Developing a Culture of Assessment: Let Your Data Do the Work!

November 11, 2014 Sherry Jimenez

Whether you are a new school or have been in existence for 100 years, building a culture of assessment has its challenges. If you are starting a new culture or shifting an existing paradigm entirely, it is a change management initiative that will take time and patience. We oftentimes get caught up in collecting our evidence and forget to share it with all those having a vested interest in the data; those who can put it to good use in a way that benefits student success (i.e. curricular quality improvements, remediation, etc.). Below is the “Catch and Release” model for building a culture of assessment and may be just the leg up your institution or program needs.

Catch and Release is a recreational fishing technique that aids in preventing the extinction of certain species. Critical to the technique is the use of barbless hooks which minimizes injury to the fish and maximizes their survival. This technique can be likened to data collection and reporting. To collect and never “release” our data is detrimental to sustaining a culture of assessment. The barbless hook? Embedded assessment. To ensure you are following a catch and release approach to assessment culture building, here are some tips to keep in mind:


  • Stakeholder inclusiveness
    • When preparing to collect your data, ask yourself who you are collecting the data for and include those stakeholders in the process of deciding what should be collected and how.
    • Common stakeholder groups to consider are students, faculty, administrators, and accrediting bodies.
  • Determine what should be collected/tracked
    •  Determine with stakeholders what should be collected in terms of student competencies and outcomes as well as course specific data collection faculty desire, to drive curricular quality improvement.
  • Identify your Stakeholder Champs
    • Faculty who wish to challenge assessment processes with new thinking and pilot ideas with their assessment team are great champions for promoting the culture.
    • Recognize these individuals for their willingness to partake actively in assessment activities.
    • Utilize your champions for faculty development of their colleagues.


  • Share the data
    • If stakeholders have not already been waiting for student performance data with great interest due to their involvement in the “Catch” phase, sharing the data could be the hook. It will either be informing for them or it may be identified as needing improvement at this point in terms of what should be collected.
    • The data provided may be very telling for a faculty member’s particular course in terms of how students have fared, what content may need to be revisited in terms of delivery,or reviewed with struggling learners for remediation.
    • Types of data that can be shared are exam score reports for faculty (advisors/course directors) as well as “end of course” test item analysis reports for course directors. Students will appreciate Strengths and Improvements Opportunities reports and question by question reports after each exam. Longitudinal reports are also helpful in giving the students the full picture of their progress at any given time across preset competencies or outcomes for their program.
    • Sharing a year in review look at the data during a college wide retreat each year is another way to ensure you are releasing this information to as many stakeholder groups as possible. Getting perspectives from all groups will ensure a diverse perspective on improvements to consider going forward.

In addition to the technique of “catch and release” being one of conservation, are we not also contributing to the sport? If I caught a fish “this big” and threw it back, couldn’t you also catch that same fish at a later time? As it is with assessment. If we share our data, it allows for more people to contribute to the assessment process for our school or program. Don’t keep your data a secret; share it as much and with as many stakeholders as you can. It may be just the tool you need to bolster the assessment culture at your institution. Catch and release!


About the Author

Sherry Jimenez

Dr. Jimenez is the Associate Dean of Educational Assessment and Interprofessional Education at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine. A native of Upstate New York, she currently resides with her husband and youngest son in Carmel, Indiana. Dr. Jimenez has a passion for student success, is involved with various service/mission projects, and also enjoys biking, reading, and hiking with her family and two Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

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