Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How I Wrote a Six Year Assessment Plan (And You Can, Too!)

A strange thing happened to me last week. After hours and hours of working on it, I looked at my computer screen and realized I'd finished the draft of an assessment plan that covers the next six years.
It might be obvious from that embedded tweet, but I'm pretty impressed with this document. Not only is it extensive, but it also assesses all the kinds of things that will make our accrediting bodies happy since it is drawn from a core document of academic librarianship: Standards for Libraries in Higher Education. For those of you who've never written an assessment plan, this combination is (multi-year plan that adheres to an important and vetted document) is what we're supposed to be doing, but it's not the easiest thing to accomplish. Another thing you may not know if you've never tried to write a document like this, let me stress something for you: hours and hours...? That's the blink of an eye compared to normal. The first time I wrote an assessment plan, it was weeks and weeks and many, many meetings before I could even start writing. Admittedly, there's a smaller staff at my current library so it's easier to get buy in, but that's not the true source of this plan having been so much easier to write. No. For that I have colleagues and faculty who were part of the College Library Directors' Mentor Program to thank.

What I did came mainly from something that Melissa Jadlos (the director of the library at St. John Fisher College) taught my cohort, but it was such a fantastic idea and so easy to put into action, that I wanted to share it more broadly. In other words, this post is about my experience with creating an assessment plan using her method, but it *is* Melissa's method.

  1. The first thing to do is to read the Standards for Libraries in Higher Education. Yes, even if you've read them before, read them again.
  2. Second, for every indicator, write a couple of sentences describing what you do or do not do related to that indicator.
  3. Third, for every indicator, come up with a way to assess what you do. I was pleased to realize that for a decent number of the indicators, there is only a binary: do you or don't you? And so long as you can prove you do whatever it is, no further assessment will really be necessary.
  4. Fourth, divide the assessment over the years between now and the next time your major accrediting body will visit. For us, it will be Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and they will be here in 2020. If you're unsure when you'll be getting a visit, ask around.
Let me be clear: there will be plenty of assessment above and beyond the 4-5 activities that I've mapped out using the above methods. Some things require constant assessment, and new ventures will crop up and we'll need to evaluate those as well. But this way I know I'll cover the important highlights and I'll be ready to write whatever I need to write the next time Middle States comes a calling. 

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