Assessment involves the systematic gathering and examination of information related to creating a safe and supportive learning environment for students. Assessing problems helps pinpoint where problems occur and the affected populations. Assessment examines the conditions that put a community at risk and identifies conditions that can protect against those risks.
Assessment helps campus task forces or working groups charged with developing a strategic plan come to a shared understanding of the nature, extent, and underlying issues affecting safety, student engagement, and the environment on campus and in the surrounding community. An assessment of the campus and community climate includes the following steps:
Problem analysis is a review of the nature, scope, consequences, and underlying causes of student problems on campus and in the surrounding community. Without a clear understanding of problems, a planning group is far less likely to develop a strategic plan that effectively addresses those problems. Assessment uses multiple potential information sources, and your campus may already collect these data through mandated reporting or other campus studies.
The next phase of assessment is gathering information on existing resources, policies, and initiatives, which include not only agencies, programs, and policies that have a direct and obvious connection to problems but also other administrative, academic, and extracurricular initiatives that contribute to a safe and healthy academic environment and foster individual resilience. How these resources and assets align with the planning group's problem assessment determines the direction of the strategic plan. Funding is an important asset. For a collaborative effort, many institutional divisions and departments may need to have a budget line item to support the work.
An analysis of the information collected is the final phase of assessment and should lead to an understanding of
- The most prevalent and harmful types of behavior on the campus
- Characteristics of the students and settings involved
- A list of individual and environmental factors that contribute to the problems
- An inventory of the campus’s existing efforts (including their goals and objectives), resources, and personnel to address the problem
- Major gaps in the campus’s programs and policies
Lehigh University's problem analysis provides a good example of using assessment to develop responses to specific problems on its campus (see Lehigh University's Project IMPACT: An Environmental Management Case Study)
Southern Illinois University. (n.d.). Welcome to Core Institute [Website]. Retrieved from http://core.siu.edu/