Linda Suskie

  A Common Sense Approach to Assessment & Accreditation

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What do faculty really think about assessment?

Posted on March 4, 2018 at 8:05 AM

The vitriol in some recent op-ed pieces and the comments that followed them might leave the impression that faculty hate assessment. Well, some faculty clearly do, but a national survey suggests that they’re in the minority.


The Faculty Survey of Assessment Culture, directed by Dr. Matthew Fuller at Sam Houston State University, can give us some insight. Its key drawback is, because it’s still a relatively nascent survey, it has only about 1155 responses from its last reported administration in 2014. So the survey may not represent what faculty throughout the U.S. really think, but I nonetheless think it’s worth a look.


Most of the survey is a series of statements to which faculty respond by choosing Strongly Agree, Agree, Only Slightly Agree, Only Slightly Disagree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree.


Here are the percentages who agreed or strongly agreed with each statement. Statements that are positive about assessment are in green; those that are negative about assessment are in red.

80% The majority of administrators are supportive of assessment.

77% Faculty leadership is necessary for my institution’s assessment efforts.

76% Assessment is a good thing for my institution to do.

70% I am highly interested in my institution’s assessment efforts.

70% Assessment is vital to my institution’s future.

67% In general I am eager to work with administrators.

67% Assessment is a good thing for me to do.

64% I am actively engaged in my institution’s assessment efforts.

63% Assessments of programs are typically connected back to student learning

62% My academic department or college truly values faculty involvement in assessment.

61% I engage in institutional assessment efforts because it is the right thing to do for our students.

60% Assessment is vital to my institution’s way of operating.

57% Discussions about student learning are at the heart of my institution.

57% In general a recommended change is more likely to be enacted by administrators if it is supported by assessment data.

53% I clearly understand assessment processes at my institution.

52% Assessment supports student learning at my institution.

51% Assessment is primarily the responsibility of faculty members.

51% Change occurs more readily when supported by assessment results.

50% It is clear who is ultimately in charge of assessment.

50% I am familiar with the office that leads student assessment efforts for accreditation purposes.

50% Assessment for accreditation purposes is prioritized above other assessment efforts.

49% Assessment results are used for improvement.

49% The majority of administrators primarily emphasize assessment for the improvement of student learning.

49% I engage in institutional assessment because doing so makes a difference to student learning at my institution.

48% Assessment processes yield evidence of my institution’s effectiveness.

48% I have a generally positive attitude toward my institution’s culture of assessment.

47% Senior leaders, i.e., President or Provost, have made clear their expectations regarding assessment.

47% Administrators are supportive of making changes.

46% I am familiar with the office that leads student assessment efforts for student learning.

45% Assessment data are used to identify the extent to which student learning outcomes are met.

44% My institution is structured in a way that facilitates assessment practices focused on improved student learning.

44% The majority of administrators only focus on assessment in response to compliance requirements.

43% Student assessment results are shared regularly with faculty members.

41% I support the ways in which administrators have used assessment on my campus.

40% Assessment is an organized coherent effort at my institution.

40% Assessment results are available to faculty by request.

38% Assessment data are available to faculty by request.

37% Assessment results are shared regularly throughout my institution.

35% Faculty are in charge of assessment at my institution.

33% Engaging in assessment also benefits my research/scholarship agenda.

32% Budgets can be negatively impacted by assessment results.

32% Administrators share assessment data with faculty members using a variety of communication strategies (i.e., meetings, web, written correspondence, presentations).

31% Assessment data are regularly used in official institutional communications.

30% There are sufficient financial resources to make changes at my institution.

29% Assessment is a necessary evil in higher education.

28% Communication of assessment results has been effective.

28% Assessment results are criticized for going nowhere (i.e., not leading to change).

27% Assessment results in a fair depiction of what I do as a faculty member.

27% Administrators use assessment as a form of control (i.e., to regulate institutional processes).

26% Assessment efforts do not have a clear focus.

26% I enjoy engaging in institutional assessment efforts.

24% Assessment success stories are formally shared throughout my institution.

23% Assessment results in an accurate depiction of what I do as a faculty member.

22% Assessment is conducted based on the whims of the people in charge.

21% If assessment was not required I would not be doing it.

21% Assessment is primarily the responsibility of administrators.

21% I am aware of several assessment success stories (i.e. instances of assessment resulting in important changes).

20% I do not have time to engage in assessment efforts.

19% Assessment results have no impact on resource allocations.

18% Assessment results are used to scare faculty into compliance with what the administration wants.

18% There is pressure to reveal only positive results from assessment efforts.

17% I avoid doing institutional assessment activities if I can.

17% I engage in assessment because I am afraid of what will happen if I do not.

14% I perceive assessment as a threat to academic freedom.

10% Assessment results are used to punish faculty members (i.e., not rewarding innovation or effective teaching, research, or service).

4% Assessment is someone else’s problem, not mine.


Overall, there’s good news here. Most faculty agreed with most positive statements about assessment, and most disagreed with most negative statements. I was particularly heartened that about three-quarters of respondents agreed that “assessment is a good thing for my institution to do,” about 70% agreed that “assessment is vital to my institution’s future,” and about two-thirds agreed that “assessment is a good thing for me to do.”


But there’s also plenty to be concerned about here. Only 35% agree that faculty are in charge of assessment and, by several measures, only a minority see assessment results shared and used. Almost 30% view assessment as a necessary evil.


