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Voices of the Global Community

18

Susan Corner, 2021 Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient
Shu-min Huang, 2021 Assessment Institute Attendee
Janine Mayers, 2021 Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient

Susan Corner.jpgLearning how to create a good assessment plan makes sense when you consider the potential for assessment to improve academic advising practices. As Higgins and Vance (2021) observed, assessment is a living process that involves students, advisors, and administrators. It has the potential to enhance culture when we “recognize how assessment impact(s) day-to-day advising experiences” (slide 9).

The ongoing nature of the assessment process was reinforced by instructors at the 2021 NACADA Assessment Institute. A small team from the Academic Advising Centre (AAC) at the University of Victoria (UVic) in British Columbia, Canada attended the Institute in 2021. This article shares our story.

Shu-Min Huang.jpgInvesting in training that focuses on assessment in academic advising supports the AAC’s goal of developing an assessment plan that will lead to improved advising practices and better outcomes for students (Robbins, 2012). It also supports the goal of the University of Victoria’s (2019) Strategic Enrolment Management Plan to “implement a student and learning-focused academic advising system” (p. 10). As noted by Robbins (2009), a good assessment plan means you can use institutional data effectively: “The relationship between assessment of academic advising and institutional research is a reciprocal one, with each informing the other, ideally resulting in more rich and useful information campus-wide” (para. 7).

Janine Mayers.jpgLearning outcomes for both students and advisors are core to an assessment plan. Focusing on learning outcomes is a reminder of the educational role of academic advising in students’ lives (Keeling et al., 2008; NACADA, 2017). While our unit at UVic has engaged in research using different assessment tools, our goal and the reason for attending the Institute was to create an integrated plan that would allow staff to understand what we do and why.

On November 10, 2020, NACADA members received an email announcing a shift to a virtual Assessment Institute. This change was due to COVID-19, and while there is always excitement in attending in-person events, virtual delivery (and the related lower costs) created an opportunity for the AAC to send a small team to the Institute in February 2021. Supporting participation were two scholarships from NACADA. Instead of sending one person with related travel and hotel expenses, seven staff participated in the virtual Institute for a comparable cost. Sending a team virtually also opened up space for broader representation from the AAC, which creates a stronger foundation as we move forward with implementation. Along with the director, the AI team included four members of the AAC Leadership Team as well as two academic advisors. The breadth of experiences of those attending the Institute from the AAC enriched our individual and collective learning. An unforeseen benefit of a team attending the AI has been retaining capacity to move forward with this important project despite two staff leaving to follow new career opportunities.

Higgins and Vance (2021) provided the following participant learning outcomes for the Institute (slide 9):

  • Understand stakeholders’ impact on institutional culture
  • Recognize how assessment impacts day-to-day advising experiences
  • Integrate assessment into professional development
  • Incorporate assessment into advisor evaluations and reward structures

NACADA’s Assessment Institute provided videos of the plenary sessions in advance, and participants could select from work groups during the Institute that fit with individual needs and interests. The AAC team originally planned to select our own work groups over the three days with check-ins at the end of each day. Soon after beginning the first day, it became evident to our team that attending the same work groups together led to enriched learning and supported our collective experience. Particularly useful resources provided by the Institute were sample assessment worksheets and check-ins with instructors during and after the Institute. These proved to be invaluable as the team moved from developing an assessment plan in the supportive Institute environment to leading independent implementation of an AAC assessment plan with our staff.

As stated in the director’s Assessment Institute scholarship application, “Over the years, we have included aspects of assessment in our ongoing work; however, we have never had the time or resources to develop a more formal program for our academic advising centre.” The opportunity offered by the virtual Institute has allowed the AAC to create a small team to lead the development and implementation of an assessment plan that now engages all staff in the unit.

