Want Campus Buy-In For Your Assessment Efforts?
Find Out What's Important to Your Faculty Members and Involve Them Throughout the Process
By Raymond J. Rodrigues

From the September 2002 AAHEBulletin.com

At your next assessment conference or off-campus meeting, strike up a conversation with a colleague from another campus and see how long it takes for the topic to move to the difficulty of convincing faculty members that assessment is worth their time and effort.

In my conversations with assessment peers I've discovered that no matter what type of campuses we come from, we all report hearing the same faculty concerns and complaints:

  • "We give grades, don't we? That's assessment. Isn't that enough?"
  • "We don't have enough time to start another new project."
  • "'Outcomes,' 'Goals,' 'Objectives' - all this is educational jargon!"
  • "Isn't this another way of evaluating us, of finding fault with our work?"
  • "Find a standardized test or something, and move on to more important things."
  • "You want us to lower standards? Have us give more A's and B's?"
  • "Our goals can't be quantified like some industrial process."
  • "Let's just wait until the (board chair, president, provost, etc.) leaves, and it'll go away."

It might be tempting to ignore these comments but doing so could undermine your assessment efforts. Getting all (or at least most) faculty members - not just those involved in assessment but everyone on campus - to understand the importance of assessment and to support its implementation is the key to successful assessment efforts.

So how do you get faculty members to buy-in to and participate in your assessment work? You have to understand your campus culture and engage faculty members in ways that will reflect and recognize what they value.

And what do faculty members value? I asked a group of colleagues at the recent AAHE Assessment Conference to help me come up with the following list:

  • Their discipline (sometimes even more than their institution)
  • Teaching
  • Student achievement
  • Collegiality
  • Being treated as professionals
  • Recognition of their efforts
  • Time for research
  • Time for all their work
  • Faculty governance
  • Their disciplinary authority as recognized by their peers
  • Recognition of the quality of their departments
  • Faculty rights and prerogatives

What Faculty Members Value

By understanding what faculty members value and relating assessment to those things, assessment leaders can begin to develop plans that will more likely result in successful assessment efforts.

For example, if the faculty governance process is important to your faculty, can assessment be integrated into that process? Is there a committee charged with overseeing and monitoring assessment practices? Do faculty policies and procedures recognize assessment?

It's also important to find ways to encourage department faculty to recognize faculty members' assessment accomplishments within department governance structures as well as in tenure, promotion, and merit standards.

Campus-based planning and faculty participation in that planning is also highly valued. Faculty members are much more likely to accept processes developed by their peers than those developed by some outside group without their input. Therefore it is essential to support faculty development of the assessment efforts in whatever ways possible.

For example, have the faculty determined whether an institution-wide committee can best monitor assessment? Are there faculty members within the departments who have major responsibility for guiding department assessments? Does the faculty frame the key assessment questions that it wants answered? Are institutional administrators willing to accept variations in assessment practices from department to department?

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