Book by Marilee J. Bresciani, Megan Moor Gardener & Jessica Hickmott
Review by: Dawn Fettig and Lily Board
Academic Advising Center and the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
University of Colorado, Boulder

Edited by Marilee J. Bresciani, Megan Moore Gardner and Jessica Hickmott, Case studies for implementing assessment in student affairs, has collected information in a standardized format from thirteen institutions of higher education from across the United States. The key word in understanding the applications of this book is “implementing” assessment. As a collection of case studies, this book focuses on looking at the process of implementing assessment, not sharing the findings from the assessment process. Therefore, this book is a good resource for administrators who are in decision-making roles and wish to develop assessment programs and strategies related to student development at their institution. As the Editors point out, it is not a “how-to” guide, but rather, is “intended to promote reflection about what constitutes good practice in implementing assessment within students affairs/services at your institution.” (p. 4).

Each of the thirteen chapters of Case studies for implementing assessment in student affairs looks at a different college or university and their assessment program. Within each chapter, the author, who is a representative from the school being discussed, begins by giving an overview of the institution’s culture, an overview of the school’s division of student affairs/services, and an overview of the assessment process the school implemented. The second half of every chapter includes an example of the assessment and how the results were used, tips for implementing the assessment process, and a discussion of barriers that need to be overcome to assess student learning and development in student affairs/services programs. 

As Case studies for implementing assessment in student affairs unfolds, a number of strengths and weaknesses emerge. One of its strengths is the consistent and clear structure that organizes each chapter. This format helps to bring some cohesion to the diverse assessment programs that are shared. For administrators who are in the process of developing and implementing an assessment program at their university, one of the main assets of this book, and its organization, is that it helps the reader to recognize the commonalities among the tips and pitfalls that authors from various institutions see as important to consider when implementing assessments programs. Ironically, on the other hand, while this consistency leads to overarching cohesion throughout the book, within each chapter, some authors jump around between different aspects of their assessment process, creating a feeling of fragmentation. Moreover, the lack of cohesion within each chapter does not lend itself to many specific examples of the findings from the various assessment programs, which results in the descriptions feeling dry at times. However, this lack of disclosed results from the assessment programs is a reflection of the books’ focus on the process of implementing assessment rather than reporting results or analyzing how this aspect of the assessment process could shape the implementation of future results. 

While it may be tempting to only read the chapters of the book that relate to institutions that are similar to your own, we found that its most valuable aspects are the overarching themes that surface as you read. The consistent messages of priorities, training, and commitment to the assessment process that it articulates, will lend strength to any administrator’s initial implementation plans. 

Case studies for implementing assessment in student affairs (New directions for student services #127). (2009) Book by Marilee J. Bresciani, Megan Moor Gardener & Jessica Hickmott (Eds.). Review by: Dawn Fettig and Lily Board. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 116 pp., $29.00. ISBN # 978-0-470-55474-6.

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