A Love Affair With Assessment

Falling in love, all over again, like you just met yesterday.

Adam Ross Nelson
3 min readMar 22, 2019

On my relationship with methods. Every time I learn a new method the excitement grows. Revisiting an old method is like reacquainting with a close college friend from decades ago. Learning to implement a previously well-understood method in fresh ways… swoon.

Swoonable, no? Notes from PhD program at UW-Madison. Image Credit: “Author’s Illustration” — More on attributions.

I work in higher education. Have been in higher education for most of my career. Over the years I’ve split my personal and professional time between an eclectic mix of research (i.e. experimental, quasi-experimental, econometric), assessment (i.e. program success, student learning), and data science. Here are passages that motivate me. I hope they will motivate you, too.

Program Assessment

Evaluation is an important element of effective student affairs program planning and administration. Evaluation efforts assist in the improvement of pro-grams and services; they also guide administrators in deciding which programs or services should be reduced or eliminated. (Zacker, 1996, p. 99).

By developing and implementing a carefully planned set of activities for the purposes of research and evaluation, the quality of the judicial system can be refined and improved. The weaknesses and strengths may be identified to help determine future directions. (Emmanuel & Miser, 1987, p. 85).

Showing Your Work

Increasingly, however, student affairs administrators are being required to provide evidence of their effectiveness, not only by members of their own institutions but from external sources as well. (Zacker, 1996, p. 99).


Both informal and formal evaluations of judicial programs are necessary to ensure the credibility and the integrity of college and university judicial systems. This process is essential to safeguard the constitutional rights of students and to maintain a quality judicial program that reflects the value of the institution. (Emmanuel & Miser, 1987, p. 85).

Pre-Establishing Measures of Success

The failure of the majority of institutions to evaluate and reward academic advising systematically has been an…

Adam Ross Nelson

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