Assessment without review, analysis and change is a waste of everyone’s time

Today I’ve been thinking about assessment:

  • I created a short survey to assess student learning after a one-shot library instruction session.
  • I compiled student bibliographies from Fall 2009 courses I’ve worked with, in the hopes of analyzing what these students actually did.
  • I’ve been thinking about how to effectively assess the information skills students (should have!) acquired during a Spring 2010 course I met with on 5 different occasions.
  • I made some final edits to a very brief survey of user satisfaction at the reference and circulation desks (modeled after Miller, 2008).
Scantron sheet
Hopefully we don't try to assess our students to point of exhaustion! Image courtesy of Flickr user MforMarcus.

I’m in the process of collecting a lot of data about how I well do my job.

What’s the next step?

If I just collect this data and report on it without making any changes, I have probably wasted everyone’s time.  It is unlikely that the assessments will indicate that I am doing everything perfectly.  The goal of assessing service, student learning, user satisfaction, etc. is to make these things better.

What kinds of changes can you make:

  • Change your focus – In some classes I realized that students had a very good understanding of one concept I was trying to teach, but a poor concept of another.  I was able to change the focus of my instruction to focus more on
  • Change your goals – In some cases your assessment might reveal that your original goals are out of line with what students need.  This happened at my library in the one-shot we taught for the First-Year writing class.  We were able to re-align our goals with student needs.  We’ll see if this helped our students when we do an assessment at the end of this semester.
  • Go back to something that was working better before you made a change – The user satisfaction survey I’m working on right now is being done just prior to some big changes in the reference/circulation/service desks at my library.  We plan to re-do the survey in the Fall and again in Spring 2011.  Perhaps we’ll find that the changes result in a decrease in user satisfaction, although I sure hope not.  It is theoretically possible that we will need to roll back some of the changes we made.

So, anyone have a quick and easy way to analyze student bibliographies?