forms in a way that’s best for you and find new ways to keep track of assessment timelines through software management tools like Trello or Tom’s Planner.
How often are you reviewing event data?
Most people review event data monthly, semesterly, or (yikes) yearly. Timing is everything – gain feedback daily or weekly, or better yet in real-time. We found that you can answer questions in the first five minutes of an event and make changes to the event on-the-spot to improve your event.
Review how assessment measures on a programmatic level compare with any trends at an institutional level. Determine what needs to change about it. Assess one thing you can change, document it, and take notes on how to improve the event for next time.
Once you answer these preliminary and foundational questions, you’ll be in a better place to answer these questions we’ve provided for you.
Empower and Motivate Your Team
Obtaining the right information, reports, and employing passionate people, is totally doable. And while the ramp up period – deciding what reports are most important, getting feedback from your team, setting them up – may take some time, we know you’ll win it back with all the time you’re saving once the initial “how to obtain appropriate data” is done.
Encourage new professionals to read Making Assessment Meaningful: What New Professionals and Those New to Assessment Need to Know by Marilee Bresciani to better understand assessment and how to plan programs with intentionality.
Don’t be surprised if you get the an occasional eye roll if you’re the first to make changes and start to move the needle on “how it’s always been done”. Assessment is here to stay – so it’s best to figure out a way to make it an exciting process and motivate the leadership or team in your area.
Get All Your Eggs in One Basket
Assessment takes time and effort – and if you’re positive about it – it can also be fun and rewarding. Pick a song to motivate you in your assessment efforts. Taking it one step at a time will result in long term successful efforts for you to fully understand student engagement, retention, and how to further involve students on campus.
Among the intense conversations happening at conferences, online and specifically in student affairs assessment offices, you have plenty of resources to dive into data. Reach out to assessment and data pro’s on your campus who can give you a few tips! Here are a few extra blog posts from the Student Affairs Collective Assessment Series to add to your light reading list.
How do you improve your assessment practices? What’s the most challenging part to assessment you’ve encountered? Share your answers and insights with us @CheckImHere!
This post is part two of a blog post series, check out part one here!