Award-winning program shows how continued assessment can lead to continued improvement.
Where do we begin? That was the question the University of Wisconsin-Stout housing staff asked themselves when reviewing the analysis from their spring ACUHO-I/EBI Resident Assessment. On the heels of making a decision to move all first-year students to a common location on campus and to create both a First-Year Experience Program and a Next Experience Program for sophomores and older students, the housing department was pleased to learn that residents' opinions of overall programm effectiveness had improved, but they were startled about the reported decline in personal and diverse interactions and personal growth. In fact, residents were reporting a decline in skills like time management and those associated with studying and problem solving. This sparked a discussion with Amy McGovern, assistant director of university housing, and the rest of the department to revamp the community planning process on campus.
In fall 2008, university housing introduced Community Development Logic Models, using data from their spring 2008 ACUHO-I/EBI Resident Assessment as a baseline. Hall directors were asked to identify targets for measuring improvement regarding their hall community initiatives, with specifc direction to create initiatives that would help improve the score of the assessment category Personal Interactions. Because the data was so easy to interpret, the process was relatively easy. "The data is easy-to-read, color-coded, and user friendly, helping even novice evaluators identify issues, mean growth potentials, and the like," says McGovern.
As the department learned more about student learning, outcomes, and assessment, it naturally turned its attention to the current survey tools and the specific questions those tools elicted. They decided to stop using the university's own quality of life tool and instead, beginning in 2009, included the fall ACUHO-I/EBI Resident Assessment in its assessment cache. Hall directors continued to develop their own hall-specific logic models, but another question arose: How do we know that our actions are having their indended results?
The story continues in the September + October 2012 issue of the Talking Stick, the official magazine of ACUHO-I (the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International).