Due to the declining state of the current economy, a greater demand is being placed on student affairs professionals to provide evidence of the success of their programs, their impact on student learning and development and overall contributions to the undergraduate learning experience. It is a growing imperative that student affairs professionals possess the knowledge and competency to assess their own programs. This study examined new student affairs professionals' perceptions about the importance of assessment skills in the first professional position and how proficient they are in eight areas of assessment. The eight areas were adapted from the American College Personnel Association's (ACPA's) Assessment Standards and Knowledge (ASK) Standards. Additionally, the study identified the delivery methods new professionals found most helpful to learn assessment skills and those they are most likely to use to learn assessment in the future.
Survey responses from a sample of new professionals who were members of the American College Personnel Association were used to answer the research questions. A majority of new professionals had at least a little interest in assessment, spend at least one to five hours per week on assessment-related activities and perceived assessment to play an important role in the future positions. Although new professionals perceived that assessment is important in their current position, they believe assessment will be much more important in future positions. Participants in this study viewed all but one of the 34 skills across eight assessment categories as very important. However, new professionals' proficiency at assessment was considerably lower than their perceptions of the importance of these skills.
New professionals perceived that they are most proficient at learning and development outcomes-related skills and they thought these skills were the most important. Qualitative and quantitative measures and analysis categories were rated lowest in proficiency level among all skills and new professionals rated these skills as least important. Both of the skills in the benchmarking category were also among those rated the least important.
Findings suggest that of the 13 delivery methods on the survey, a majority of new professionals did not have the opportunity to experience six of them to learn assessment. For those new professionals who experienced various assessment delivery methods, those considered the most helpful were shadowing another professional, visiting another institution, attending an assessment specific conference, and assistantships. Training videos and teleconferences were rated as least helpful indicating a possibility that new professionals prefer face-to-face learning modalities.
Most (80% or more) of the respondents in this study rated all of the masters program-related delivery methods as helpful for learning assessment. Thesis work and an assessment-specific course were rated as the most helpful delivery method for learning assessment. Conversely, a course on research was least helpful method for learning assessment. At least half of the respondents were satisfied with the degree to which their graduate preparation program taught skills in six of the eight assessment categories however, they were least satisfied with the degree to which their program taught quantitative measures and analysis and benchmarking.
Conference attendance (on one's own campus or a regional or national conference) was among the top five methods most likely to be utilized in the future (with the exception of attending an assessment specific conference). The methods new professionals were least likely to use in the future for learning assessment were administrative exchange programs, training videos, assistantships, teleconferences, site visits with other institutions and assessment specific conferences. These findings have various implications for graduate preparation programs, professional associations, supervisors of new professionals and chief student affairs officers, which are discussed in the final chapter.