Little things can make or break a large project, so it would be a shame if ill-prepared reports undid all the hard work you put into an assessment effort.

John H. Schuh, author of Assessment Methods for Student Affairs, has offered the following tips for getting your assessment results into the right hands in the right way.

Before you start:

  • Don’t do an assessment nobody wants. Check with higher-ups that your project is actually needed and that your institution would be able to act on the findings the project yields. For example, if you do a study about salary equity and find that salaries are extremely out of balance, does your institution have the resources to correct the problem?
  • Know if your state has “sunshine” laws that require you to make findings publicly available.

When writing reports:

  • Craft titles that are engaging and action oriented. Don’t use academic journal titles as models.
  • If your study findings will affect a group that was not included in the study creation and execution, give that group a heads-up. For example, if you learn from a campus climate study that some students have concerns about campus law enforcement, let law enforcement know about the findings before making them public. The group might be able to help you craft recommendations (see below) or otherwise respond to the problems.
  • Make recommendations for actions based on your findings. If you don’t, others on campus will—and you might not agree with their suggestions.
  • Note in your report if you needed to make compromises in your methodology to make the assessment possible logistically. The note will let readers know you are aware of your finding’s limitations.
  • Write multiple reports that match different audiences’ needs and interests. For example, if you’ve conducted a study of student satisfaction with residence hall life, your resident directors will probably need more in-depth reports than will your dean of students, who will probably want only a quick rundown of findings and major recommendations. (You can include a link to a full report if people want to see additional details.)

When preparing and giving presentations:

  • Be respectful when you encounter a different point of view. Try a response such as, “You might be right, but my analysis of the situation is …”
  • Consider using a “structured” question-and-answer session in which you ask the audience questions such as, “Was there anything surprising to you?” or “What do you think of the recommendations?”
  • Record, transcribe, and post the question-and-answer session.

Reprinted from “How to Avoid Common Assessment-Reporting Pitfalls,”  Campus Law Considered, May 12, 2015.