NOTE: This blog post is inspired by Margaret Leary. During the ACPA16 Convention she and I discussed ideas she had regarding how assessment can foster organizational change. That conversation me to learn more about organizational change and how assessment might be related to it. This blog post is a result of that research and contemplation.
Higher education is in a constant state of flux. This change is natural and to be expected. In the past, learning to adapt was sufficient to weather change. But, given the current state of endless unpredictability, that is no longer true. To survive today’s and tomorrow’s ever-evolving higher education landscape colleges and universities cannot simply adapt reactively to manage change or even proactively to facilitate it – they need to be designed for change (Kezar, 2014).
The structure of colleges and universities makes designing for change challenging. Institutions of higher education are intricate, multi-layered systems. The larger they are, the more complex. A concerted effort is required to reshape a college or university.
Organizational learning is one model for change management. This concept posits that for organizations to be designed for change, they must continually learn what is working and what is not. Thus, by providing staff and faculty with data, information, and inquiry methods they can solve problems to achieve organizational effectiveness. (Kuk, Banning, and Amey, 2014).
This is where assessment comes in. The two main purposes of assessment are accountability and improvement, with an overall goal of enacting change to increase effectiveness and efficiency. The last step in the assessment cycle, closing the loop, is critical. If data is not utilized for improvement, then assessment is not really being done (Henning & Roberts, 2016).
Building a culture of assessment fosters the shared beliefs, values, and behaviors that data should be used for decision making. When such a culture of exists, infrastructure, systems, and practices are in place enabling assessment to be easily embedded into daily practice. Staff then have tools to use data to understand how effective and efficient their programs and services are producing an organization that is constantly learning what is working and what is not. And, this is an organization designed for change.
Assessment can be a catalyst for organizational change.
Henning, G. & Roberts, D. (2016). Student affairs assessment: Theory and practice. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Kezar, A. (2014). How colleges change: Understanding, leading, and enacting change. New York, NY: Routledge.
Kuk, L., Banning, J., & Amey, M. (2010). Positioning student affairs for sustainable change: Achieving organizational effectiveness through multiple perspectives. Sterling, VA: Stylus.