Assessing Assessment: OIED Begins Major Overhaul

Members of OIED's assessment workgroup

Over the summer, the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) formed several committees to address strategic priorities. Stephanie Helms Pickett, associate vice provost for diversity engagement, training and education, steered the Assessing Assessment workgroup, whose task was to evaluate and improve current assessment practices in OIED.

According to Helms Pickett, questions guiding the committee were, “What are we doing? How do we know if it’s making a difference? How do we know that we should be doing it? How are we using what we’ve learned?” To answer these questions, the committee broke into sub-groups. One group looked at the OIED’s end-of-year reports to see current assessment methods. Another group looked at campus climate data from previous surveys and explored the major themes. Each group returned to the whole with the understanding that the units in OIED differed in concepts and there was no common framework. 

Helms Pickett says, “We had different ways of doing things, which is often appropriate for our different offices and the students they serve, but more often than not, our assessments default back to a survey. In terms of data, we weren’t using that to inform our practice.” From there, the committee began to explore other ways of assessing programs and services. While they looked at more traditional resources, like CAS Standards and Bloom’s Taxonomy, two committee members had attended conferences and brought back information that was critical to the development of a new assessment model. 

Looking Outward, Reflecting Inward

From an NCORE pre-conference session on assessing cultural competence facilitated by D. Scott Tharp, committee member Andy DeRoin brought Tharp’s 3-D Matrix of Cultural Competence, with its sociocultural categories and levels and domains of learning. Sachelle Ford had attended an assessment conference, where she was introduced to the Medicine Wheel model of assessment based on the 2016 work of Marcella LaFever. The Medicine Wheel model includes a spiritual domain in which learning takes place that balances the physical/behavioral, mental/intellectual and emotional/affective domains that most assessment models use by focusing on relationships, belonging, empowerment and the development of purpose.

After much discussion and reflection and with intentionality, the committee finalized the model by blending components they felt could work for all the units in OIED. “In a way,” says Marcela Torres-Cervantes of Multicultural Student Affairs, “This new model is decolonizing the way we assess our programs and showing that learning does not have to look one way.” Helms Pickett echoed that sentiment in discussing “What’s on the Table,” an informal weekly discussion forum for students in the African American Cultural Center. “If I’m a student there, I may never talk, but I’m sitting there taking in information from what others are saying, and the learning that happens after I leave there — the connectedness I’ve made has a deep impact on my sustainability and sense of belonging at this institution. But if we aren’t honoring practices and spaces like that, then a whole group of people who are positively being impacted by OIED experiences is being left out.”

The committee introduced the blended model at the OIED staff retreat in September using a graphic made by Sachelle Ford with the assistance of D.H. Hill Libraries. A series of lunch and learns have been planned for fall semester to create shared understanding of the model and explore different ways of engaging with it and collecting assessment data. The first lunch and learn took place on October 2, 2019. Eulena Jonsson, associate director of assessment for campus life at Duke University, facilitated the workshop on more meaningful ways to engage in data collection. That workshop will be followed by two more. On November 13, Christy Byrd, assistant professor of developmental sciences, will facilitate a workshop on campus climate and the conditions that create identity-affirming spaces. The final workshop on December 11, facilitated by Natalia Lopez of NC State Libraries, will focus on novel ways to share assessment data.

Workgroup members included Sachelle Ford, interim director of the African American Cultural Center, Tonya Hines, administrative assistant in the African American Cultural Center, Andy DeRoin, assistant director of the GLBT Center, Leah Young, assistant director for student transition and success, Marcela Torres-Cervantes, assistant director for community outreach and engagement and Mia Thompson, program coordinator in Equal Opportunity and Equity.

John Pierre Craig is a second-year master’s student in higher education administration and a graduate intern in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity. He is also graduate services coordinator in the Department of Mathematics.