This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Leader and Staff Perceptions of Assessment and Related Professional Development in Divisions of Student Affairs




Wilkins, Emily Bradford

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


This study aimed to examine the effects of several factors (professional role, perceived level of assessment training, and perceived level of assessment competence) on student affairs staff members’ views of what constitutes effective assessment and what they value in an assessment culture, measured through seven survey constructs. Adapted from Thoennes’ (2017) original study, the distributed survey instrument explored perceptions of the integration of assessment into student affairs work and the development of an assessment disposition. The online survey administration for the current study yielded 953 usable sets of responses from a range of student affairs professionals at SACSCOC doctoral degree granting institutions. Results suggested significant variance between each of the independent variables (role, training, and competency) and the survey constructs pertaining to views of effective assessment. Respondents in assessment leader roles expressed a higher level of agreement with survey items related to assessment values and best practices than respondents in other student affairs roles. Agreement with the survey items also varied by level of perceived training; respondents who felt more highly trained in assessment through certain avenues (e.g. training through their student affairs divisions or through academic coursework) indicated higher levels of agreement with the survey items. Additionally, agreement with the survey constructs varied with respondents’ perceived levels of competence in several assessment skill areas. Respondents who perceived themselves as competent in the areas of interpreting, reporting, and using results; describing terms and concepts; and/or knowledge of values, ethics, and politics were more likely to agree with the ideals and behaviors expressed in the survey items in each construct. Several key recommendations emerged from the study. The researcher suggests further exploration of factors related to differing assessment values among student affairs professionals. Additionally, it would be advantageous to capitalize on assessment training and professional development avenues shown to be most effective by the current study. Student affairs leaders should work to provide robust training opportunities for all levels of staff as well as encourage opportunities for graduate coursework in higher education that would build capacity in assessment. The research also recommends building competence in particular assessment skills among student affairs practitioners, focusing on the weaker skill areas from the current study (e.g. method, data collection, and data analysis). Overall, results indicated a need for student affairs divisions to focus on building capacity at each step of the assessment cycle and striving for agreement concerning assessment values and practices, in order to build a culture of learning and of evidence.