Book by John Schuh
Review by Anita Carter
University Advising Center
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI

A collection of 10 articles on assessment in student affairs by leading experts in the field, this journal is packed with essential information for anyone interested in getting into assessment.  Its primary focus is on assessing student affairs activities, but could translate to any assessment activity.

The most interesting chapters for me were chapters 1, 3, and 6, each of which gave some good concrete information that was especially useful to me as I start an assessment project for our office. The article by A. M. Gansemer-Topf provides a good overview of how assessment differs from research and how they support each other. She describes research as a compass and assessment as the magnifying glass (p.62).  I really appreciated how she broke down each of them into understandable concepts and how research without action is simply data collection (p.63). Gregory Blimling echoes the idea that assessment is about more than collecting data. It includes using that data to effect changes that produce measureable improvement. He further recognizes that apportioning what part of students’ learning is independently attributable to which college experience is a difficult process, but that assessment is still necessary and should be a routine part of student affairs practices. He highlights the politics of assessment and why it may sometimes be better not to know some information (p. 13).Laura Dean provides an excellent discussion of how to use the CAS standards in assessment projects. She brings out some good points regarding the downside of using CAS standards for assessment. She provides a good discussion on establishing a self-assessment team and guidelines for conducting self-assessment. She suggests that an assessment plan needs to become a living document, revisited regularly, incorporated into the unit function, and the focus of setting priorities (p.31).

I especially was interested in the review of the types of assessment presented in the journal, some of which I had never learned about in my graduate school assessment course. I was already familiar with needs assessment, outcomes-based, and satisfaction assessment, but the utilization assessment was new to me and particularly interesting.  In this type of assessment I can examine the use of services or programs, although I can’t attribute cause and effect with  utilization assessment, it does give me another tool to get insight into effectiveness. There is also a good discussion about quantitative and qualitative evidence, and using documentation in assessment.

One overarching theme of the journal is that assessment has to become a campus-wide activity fostered by a climate of assessment, where assessment is a routine part of what we do.  Assessment is a scary word for most of us in advising, but this journal can go a long way in dispelling our discomfort by giving guidance and some specific ways to conduct assessment.
Although I have only highlighted three articles specifically, the entire journal is packed with good ideas and provides an excellent resource for both beginners and experienced professionals.  I consider this one of my best resources to “go to” when formulating an assessment plan and am grateful to be able to add it to my assessment library.

Selected Contemporary Assessment Issues. (2013). Book by John Schuh (Ed.), Review by Anita Carter. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.  112 pp., $29.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-118-73227-4
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