About the Center of Inquiry Assessment Workshop

This workshop is designed for people who want to kick-start, reboot, fine-tune, or extend an assessment project at their institutions. The workshop will bring together teams from a variety of schools and backgrounds to engage in both independent and collaborative work to develop plans that they can implement upon their return. Finally, the workshop will be structured to support a wide range of assessment projects including general education assessment, departmental assessment, using NSSE or other survey data as part of an assessment plan, and assessment approaches for particular programs or components of student experience such as first-year programs, academic advising, or diversity experiences/inclusivity.


Thursday, February 7

9:00–10:30 a.m. – Introduction and orientation for the workshop

  • Introduction of workshop facilitators and teams
  • Presentation on useful practices for productive assessment projects
  • Review of the agenda and the 5-step assessment project planning template that teams will complete during the workshop

10:30–10:45 a.m. – Break

10:45–11:45 a.m. – Work on Step 1: The Big Picture

In this session, your team should develop answers to the questions:

  1. Why are you working on this assessment project?
  2. How does this assessment project support the educational goals of your program, department, college, and/or institution?
  3. Are there practical reasons for doing this project (e.g., accreditation is looming)?
  4. What outcomes will mark both the short- and long-term success of this assessment project?
  5. Can this assessment project be successful in both the short- and long-term if it relies on currently available resources? Or, will new resources be necessary for the project to be successful?
  6. By when does this project have to be started and completed in order for it to be successful?
  7. Given that a four-year cycle (assess, make sense of evidence, implement changes, assess again) is probably the fastest pace at which useful assessment can occur, are the aims of your project consistent with the time you’ve allotted for the project?
  8. What are the risks associated with this assessment project?

11:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m. – Discussion and questions about Step 1: The Big Picture

12:00–1:30 p.m. – Working Lunch to complete Step 2: Strengths and weaknesses

In this session, your team should consider and develop answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the key strengths of your institution, program, college, and/or department? Think broadly and consider anything ranging from physical facilities to internal grant programs, exemplary departments, a good teaching and learning center, individuals with strong skills, the culture of the institution, or anything else that you believe marks the high points of your institution. Are there ways that you can take advantage of these strengths to serve your assessment project?
  2. What are your institution’s weak spots? Again, please think broadly, from rogue departments and administrative turnover to crises- or chasing-bright-shiny-object fatigue. How do these weak spots challenge the successful implementation of your assessment project? What design principles should you follow in developing this project to navigate through or around weak spots?

1:30–2:15 p.m. – Inter-team discussion about Step 2: Strengths and weaknesses

Institutional teams will pair up for this conversation (see team assignments below). Please select one person from each pairing to be the timekeeper/facilitator for this session. Each team will spend 10-15 minutes describing the most important relevant strengths and weaknesses that they’ve identified at their institution, and their plans for working with those strengths and weaknesses, to the other team. Then we’d like the teams to discuss and offer suggestions to one another about their plans for working with institutional strengths and weaknesses.

Team assignments coming soon…

2:15–3:00 p.m. – Work on Step 3: Blocking out the project in big steps

In this session, we’d like you to take your big-picture goals from Step 1 and break the project down into a sequence of 4 to 6 smaller goals or outcomes that you need to accomplish for your assessment project to be successful. We’re not getting into all the nitty gritty details yet – we’re just starting to break the project into smaller components.

3:00–3:15 p.m. – Group discussion and questions about Steps 1, 2, and 3

3:15–4:00 p.m. – Begin work on Step 4: Building a detailed timeline

Please create a timeline detailing the sequence of activities that you’ll need to work through to successfully complete your assessment project. Your timeline should address the following questions:

  1. Who will be responsible for leading the work on this activity? What kind of time commitment do you need from this individual (or these individuals) for the project to be successful?
  2. What key faculty and staff members, committees, offices, programs, governance structures, etc. do you need to engage to successfully implement your assessment project? Who do you need to avoid?
  3. Are there ways you can engage students in this work?
  4. How, when, and how often will you communicate the purpose of your project and how it fits into the broader institutional plan to the people with whom you intend to work? Remember, successful assessment projects use, and document, a continuous stream of sometimes repetitive messages to key groups in order to be transparent and avoid the show-stopping “who decided this?” response.
  5. What resources will you need to support your project? How can you go about obtaining these resources? Are you confident that you have enough resource headroom to survive the “surprises” and sudden changes that occur in every project?
  6. How will you engage the student, administrative, staff, and faculty leaders to support your assessment project?
  7. Who will make a record of the work on this activity?
  8. How will you communicate what you are learning from the project to the relevant constituencies at your institution? How will you keep the right people in the loop?
  9. Who will be responsible for reporting the work on this project to the relevant constituencies?

4:00 p.m. – End of the day

Charlie and Kathy will stay at the end of the meeting to work with your team on any questions that you have.

Friday, February 8

9:00–9:30 a.m. – Group meeting

Update from each team on their progress on developing their assessment project timeline and time for questions.

9:30–10:30 a.m. – Complete Step 4: Building a detailed timeline

10:30–11:30 a.m. – Inter-team discussion on Step 5: Reviewing your plan

Once again, institutional teams will pair up for this conversation (see team assignments below). Please select one person from each pairing to be the timekeeper/facilitator for this session. Each team will spend 20 minutes describing their timeline and overall plan, including how they’ve attempted to address the 11 issues we’ve listed below. Then we’d like the teams to discuss and offer suggestions to one another about the plans and any challenges or strengths that they see. We’d like the final plans to address the following questions:

  1. How does your plan take into account the strengths and weaknesses you identified in Step 2?
  2. Does your plan appropriately engage campus governance structures and processes?
  3. Have you created opportunities for people to come together to have conversations about and make sense of assessment evidence from this project?
  4. Does your plan help faculty and/or staff build their capacity to teach the outcomes you are interested in?
  5. Do you plan to communicate the goals and progress of your plan to the appropriate members of your institution, department, or program at the appropriate times?
  6. What will be the rewards for people, departments, programs, etc. that embrace the process you outline?
  7. What will be the downside of avoiding or resisting work on this plan?
  8. Do you have people who are committed to the project for the duration of the plan you’ve outlined? If not, how will you identify people to work on the project for this time period?
  9. What are the first steps you’ll take when you get back to campus?
  10. What key individuals will see copies of this plan when you return to campus?
  11. If your plan is successful, how long should it be before you have evidence of improved student learning or the conditions that support student learning?

Team assignments coming soon…

11:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. – Wrap up and final discussion

Questions? Suggestions?

For more information on SOCHE's conferences and events or to make suggestions, please contact Kimberly Weaver at 937.258.8890 ext. 106 or at kimberly.weaver@soche.org.