After the Assessment Institute: Implementing an AAC Assessment Plan

Implementation began just prior to the Institute with the formation of an AAC Assessment Team (see Figure 1). All members of the team participated in the Institute and each person has had a role in supporting the engagement of all AAC staff with the implementation process. As a first step, we held a staff retreat which was facilitated by a UVic Organization Development and Learning Consultant. Together, we began the groundwork to develop a new mission statement and list of shared goals for the AAC. Related, but independent, was the formation of a Communications Team and the development of a communications plan in tandem with the assessment plan. As we develop these plans, we are supporting the AAC’s vision of continuing to move from a focus on transactional advising to more inclusive advising practices. The Assessment Plan and the Communications Plan draw upon NACADA Core Competencies Model of informational, relational, and conceptual advising (NACADA, 2017). Figure 1 illustrates the 2021 planning process for assessment and communications.

Figure 1
Academic Advising Centre: Mapping Assessment and Communications Planning 2021

Figure1.jpg

Implementing an assessment plan is a longer process than we originally anticipated. At the time of writing this article, members of the AAC Institute team are leading a group of academic advisors in the development of student learning outcomes. While the team considers the assessment plan as a whole and our next steps, it is also important that all staff have the opportunity to engage and contribute at each stage.

As we move forward with the assessment planning process, the Communications Team, in collaboration with the Assessment Team, is piloting a project with newly admitted students. This project is designed to help us understand the impact of targeted communication on the student experience. For the purpose of this study, we have divided newly admitted students into three groups to measure the effectiveness of generalized and personalized communications on student behavior compared to a control group that did not receive the targeted communications. On a smaller scale than Robbins (2009) envisions, the relationship between these two AAC teams is still a “reciprocal one, with each informing the other.” This collaborative approach builds a stronger academic advising practice and supports the UVic Student Affairs’ vision that “Together, we transform students’ lives” (Student Affairs, n.d.).

Attending the Assessment Institute empowered the Assessment Team to support the AAC staff in developing a deeper understanding of assessment. The inclusive approach promoted by the Institute instils confidence in our ability to undertake the development and implementation of the AAC’s first assessment plan. A benefit of the Institute was that it allowed staff to interact and engage with the assessment process. In turn, this has fostered appreciation within the Institute team of what we do and why. Staff were able to consult with experts at the Institute and sit with ideas. Through the Institute, we better understand the distinction between assessment and evaluation, and this has helped us recognize that the AAC has an active evaluation practice for programs, training, and projects in our centre. Engaging all staff in the development and implementation of an assessment plan has invigorated discussions around advisor roles and the student experience. At the time of writing, we are still working towards completing our first assessment plan. We now recognize assessment as an ongoing and dynamic process and one we want to maintain as an important part of our academic advising culture at UVic.

Susan Corner
Director
Academic Advising Centre (AAC)
Faculties of Humanities, Science and Social Sciences
University of Victoria
diradva@uvic.ca

Shu-min Huang
Academic Adviser
Academic Advising Centre (AAC)
Faculties of Humanities, Science and Social Sciences
University of Victoria

Janine Mayers
Acting Manager Students
Academic Advising Centre (AAC)
Faculties of Humanities, Science and Social Sciences
University of Victoria

References 

Higgins, B., & Vance, I. (2021). Assessment: Part of your daily life [Conference session]. 2021 NACADA Assessment Institute, virtual.

Keeling, R. P., Wall, A.F., Underhile, R., & Dungy, G. J. (2008). Assessment reconsidered: Institutional effectiveness for student success (1st ed.). ICSSIA. 

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

Robbins, R. (2009). Assessment and Institutional Research. NACADA: Global Community for Academic Advising Clearinghouse. 
https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Assessment-and-Institutional-Research.aspx 

Robbins, R. (2012). Utilizing Institutional Research in the Assessment of Academic Advising. NACADA: Global Community for Academic Advising Clearinghouse. 
https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Assessment-of-academic-advising.aspx 

Student Affairs. (n.d.). The division of student affairs. https://www.uvic.ca/studentaffairs/about/index.php

University of Victoria. (2019). Strategic enrolment management plan. 
https://www.uvic.ca/_assets/docs/sem-uvic.pdf 


Cite this article using APA style as: Corner, S., Huang, S., & Mayers, J. (2021, December). From daunting to doable: Assessment institute provides framework and instils confidence. Academic Advising Today, 44(4). [insert url here] 

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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.