Survey researchers know that people are more apt to agree than disagree with a statement, so I also looked at the percentages of faculty who disagreed or strongly disagreed with each statement. These responses do not mirror the agreed/strongly agreed results above, because on some items a larger proportion of faculty marked Only Slightly Agree or Only Slightly Disagree. Again, the positive statements are in green and the negative ones in red.

3% The majority of administrators are supportive of assessment.

6% Faculty leadership is necessary for my institution’s assessment efforts.

6% Assessment is a good thing for my institution to do.

7% Assessment is vital to my institution’s future.

8% I am highly interested in my institution’s assessment efforts.

8% In general a recommended change is more likely to be enacted by administrators if it is supported by assessment data.

9% I am actively engaged in my institution’s assessment efforts.

9% In general I am eager to work with administrators.

9% My academic department or college truly values faculty involvement in assessment.

10% Change occurs more readily when supported by assessment results.

10% Assessment is a good thing for me to do.

12% Assessment results are available to faculty by request.

13% Assessment is vital to my institution’s way of operating.

13% Assessment data are available to faculty by request.

13% The majority of administrators primarily emphasize assessment for the improvement of student learning.

13% I engage in institutional assessment efforts because it is the right thing to do for our students.

14% Discussions about student learning are at the heart of my institution.

14% I clearly understand assessment processes at my institution.

14% Assessment data are used to identify the extent to which student learning outcomes are met.

15% Assessments of programs are typically connected back to student learning.

15% Assessment results are used for improvement.

16% Assessment is primarily the responsibility of faculty members.

16% Administrators are supportive of making changes.

17% Assessment supports student learning at my institution.

18% Assessment processes yield evidence of my institution’s effectiveness.

18% I support the ways in which administrators have used assessment on my campus.

19% It is clear who is ultimately in charge of assessment.

19% Assessment is an organized coherent effort at my institution.

19% I have a generally positive attitude toward my institution’s culture of assessment.

20% Senior leaders, i.e., President or Provost, have made clear their expectations regarding assessment.

20% My institution is structured in a way that facilitates assessment practices focused on improved student learning.

20% I engage in institutional assessment because doing so makes a difference to student learning at my institution.

21% I am familiar with the office that leads student assessment efforts for accreditation purposes.

21% Budgets can be negatively impacted by assessment results.

22% The majority of administrators only focus on assessment in response to compliance requirements.

23% Student assessment results are regularly shared with faculty members.

24% I am familiar with the office that leads student assessment efforts for student learning.

24% Assessment for accreditation purposes is prioritized above other assessment efforts.

24% Assessment data are regularly used in official institutional communications.

28% Faculty are in charge of assessment at my institution.

29% Assessment results have no impact on resource allocations.

29% Assessment results are regularly shared throughout my institution.

29% I enjoy engaging in institutional assessment efforts.

31% Administrators share assessment data with faculty members using a variety of communication strategies (i.e., meetings, web, written correspondence, presentations).

31% Communication of assessment results has been effective.

31% Administrators use assessment as a form of control (i.e., to regulate institutional processes).

32% Assessment results are criticized for going nowhere (i.e., not leading to change).

32% Assessment results in a fair depiction of what I do as a faculty member.

33% There are sufficient financial resources to make changes at my institution.

34% Assessment success stories are formally shared throughout my institution.

34% Assessment results in an accurate depiction of what I do as a faculty member.

35% Assessment is primarily the responsibility of administrators.

36% I am aware of several assessment success stories (i.e., instances of assessment resulting in important changes).

36% Engaging in assessment also benefits my research/scholarship agenda.

41% Assessment efforts do not have a clear focus.

41% I do not have time to engage in assessment efforts.

42% Assessment is a necessary evil in higher education.

50% Assessment is conducted based on the whims of the people in charge.

50% There is pressure to reveal only positive results from assessment efforts.

53% Assessment results are used to scare faculty into compliance with what the administration wants.

55% I avoid doing institutional assessment activities if I can.

56% If assessment was not required I would not be doing it.

56% I engage in assessment because I am afraid of what will happen if I do not.

60% Assessment results are used to punish faculty members (i.e., not rewarding innovation or effective teaching, research, or service).

62% I perceive assessment as a threat to academic freedom.

78% Assessment is someone else’s problem, not mine.


Here there’s more good news. We want small proportions of faculty to disagree with the positive statements about assessment, and for the most part they do. About a third disagree that assessment results and success stories are shared, but that matches what we saw with the agree-strongly agree results.


But there are also areas of concern here. We want large proportions of faculty to disagree with the negative statements about assessment, and that doesn’t always happen. Less than a quarter disagree that budgets can be negatively impacted by assessment results and that administrators look at assessment only through a compliance lens. Less than a third disagreed that assessment results don’t lead to change or resource allocations. The results that concerned me most? Only 42% disagreed that assessment is a necessary evil; only half disagreed that there is pressure to reveal only positive assessment results; and only a bit over half disagreed that “If assessment was not required I would not be doing it.”


So, while most faculty “get” assessment, there are sizable numbers who don’t yet see value in it. We've come a long way, but there's still plenty of work to do!


(Some notes on the presentation of these results: Note that I sorted results from highest to lowest, rounded percentages to the nearest whole percent, and color-coded "good" and "bad" statements. Those all help the key points of a very lengthy survey pop out at the reader.)

Categories: Assessment culture, State of assessment

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