By Staff Writer
The Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning is helping to build a collaborative model of assessment with Yale University directors and department chairs who intend to conduct program and curriculum evaluations. This interdisciplinary, evidence-driven approach involves establishing shared goals, gathering data, analyzing the results, and considering what actionable measures can be taken.
Gathering data may seem like a simple thing, but as the Poorvu Center’s Associate Director of Educational Program Assessment, Meghan Bathgate, points out, it often leads to misunderstandings. “People answer questions in weird ways,” says Bathgate. “So, we try to figure out together what those answers mean and reiterate to create the best data.” Qualified staff from the Poorvu Center assist in the creation of evaluation plans, logic modeling, survey design, and protocol development.
The next step is to find stable patterns in the process, to iterate the data collection, and to analyze the data properly. As Bathgate points out: “data is not the same thing as assessment.” “What are the sticky points within a program?” she asks rhetorically. “What falls flat? What program elements generate the most interest? There are so many questions to ask about the data coming in.” The staff also work with offices across campus, including the Office of Institutional Research, the Human Research Protection Program, and the University Registrar’s office to access and analyze records. “The work that you do varies depending on the relationship you have with different partners on campus,” Bathgate continues. “That relationship is what gives rise to the quality of assessment work.”
When the analysis of the data is complete, department chairs and program directors are under a lot of pressure to act. Bathgate recommends that any changes should be considered thoroughly. “In response to the data about climate and culture, some people jump to conclusions immediately,” she says. “We need more x, more y, et cetera. We might be adding things to policy or practice, when in fact we need to fix what is already there right now. Let’s take a look at the process from different perspectives, take a look at the tone and content of what we are structuring.”
Through this entire assessment process, it is important to keep the goal in mind: improving students’ educational experiences through data-driven assessment. “We want to help everyone take careful steps to reach the next level in classroom climate and culture,” Bathgate concludes. “More data alone is not going to solve our challenges.”