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10 Common Missteps in Assessment

...and How to Avoid Them

by Sherry A Woosley, Ph.D. and Amanda R. Knerr
From NASPA's NetResults June 21, 2005

Part I: Missteps in Assessment Building Blocks

Misstep 1. Doing assessment just so you can say you're doing assessment rather than doing purposeful and useful assessment to improve practice.

Misstep 2. Failing to connect assessment with practice rather than creating a culture that integrates and uses assessment as part of practice.

Misstep 3. Believing one workshop, paper, or presentation makes you an assessment expert rather than understanding that assessment requires training and expertise.

Misstep 4. Doing assessment by yourself or in isolation versus using the individual or departmental expertise and assistance that may be available to you on your campus.

Here are some proactive strategies to get in the right frame of mind:
1. Spend time upfront or frontload work.
2. Integrate assessment activities with your practice --make assessment a part of what you do.
3. Utilize all the available resources, including textbooks, conferences, professionals, etc.

Part II: Missteps in Assessment Planning and How to Avoid Them

Misstep 5: Rushing into conducting assessments rather then creating a thorough, well organized, assessment plan.

Misstep 6. Doing assessment that is disconnected from the goals of the program rather than linking assessment activities directly with the goals.

Misstep 7. Choosing the method before the purpose rather than letting the purpose guide the choice of method.

Misstep 8: Collecting "interesting" data versus collecting "useful" data.

Here are some proactive strategies to improve planning:
1. Spend time creating an assessment plan. Connected goals to outcomes by asking, "What is it that we say we are doing?" and "Are we doing what we say we are doing?"
2. Select a methodology that will gather the best information for your purpose, even if it is not the easiest, or the one you are most comfortable with.
3. Determine if you are collecting useful information or interesting information by asking, "If I collect this information, how am I going to use it?"

Part III: Missteps in Assessment Reporting and How to Avoid Them

Misstep 9: Reporting results ineffectively rather than targeting your information and reports to specific audiences and situations.

Misstep 10: Failing to evaluate an assessment project rather than taking time to assess the assessment and improve the entire process.

Here are some practical strategies to improve reporting:
1. Determine audiences' needs
2. Choose the information, format and style of the report based on the audience
3. Review all aspects of the assessment plan and make recommendations
4. Keep notes

Download the NetResults series to learn more about each Misstep

Download Part I: Missteps in Assessment Building Blocks and How to Avoid Them
Download Part II: Missteps in Assessment Planning and How to Avoid Them
Download Part III: Missteps in Assessment Reporting and How to Avoid Them

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