First, our thanks to everyone who traveled to Crawfordsville to kick off the new version of the Wabash Study. We are grateful for the chance to work with you. A couple of quick updates—
We are compiling the meeting comments and will post them next week along with our summary comments. Based on the comments, we will be creating an electronic repository for the institutional assessment portfolios, and we will be sending out more information to clarify the content and structure of the portfolio.
Here are two quick examples of helpful follow-up ideas/questions. Jo Beld (St. Olaf) made an important point about the portfolio at the end of the second kickoff meeting—the narrative should include details about what assessment measures should change in response to the program, course, or institutional changes you decide to make. Susan Campbell (Middlebury College) added in a later phone call that the communication plan should also include thoughts on how the main players in implementing the project on campus should also develop a "team communication plan," of sorts, on how they will keep one another up to date on what they are doing amid all their other work on campus. If you have other suggestions, please add them in the comments below.
Parting point – As we said during the meeting, the purpose of assessment is to use evidence to guide improvement. Too often, assessment is understood as the process of measuring student learning, not of measuring student learning so that you can implement improvements. Of course, approaching assessment this way means that things may change, and change can be tough for any organization.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter wrote a short article on seven "Change Agent Bumper Stickers" for the Harvard Business Review. Kanter's audience consists mostly of business women and men, but some of her points are relevant for our work—
Change is a threat when done to me, but an opportunity when done by me . . . Resistance is always greatest when change is inflicted on people without their involvement, making the change effort feel oppressive or constraining. If it is possible to tie change to things people already want, and give them a chance to act on their own goals and aspirations, then it is met with more enthusiasm and commitment. In fact, they then seek innovation on their own.
Change is a campaign, not a decision. How many people make vows to improve their diet and exercise, then feel so good about the decision that they reward themselves with ice cream and sit down to read a book? CEOs and senior executives make pronouncements about change all the time, and then launch programs that get ignored. To change behavior requires a campaign, with constant communication, tools and materials, milestones, reminders, and rewards.
Everything can look like a failure in the middle . . . There are numerous roadblocks, obstacles, and surprises on the journey to change, and each one tempts us to give up. Give up prematurely, and the change effort is automatically a failure. Find a way around the obstacles, perhaps by making some tweaks in the plan, and keep going. Persistence and perseverance are essential to successful innovation and change.
You can read the entire article at http://blogs.hbr.org/kanter/2010/08/seven-truths-about-change-to-l.html