Ironwork archway in Rabat, Morocco

Our Career Center team is often asked: “You do so much assessment. But, where did you start?”

One helpful place to start is: “what do you want to know?” We think about the common types of questions that drive our inquiries. What do we want to know, and who do we want to tell?

There are four main categories for our assessment projects: needs, participation, satisfaction, and outcomes. Outcomes assessment can be further divided into several categories or approaches. As demonstrated in the following table, each assessment type addresses a different set of questions. 

Assessment Type

Questions Addressed

Needs

  • What are students' common needs?
  • How can career professionals best address those needs?

Participation

  • Who did (or did not) participate in the career intervention?

Satisfaction

  • How comfortable or content were participants?
  • How engaged were participants?

Outcomes

  • What does(do) my career intervention(s) do?
  • Why does(do) my career intervention(s) exist?
     First destinations
  • What are the employment, continuing education, and service outcomes of graduating students?
  • What might influence graduates' success in these areas?
     Academic performance indicators
  • How does my career intervention contribute to the academic mission of the institution?
  • How does my career intervention contribute to students' academic persistence and/or performance?
     Learning
  • How will students change as a result of what we do?
  • What difference will the career intervention make in students' lives?
  • How will students grow, learn, and apply their knowledge?

Each type of assessment has value and adds unique contributions to the story of our career development interventions. The examples provided throughout the Scholarship and Innovation website are intended to provide resources and illustrations of how we address the above questions.

But still, you may ask, where can I start? There are two ways that we like to think about starting points.

First, what questions are particularly important to you and your stakeholders? What type of information would help you understand how to enhance your career development programs and services for greater impact, or how to better reach new audiences? Those are great places to start.

Second, we encourage people to start with small, manageable assessment projects that examine “proud programs” – those career programs and services that you anticipate to be successful. See if you can put your assumptions to the test. Is your program or service really achieving the outcomes or impact that you anticipate? How can this successful program be made stronger or even more meaningful? This is a great way to build momentum for assessment efforts.

Finally, remember that each assessment project is like a building block. No matter the size, each project can contribute to a rich foundation of evidence that demonstrates the value of career services and signals meaningful directions for the future.  

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Note: This blog post is based on a journal article. For more information, we encourage you to visit: Makela, J. P., & Rooney, G. S. (2014). Framing assessment for career services: Telling our story. New Directions for Student Services, 148, 65-80.

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Blog entry contributed by: Julia Panke Makela, Associate Director for Assessment and Research at The Career Center, jpmakela@illinois.edu 
Picture by: Jonathan J. Makela, taken in Rabat, Morocco, 2009

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