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Assessment: Making Meaning Out of Numbers

Assessment: Making Meaning Out of Numbers

Assessment data is exploding for most colleges.  Institutional research departments gather mountains of data.  That data is aggregated and reported in various ways.  Faculty are given neat spreadsheets and voluminous packets of information with numbers—both for their own programs and often benchmark data.  

So now what? 

Ostensibly assessment data should help faculty improve student learning outcomes.  But it only does that when faculty are given the opportunity to review, make sense of, and plan ways to use the data.  Gathering data is important—but if the data is not used, learning may not improve.

Numbers for Continuous Improvement

The WIDS Outcome Assessment Plan helps teachers think about what the assessment numbers mean and plan ways to improve them if necessary. 

Blackhawk Technical College in Wisconsin had an AQIP action project to improve student success rates.  They used WIDS to help them achieve their goal.  Why did they choose WIDS?

  • WIDS program data included all of the current organization and program level outcomes.  This made it easy for teachers to Making-Meaning-From-Numbersfocus on student learning outcomes already in place.
  • WIDS was accessible to all faculty.  A goal of the college was to make Learning Outcome Plans visible across the college to facilitate sharing of best practice.
  • WIDS provided a place for the narrative.  The WIDS Outcome Assessment Plan template provided a step by step process for faculty to review their data and make plans for improvement.  “We had lots of data.  But WIDS gave us a place for teachers to write the narrative around the data.  To think through what the data meant and how they would use it,” commented Lynn Neitzel, Manager of Teaching Support Services at Blackhawk.
  • WIDS reports made it easy to look at the assessment plans across programs for common themes.  Lynn noted, “By generating a WIDS systemwide report we could see where students are struggling across the college.   Now we can provide professional development in just that area.”

Download a free sample WIDS Outcome Assessment Plan. 

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