Innovating Assessments

November 01, 2016 - 4 minute read


As student-leaders on campus, Celina Stratton and Danny Balogh were given the task of creating assessment tools to measure students’ enjoyment and growth in intramural sports and Concordia Cares, a community service program.

What they didn’t expect was to make a presentation of their findings to educators at a conference in Memphis.

“They were mini-rock stars,” says George Wright, administrative dean of the School of Business. “Instructors came up afterward and said, ‘How did you do that?’”

The unusual opportunity began with a simple choice CUI made during its recent WASC accreditation: to allow students instead of staff to assess extracurricular and co-curricular activities and design effective surveys to evaluate student satisfaction.

“What Concordia is doing differently from other schools is getting students involved in the assessment process,” says Celina, a senior studying mass communication and marketing. “Rather than supervisors and staff assessing us, why not have the leaders of these programs do it themselves? It was a pretty big learning curve to grasp that, but now it’s an expectation going into student leadership that you have to complete these assessments. Students aren’t really doing that [at other schools], which is why they felt it was worthy to have us at the conference.”

Celina created and conducted a survey to measure the overall effectiveness of intramural sports at CUI. Students were asked if they had improved in areas such as teamwork, time management and cooperation skills. She graphed the results and was able to say with confidence that the intramural program improved students’ development skills.

Danny, a business management major, was student coordinator of Concordia Cares, the community service outreach program within CUI’s Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program. She created tools to assess how students developed through the year.

“For me, assessing Concordia Cares was a big process,” Danny says. “We were thrown into it. We started by developing surveys.

We preferred to verbally go over these with students. We wanted to get statistics on how many students were actually coming, the response rate, how many would return, what they learned and which events were successful or not. We had follow-up groups to debrief about how the different events impacted them and what they had learned. It helped to shape the program for the next year.”

Wright says he had never seen students present at the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) conference, but when the call came for presenters, he and Deborah Lee, director of CUI’s institutional research and assessment, thought that CUI’s innovation merited attention—and that Celina and Danny should be the ones to talk about it.

“It is not common for students to do this,” says Lee. “The IACBE conference is attended by professors, administrators and deans. If there are students in these types of conferences, they sit on a panel but never lead their own presentations. Celina and Danny did an entire workshop on their own, thirty-five minutes by themselves. They fielded questions really well.”

Celina says it was “definitely nerve-wracking to present at an accreditation conference, but the process became less intimidating because we practiced and received feedback from business educators at CUI. We were the only student presenters at the conference, and that alone was an awesome feeling. I felt respected, too. Experienced educators were looking to us for our input. We wanted to help them just as much as they wanted to help their own students. We received a lot of positive feedback from our presentation. It was a really cool thing.”

Educators were particularly interested in how to successfully set up systems so students at their institutions could conduct assessments.

“The fact that we were assessing extracurricular activities on our own was definitely surprising to them,” Danny says. “They asked a lot of questions about what is to come, how the program would evolve and how we would keep assessing it.”

It is not common for students to do an entire [conference] workshop on their own.

Wright says CUI’s School of Business is becoming a pacesetter for effective assessment internally and externally.

“We have formalized the process and have a lot more, and a lot clearer, digestible information that we can make improvements with” compared with previous years, he says.

Putting some assessments in student hands helps students learn to “apply this in everyday life and at their job,” Lee says.

Celina says her experience at the conference “allowed me to practice networking, people skills, presentation skills, and much more. Professors teach you about these skills in class but actually putting them to use in a real-life setting was experience you can’t have in the classroom.”

Danny admits that “many times I thought to myself before I got to Memphis, ‘How can I get out of this?’ It was super-overwhelming. But once we got there it was a great feeling, very exhilarating. I wouldn’t hesitate to go speak about assessment again. I used to be terrified but I don’t get those jitters anymore. It’s more excitement.”

The pair is now collaborating on a paper to be peer-reviewed and perhaps published in an academic journal. It explains how co-curricular activities provide learning experiences beyond the classroom in a student’s overall development.

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