Supervisors, managers and professionals hear about it in meetings early on in the year: the monumental end of year (EOY) or annual report. Often brought up briefly in the beginning of the year, with a dash of sprinkled conversations throughout the year, and finally addressed as a “to-do” a few weeks or so before the final report has to be submitted. This leaves little time to gather and compile pertinent information from the entire year. Procrastination frequently gets the best of us, out of sight out of mind.
Members of student affairs community who’ve been involved with professional development or have attended a recent student life conference know “assessment” is a trend that’s here to stay. We find that constant assessment and transparency are important when looking to improve practices, so we’ve outlined a few reasons why reports should be assembled on a monthly basis.
1. To Create a Culture of Continuous Assessment
Improvement-oriented professionals review goals of assessment and find ways to strengthen practices regularly. Bringing assessment results to team meetings often invites changes to be made at a faster pace. Recommendations can be filtered through a department, allowing a flow of feedback and fresh ideas to circulate.
This type of culture is not only important in student affairs, but also necessary to increase student retention and effective campus engagement. Additionally, compiling a mini-report at the end of each month encourages healthy reflection and goal setting on a personal or departmental area.
At the end of the year, each professional, department, or division will be able to easily compile the most relevant data to continue to move the institution or organization forward.
2. To Organize Collaborative Problem-Solving
Dedicate time during team meetings to review data collected from the past month and use it to make informed decisions. This helps create ongoing communication about feedback, assessment, and how to keep the focus centered around student success.
Consistent communication and collaboration are great ways to keep a team on the same page about priorities within the division or institution. It helps tie day-to-day work back to the big picture of why student affairs at the institution is important.
Good assessment takes time for reflection and carving out time allows for team members to feel accountable for their personal impact on campus life.
3. To Generate Assessment Feedback Loops
After results of assessment or data collection have been communicated amongst the team, set realistic priorities and create tight feedback loops.
According to Wired online magazine, feedback loops are considered a profound method for changing decisions or behavior. They provide people with responses in real-time, create an opportunity for change, and propel people to make better decisions.
Thomas Goetz, author of Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops writes about the inherent need to obtain feedback as a human, “Indeed, we tend to crave this sort of information; it’s something we viscerally want to know, good or bad.” An example may be asking students to fill out a quick poll at an on-campus event or creating a check-in process that utilizes real-time analytics.
This allows data to be collected immediately to improve the event if planned again in the future. A trait of a feedback loop is that it’s continuous, it doesn’t end with a decision or intervention: evaluation is a never-ending cycle that keeps students at the forefront of decision-making. Feedback loops give professionals guidance as to which student needs deserve the most attention. This approach creates high impact and high results, allowing assessment to be monitored closely.
4. To Structure 1:1s Better
Many student affairs professionals give feedback to colleagues including supervisors, employees, or student leaders during regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. One-on-one meetings are a great time to catch up with your team, review goals, and provide support.
These meetings are also a great time to connect goals and trends back to student learning outcomes created at the beginning of the year. Most supervisors provide thoughtful suggestions for improvement or ask for feedback, but some are not asking all the right questions when it relates to working with students.
With an increased focus on retention, supervisors need to plan to ask specific questions to the individuals who work on the front lines with students. The questions should be tied back to why you’re doing assessment in the first place: how effective are we at our jobs and how can we improve? The one-on-one meeting is an example of a small-scale assessment process that identifies trends and builds congruence between goals and results.
5. To Build Stronger Interdepartmental Relationships
Everyone is responsible for assessment. Creating annual reports is an opportunity to rally professionals together throughout the student life division and hold conversations about coordinating efforts by working together as a team to obtain specific outcomes. Seeking ideas from all areas of campus is crucial for improving the college experience, including feedback from students.
Creation of monthly reports from multiple departments increases communication across campus departments through data-driven informed decision-making. Regularly scheduled conversations among campus constituents also ensure maximum impact on student learning. Student affairs professionals can identify trends and reap the benefits of truly understanding student success within their campus community.
We’d love to hear stories from the student affairs community about why it’s important to be proactive with EOY reports in relation to the overall campus community. How can you change practices in your role, department, or sphere of influence to make sound decisions faster? Share it with us by tweeting @CheckImhere or commenting below!
Gall, D. M., Gall, P. J., & Borg, R. W. (2010). Applying educational research. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.
Kuh, G. (2005). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schreiner, L. Retention and assessment: a feedback loop for institutional effectiveness. Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.