Assessment practices and the culture of assessment in student affairs divisions at small colleges and universities
Seagraves, Robert Burke
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The purposes of this study were to (a) identify the types of assessment being conducted in student affairs divisions at small colleges and universities (enrollment of fewer than 5000 students), (b) assess the perceptions of administrators in these environments about the presence of the elements of a culture of assessment identified in the literature review, (c) determine whether there is a difference in these perceptions between Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) and staff members within divisions of student affairs (non-SSAO staff), (d) determine which type or types of assessment activity best predict(s) the perception of the presence of a culture of assessment, (e) determine which assessment skills and knowledge best predict the perception of the presence of a culture of assessment, and (f) determine which assessment motivation factors best predict the perception of the presence of a culture of assessment. Members of NASPA Region III and/or SACSA who work at institutions with fewer than 5000 students were invited to participate in the study. The response rate for this study was 24.4%, with 94 of 385 potential participants responding to the online questionnaire. Results from the study indicated that over 90% of the participants reported assessing student satisfaction and tracking usage of programs, services, and facilities. The most prevalent elements of a culture of assessment included support from upper-level administration and the use of assessment results in decision-making opportunities. SSAOs and non-SSAOs significantly differed in their perceptions of the presence of a common assessment language, inclusion of assessment expectations in new staff orientation, and use of assessment results in decision-making opportunities. Outcomes assessment was the only type of assessment with significant explanatory value in predicting the perception of the presence of a culture of assessment. A combination of four areas of assessment skills and knowledge—assessment ethics, benchmarking, effective reporting and use of results, and ability to articulate learning and development outcomes—best predicted the presence of a culture of assessment. Two motivations for assessment—support for the educational mission of the institution and expectations of the SSAO—best predicted the presence of a culture of assessment.