There has been discussion about the value of educational tools, such as student surveys, as recently explored in this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education. We hear from institutions all the time about the benefits that surveys bring to their campuses. Most recently, we heard from Mills College, an independent liberal arts college for women in Northern California, about its successes with CIRP surveys.
As one of the 1,900 institutions that have relied on CIRP survey data to make their campus a better place, Mills has participated in four of CIRP’s student survey programs (dating back to 1966 with The Freshman Survey!) and the HERI Faculty Survey. Mills was also one of the first to recognize the value in assessing campus climate and diversity through our newest Diverse Learning Environment Survey.
Find out why Mills’ IR Director, Alice Knudsen and Research Analyst, Talia Friedman use CIRP surveys.
Q: Why have you been a CIRP user for so long?
A: The mantra in IR is evidence-based decision making is key. It’s incredibly important to have both direct evidence and indirect evidence for purposes of assessment and general education about your student population. We rely on CIRP as our indirect evidence. With some tools, you can only see the opposite ends of spectrum. But with CIRP, you get the entire spectrum of the student experience.
Q: What have CIRP surveys told you about your students?
A: We learned a lot about students’ perceptions of themselves, especially in terms of their writing and leadership abilities. We found that student perception of their writing abilities was parallel with what we found in assessing their actual work, which told us that students were not feeling that secure with their writing.
We also found that students weren’t feeling empowered to take on leadership roles. As a women’s college, leadership is an important part of our mission.
Q: What have you done to address some of the findings?
A: We now offer extra credit hours to help students with the mechanics of writing and have created leadership opportunities within the division of student life that focuses on leadership in student groups.
Q: What prompted Mills to participate in the Diverse Learning Environments Survey?
A: One area that CIRP results (from the Your First College Year Survey) illuminated for us was discriminatory practices on campus. Students indicated they were feeling discriminatory feelings from faculty, staff and students. Since we don’t like making assumptions, we decided the DLE would be a perfect mechanism to pinpoint the number of students who seem to think there is an issue on campus.
Q: How has CIRP helped with the accreditation process?
A: When I began this job, WASC was not happy with us. Mills had not done any assessment before and so I had to jump in and accomplish a lot fast. But since I was new to IR (I was formerly a registrar) this was all new to me. I don’t know how we would have fared without CIRP surveys and all the great reports, PowerPoint presentations that seemed to just arrive at my doorstep when I needed them. What would have been a daunting task was actually made very easy.