- Student Affairs Assessment: Theory to Practice by Gavin W. Henning and Darby Roberts
Gavin W. Henning and Darby Roberts
Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2016, 356 pages, $35.00 (softcover)
Gavin Henning and Darby Roberts sought to fill in a gap in the student affairs literature primarily for students seeking a master’s degree. They certainly succeeded in this endeavor by co-authoring a relatively concise, yet still comprehensive, book entitled Student Affairs Assessment: Theory to Practice. The emphasis on the latter portion of the book’s title rings true throughout the text, as the book integrates the theoretical aspects of student affairs assessment into a variety of tangible examples accessible for a variety of learners and practitioners alike. The idea of assessing satisfaction, effectiveness, and learning in student affairs is certainly not new. In fact, the authors do an excellent job of tying the book’s topic to the foundational documents in our field (American Council on Education, 1937, 1949). However, many times practitioners learn assessment skills on the job through professional development opportunities or simply from being in a position where they had to provide evidence of effectiveness in order to avoid the budget chopping block. Only in the last 20 years or so have master’s programs in higher education and student affairs required in-class discussions on topics related to assessment and evaluation. This book comes at a perfect time; in an era of ever-increasing accountability to a constantly changing set of constituent groups, Student Affairs Assessment provides a solid foundation for learners to make a wide variety of connections to numerous aspects of the field.
The book is comprised of 19 chapters that align with the Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators (ACPA & NASPA, 2015), more specifically the Assessment, Evaluation, and Research (AER) Competency. A mapping between the book’s structure and the AER Competency is provided in Table P.1 (p. xiv). This in itself is an excellent example of how our work in student affairs assessment can connect with greater organizing concepts in the field. The intentional organization of the book in this manner is a very effective learning tool.
The 19 chapters themselves are organized into five sections. The introductory section “sets the stage for assessment” (p. xv) and provides a broad overview and history of the field (chapter 1), a discussion on the consideration of epistemological issues in conducting student affairs assessment (chapter 2), the overall process for planning and designing various types of assessment (chapters 3–5), and a discussion on a variety of outcomes including not only learning outcomes but also programmatic and operational outcomes as well (chapter 6). The discussion on various types of learning outcomes was particularly refreshing in the student affairs context, as program and operational outcomes are typically of equal importance to learning outcomes for student affairs administrators. The synergy among all three types of outcomes is what sets student affairs assessment apart from institution-level assessment that often separates out the academic from the administrative.
The second section of the book discusses a variety of methods, covering both the theoretical and practical aspects of each. Quantitative methods are discussed in chapters 7–9, and qualitative methods in chapters 10–12. Multiple audiences can use this section of [End Page 308] the book for a variety of purposes. Some may read individual chapters to focus their learning on specific methods. Others may read all six chapters in this section at once to understand the practical implications of using research techniques in an applied manner for on-the-ground assessment of programs, services and activities. The authors do a fine job of relating theoretically complex methodological discussions to practical applications in the field.
The third section focuses on sharing (chapter 13) and using (chapter 14) assessment results. The authors are seasoned scholar-practitioners who take a strong stand saying there is no reason to conduct assessment if the results are not going to be used. They also emphasize that the data do not act on their own, and programs do not improve themselves just because they were assessed, no matter how rigorously. Using the results...