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Voices of the Global Community

Louise Cecil, Sharon Jacobsen, and  Deborah Littleton, University of Alabama at Birmingham

The highly decentralized advising system at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) makes it difficult to gain a reliable view of the effectiveness of advising on campus. In response to the developing emphasis on campus toward assessment, a team of advisors was asked to lead an initiative to address this need. As representatives of the UAB advising community, we were asked by the administrators of our institution to attend the 2005 NACADA Assessment of Academic Advising Institute to begin the assessment process. Although we were from three different units, we were able to utilize our campus wide Committee on Academic Advising (CAA) to provide the structure for this project. The result of our two-year effort is a comprehensive approach to assessment that will be implemented university wide.

In February 2005, the UAB assessment team traveled to the three-day Institute. This working Institute offered three levels of experience, which incorporated presentations by the Institute leaders and time in small groups to work on individual campus needs. As beginners in assessment, we participated in level one, led by Charlie Nutt and Susan Campbell, which included organizing the components of assessment and defining its terms. Through this experience, we gained an understanding of the multifaceted nature of developing an assessment program at UAB. We found it valuable to have a team working on our unique concerns at the Institute.

Upon our return to campus, the assessment team met every other week for three months to integrate new vocabulary and concepts learned at the Institute into a process for our campus. In May 2005, we led a one day workshop for the advising community to develop values, mission, advising delivery goals, delivery outcomes, and student learning outcomes. Approximately 30 faculty and professional advisors participated in small group exercises that we designed.

This workshop was an interactive day to promote participant ownership of the assessment process at UAB. With an emphasis on advising as teaching and learning incorporated from the Institute, we presented this concept in our workshop through games and brainstorming in small and large groups. The group developed a mission statement and identified advising delivery goals and outcomes.

There was still much work that needed to be completed before we could design a comprehensive assessment plan that could be embraced across units. In late May, the assessment team led three follow up meetings where ten to fifteen advisors worked together to revisit the components developed at the workshop. These advisors became loyal participants in the assessment process. Electronic communication was maintained during this time to keep all advisors informed. We finalized the mission statement, advising delivery goals, delivery outcomes, and student learning outcomes. Using the template from the Assessment Institute, we devised an academic advising syllabus to be adapted by each advising unit on campus.

The advising syllabus informs students of advisor and advisee responsibilities as well as expected student learning outcomes. This tool has been adopted by advisors across campus with the understanding that if students are required to participate in assessment on our campus, we must identify our expectations for both advisor and student. The syllabus is now given to students at New Student Orientation.

Now we were ready to develop our assessment instruments. Understanding the importance of key stakeholders in this process, we decided to connect with resources on campus conversant with statistical testing and analysis of instruments. In late summer 2005, we asked the Interim Chair of the Department of Communication Studies, Larry Powell, to join our team. Provided with the delivery goals and outcomes, he was able to create a survey instrument using a Likert scale. Powell ran a pilot study with several of his communication studies classes to test the validity and reliability of the questions. Several questions were discarded at this time. The feedback from the pilot study allowed us to complete the instrument for the 2006 NACADA Assessment Institute.

Our team was also joined by Ed Cook of the Department of Psychology, faculty representative on the CAA Steering Committee. He volunteered to create an advising test as a product of the expected student learning outcomes for the academic advising experience. We plan to pilot this additional instrument in the upcoming year.

Our goal at the 2006 NACADA Assessment of Academic Advising Institute was to formulate an Action Plan for implementing assessment on our campus. With two instruments in hand, we had clearly defined goals for the Institute. At our individual meeting with Institute faculty member and group facilitator Rich Robbins, we were provided feedback on our assessment tools, suggestions for a pilot study, and recommendations for an on-line survey mechanism. He was generous with his encouragement and support throughout this process.

In April, we met with the CAA steering committee to present our findings from the Assessment Institute with the goal of maintaining the support and involvement of the advising community. It was suggested that we meet with Dave Corlissof the UAB Office of Planning and Analysis to inquire of existing resources on campus to assist with implementation. After several meetings with the assessment team, Corliss was instrumental in developing an online survey through Zoomerang. With the support of the faculty of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the online instrument was piloted with two introductory classes in sociology and history in summer 2006. Students were asked to complete the survey on the Zoomerang Web site; there was a 38% return. Now that we are confident of the reliability of our instrument, we can proceed with university-wide implementation.

From the very beginning we were fortunate to have the support of UAB administration, Nancy Walburn, Director of General Studies, Bert Brouwer, Dean of Arts and Humanities, and Tennant McWilliams, Dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Without the leadership of our NACADA colleagues and the Assessment Institute, we could not have moved forward with this process. Our experience has been a rewarding one because of the team approach and the collaboration and support from all levels on our campus.

Louise Cecil
Academic Advisor in the School of Arts and Humanities
University of Alabama at Birmingham
[email protected]

Sharon Jacobsen
Academic Advisor in the Division of General Studies
University of Alabama at Birmingham
[email protected]

Deborah Littleton
Director of Assessment and Advising in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Cecil, L., Jacobsen, S. & Littleton, D. (2006, December). Adventures in assessment - a team approach. Academic Advising Today, 29(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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