Institute Occasional Paper 7: Role of Student Affairs
Student affairs professionals are expected to be knowledgeable about the student experience. Thus, it follows that they can and should play an important role in assessing student learning. In this NILOA Occasional Paper, John Schuh, Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership and Policies Studies Emeritus at Iowa State University and Ann Gansemer-Topf, Associate Director of Research for the Office of Admissions at Iowa State University, describe the contributions student affairs can make to a campus assessment program and examine the challenges student affairs professionals often must overcome to do so effectively. They suggest why and how student affairs educators can document what students learn as a result of participating in a wide range of out-of-class experiences and by linking the student affairs mission to the institution’s mission, purpose, and strategic plan; by forming partnerships with faculty and other administrators; and by sharing their expertise on student learning and development. We hope this paper will persuade faculty and institutional leaders that student affairs staff with the requisite expertise should be involved in collecting, interpreting, and using evidence of student learning for both accountability and improvement.
Assessment in student affairs has been around for nearly as long as student affairs has played a formal role in student learning. But as the student affairs role in and contributions to student learning have evolved, so too have the purposes of assessment in student affairs.
Student affairs professionals have much to offer to the assessment of student learning in the student experience, yet this potential is often overlooked and underutilized. Tracing the intersections of student affairs work with the efforts of broader institutional assessment, this paper describes the significant contributions student affairs professionals can make in campus-wide student learning outcomes assessment—by linking the student affairs mission to the institution’s mission, purpose, and strategic plan; by forming partnerships with faculty and other administrators; and by sharing their expertise on student learning and development.
In order to accomplish this, however, leadership for assessment in student affairs needs to be more consistent, sufficient resources must be devoted to assessment, and assessment must be integrated into the work portfolio of all student affairs staff. Student affairs assessment that can lead to improved student learning asks penetrating questions about the student experience and gathers evidence of students learning and growing through the services provided by student affairs. Armed with such information, student affairs educators can measure as well as demonstrate how their work contributes to student learning.
John H. Schuh is Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Emeritus at Iowa State University. Previously he held administrative and faculty assignments at Wichita State University, Indiana University (Bloomington), and Arizona State University. Among his books are Assessment Methods in Student Affairs, and with M. Lee Upcraft, Assessment Practice in Student Affairs and Assessment in Student Affairs. Schuh has been recognized by several professional organizations including receiving the Research Achievement Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Currently he is associate editor of the New Directions for Student Services sourcebook series.
Ann Gansemer-Topf is the Associate Director of Research for the Office of Admissions at Iowa State University and a Lecturer in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University. She has worked in residence life, academic advising, and institutional research. She has presented at several national conferences and her areas of interest include assessment of student learning, strategic enrollment management, and effective teaching/learning pedagogies. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Iowa State University, an MS degree in Higher Education from Iowa State University and a B.A. in Psychology from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.
Mentioned in the AIR eNewsletter on December 16, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 12) here.
"We hope this well-reasoned and thoroughly documented paper by Schuh and Gansemer-Topf, two highly-experienced scholar-practitioners familiar with assessment in student affairs, will persuade faculty and institutional leaders that the perspectives of student affairs staff must be represented in institution-wide assessment."
George D. Kuh