Assessing Student Learning Outcomes
Student Affairs regularly measures what students are learning as a result of their involvement in the programs, activities, and services we offer. Our approach to the assessment of student learning is layered.
Questions about student learning many of which are directly related to the four student outcomes identified by student affairs at Northwestern—are included on the Freshman Survey, the Enrolled Student Survey, the Senior Survey, and the Alumni Survey conducted by Institutional Research. Institutional Research, in turn, shares this data with Student Affairs.
Student Affairs also conducts focus groups that explore learning outside the classroom. In the 2010 senior focus groups, students described what they learned outside the classroom like this:
Amazing. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned outside the classroom. The best decision I made was coming to Northwestern because of my extracurricular activities.
We spend so much more time on our student groups and we learn so much more. It's not that we're not learning from our classes, but as a graduating senior, it is a useful skill to say, "I ran this organization." It is more useful than saying, "I put this much time in this class." Anyone who wants to, can have a strong leadership experience at Northwestern.
Measuring what students are learning as a result of their involvement with the programs, activities and services offered through various Student Affairs departments is also a part of our assessment strategy.
For example, on the 2012 Consortium Campus Activities and Involvement Survey, 88% of the respondents from Northwestern “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that their participation in out-of-class experiences increased their ability to work in a team.
Program and Activity level
We also assess student learning more formally, measuring knowledge, attitudes and experiences before a workshop or training program and then immediately after the program, or sometimes even six months later. Here are a few examples of these kinds of assessment projects.
- Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership
The 2012 Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership, a national study in which Northwestern has participated for a number of years, there was statistically significant evidence of growth between the freshman and senior year on all seven factors on the Social Change Model of Leadership, including consciousness of self, congruence, commitment, collaboration, common purpose, and controversy with civility.
- The Red Watch Band Training Program (ongoing)
The Red Watch Band Training Program is a bystander intervention program designed to reduce high risk drinking among undergraduates. Our assessment strategy of the learning associated with this program includes a pre and posttest, a six month questionnaire, and one-year focus groups.
- QPR (ongoing)
QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) is a suicide prevention program that we offer to students, faculty and staff. Our assessment strategy of the learning associated with this program includes a pre and posttest and six month evaluation.
- SafeSpace Training (ongoing)
This program trains students, faculty and staff to provide support, information, and act as advocates with LGBTQ individuals within the university community. Learning is measured utilizing a pre and posttest design.