Assessment Methods

As you prepare for your planning meetings, the following list of assessment options may help you think beyond your usual methods. Our team is happy to assist you – and let us know if you have any additional methods in mind to add. 

  1. Surveys
    • Uses:  Student learning outcomes (immediate and/or after some period of time), student satisfaction
    • Pros:  Easy – especially if on-line (e.g.
    • Cons:  Overused, tough to get a representative response (if not using paper surveys with a captive audience or offering REALLY good incentives)
  2. Focus Groups
    • Uses:  Follow-up to survey or as an initial measure of student learning outcomes, student satisfaction
    • Pros:  In-depth responses, can probe for more information
    • Cons:  Requires skilled facilitator to avoid socially desirable responses or responses skewed by the group or order of questions, time consuming
  3. Clickers
    • Uses:  If you are already using a laptop and projector, use the Student Affairs set of 30 Clickers for instant, anonymous feedback
    • Pros:  Easy and quick, and can help students feel more engaged in your presentation (also good for social norming); software captures data for later review
    • Cons:  Loading software on a new laptop is cumbersome, but once it’s there it’s there;  technical difficulties can occur
  4. Direct Measures of Student Learning
    • Uses:  Have students demonstrate that they met your student learning objectives (e.g. present a resume, use equipment properly, move towards an optimal BMI, etc)
    • Pros:  More reliable than self-report
    • Cons:  Can be difficult to measure some learning outcomes directly
  5. Reflections
    • Uses:  Student provides essay-style response about an experience, generally scored with a rubric
    • Pros:  Engages students in assessing their own development, provides a direct measure of learning
    • Cons:  Students may not be motivated to comply, subjective, rubrics difficult to use
  6. Portfolios
    • Uses:  Students select a representative sample of work over time to demonstrate progress, generally scored with a rubric
    • Pros:  Engages students in assessing their own development, provides a direct measure of learning
    • Cons:  Time intensive for both students and evaluators, subjective
  7. Persistence (Retention and Graduation)
    • Uses:  Tracking the population (or sub-population) of students that interact with your area to determine if they persist to earn their degree from the UofM
    • Pros:  Each department within Student Affairs needs to track persistence for some group of students they work with – this goes to the heart of all we do, and is important for justifying our existence
    • Cons:  Is often difficult to do, but we are working on ways to automate
  8. Needs Assessment
    • Uses:  Defines problems and unmet needs
    • Pros:  Helps to ensure programs and services are meeting needs
    • Cons:  Students often confuse needs with wants and may expect that all their expressed needs will now be met
  9. Customer Service
    • Uses:  Provides information on how students feel about their interaction with services and service providers;  Can also be a review of program policies and procedures with a customer service perspective
    • Pros:    Can target efforts to improve services, show improvements over time, possibly benchmark against other similar programs
    • Cons:  May be time consuming (focus groups, observations, secret shopper reports, surveys, etc), if you don’t get a representative sample the results may be negatively skewed
  10. Environmental (Climate) Assessment
    • Uses:  More global than a needs assessment – measures the environment as the student experiences it, generally through survey or focus groups
    • Pros:  Can help target services and bring problems to light
    • Cons:  Limitations of survey and focus groups methodology (see above)
  11. Cost Effectiveness
    • Uses:  Determines if the area is meeting its mission in a way that effectively capitalizes on resources
    • Pros:  Helps to justify our existence in a tight budget, can help examine programs and services in a new light
    • Cons:   Results may not be favorable
  12. Utilization
    • Uses:  Portrays how many students benefit from your services
    • Pros:  Quick and easy measure of how many students you impact
    • Cons:  Easy to confuse quantity with quality
  13. External Review (Site Visit)
    • Uses:  Often associated with, but not limited to, accreditation proceedings, it can be consulting with any external expert
    • Pros:  Provides objective feedback through a fresh look, helps to gain perspective on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
    • Cons:  Expense, negative results can be easily explained away (“they don’t know the real story”)
  14. Benchmarking
    • Uses:  Compares your data with similar programs to gain perspective on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
    • Pros:  Measures such as the EBI and CAS Standards exist to facilitate the process
    • Cons:  Others must be willing to participate;  can always rationalize negative results (“we’re not really like them”)
  15. Postgraduation Assessment
    • Uses:  Measures the ultimate learning outcomes – how did your area assist in preparing the student with “real life”; can also be used for satisfaction feedback
    • Pros:  Allows you to see how skills and attitudes have, or have not, transferred to other areas;  Students may feel more open about providing honest feedback
    • Cons:  Difficult to get representative responses