The Assessment Diaries: Quick and Qualitative

Desalina Allen

Desalina Allen, Senior Assistant Director at NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development
Twitter: @DesalinaAllen
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/desalina

Some of the assessment activities I have shared take time to develop (like the Pre/Post Dining Etiquette Survey) and/or require staff buy-in, training and socialization (like the Resume Rubrics).  Just last week, I decided super last minute that I wanted to assess a networking presentation for international students…last minute, as in, 20 minutes before the event. This exercise is proof that assessment doesn’t have to take hours and hours of your time—sometimes a quick pre/post writing exercise can give you insight into what needs to be changed about a program.

I need to invoke my earlier reminder that I promised to be honest when sharing my experiences with assessment, and this post is no different.  I’d like to say I was happy with these results, when instead I was disappointed to find that I probably assessed the wrong learning goal. I started with the fact that I wanted students to gain a more nuanced understanding of networking. Here’s what I did:

Twenty minutes before the presentation I grabbed some colorful paper—yellow would be used for my pre-assessment and pink for the post assessment. This color choice was not at all based on any carefully planned and research-supported theory that bright paper makes people happy; in fact, I did it to make sure I could keep the two “surveys” separate.

At the beginning of the event, I asked the students to spend two minutes writing about networking. It could have been their definition of networking or just words that come to mind; grammar and complete sentences not necessary. I then did the same thing at the end of the event.

I could have just looked through and summarized key trends from each sample, but I decided to get fancy, transcribe the text, and enter it into Wordle, a tool that generates word clouds.

Here’s the Pre-Workshop Wordle

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And the Post:

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While the results show that I focused on the importance of relationships, I don’t think I can claim that students gained a more in-depth understanding of networking.  What I did learn is that it seems like students already had a handle on the definition of networking, so perhaps I needed to assess their comfort level actually knowing how to network!

While this wasn’t the most successful assessment attempt, I do think that it can be great when you are trying to compare students’ knowledge of more difficult to assess topics (think professionalism, diversity, self-awareness).

Would you try it?

Read more of Desalina Allen’s blogs on assessment!