Nobody does assessment in a vacuum. (No, not even you, sole professor teaching that single section core course out there in Area B.) We all interact with others; if not other faculty teaching courses within our academic program or core course, then department leadership, administration, or – let’s not forget the ultimate stakeholders in this whole grand enterprise – our STUDENTS!
Whether you are coordinating a large enrollment multiple-section core course or a growing program with a close-knit faculty who have been working together on assessment for years, it makes a lot of sense to have a communication plan that you can follow each academic year to ensure consistency and transparency when it comes to collecting assessment data, and now is the perfect time to be thinking about that plan.
A communication plan can be very simple. Basically, it's thinking ahead about what you want to communicate, who you want to communicate it to, what method to use to best communicate it, when you want that communication to take place, and what you hope the ultimate outcome of that communication will be. Day-to-day, we take these kinds of decisions about communication for granted, and they happen automatically as we interact with others. A communication plan just makes it all a bit more intentional and, if effective, a bit more successful.
Here are a few things to consider when developing your communication plan:
Audience – Who do you need to communicate with? Are the faculty tasked with collecting assessment data new to this responsibility, or are they assessment veterans? What level of detail will they need? What information should be shared with department chairs? What information should be shared with students? Are learning outcomes consistently included on syllabi?
Timing – Are you giving everyone enough notice for what they need to collect, how it should be collected, and how it needs to be sent to you? Do they have enough details to do their own planning to meet those expectations on the timeline you are hoping for?
Clarity – Are you being specific about things like the format of the data you need, the expected assignment the data is coming from, and how and when it should be submitted to you? Are you putting these things in writing so people have something to refer back to later when memory can get a bit fuzzy about the details?
Reminders – Everyone is way too busy these days, so it is important to send helpful reminders. Not too many, not too few. Maybe a couple of weeks in advance of when you expect the data, send a preliminary reminder so people don’t feel caught off guard. Mark dates on your calendar when you want to send notifications and reminders so you don’t forget to remind others.
Niceness – A touch of humor and kindness goes a long way. While assessment is important, there’s a really good chance it’s not the most urgent thing someone is dealing with at the moment when they get your message. Keep that in perspective with the tone of your message.
Self-respect – Be realistic about your own workflow and process. Ask for the data when you need it to allow you enough time to complete any analysis, writing, revision, and action planning comfortably before the deadline.
To give you a head start on setting up a sustainable assessment communication plan, IAA has prepared some email templates that you can use to send out initial notifications to faculty teaching assessment courses, a two-week preliminary deadline reminder, a day of deadline reminder, and follow-up reminders to those who may have missed deadlines. You can find those templates and more in the Coordinator Communication Kit, now available on the IAA Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Resources page.