UA Little Rock Assessment Partner Program Overview:
The UA Little Rock Assessment Partners Program (APP), hosted by the UA Little Rock Communication Skill Center, works with graduate and undergraduate students interested in learning the marketable communication skills related to facilitating virtual and in-person focus groups, analyzing qualitative data, and presenting findings in a written and oral report.
Students who participate in APP will have a hands-on opportunity to work with participating campus partners in their assessment initiatives. The student-led focus group approach provides our partner programs the unique opportunity to collect candid information in the hopes of better understanding how learning and services are resonating with their student stakeholders.
APP takes student facilitator applications at the beginning of each Spring semester.
Getting involved with the Assessment Partners Program:
Students: APP is for currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. Students who qualify for and complete the program earn a small stipend. If interested, please complete the application: Student APP Application
Campus Partners: Co-curricular programs, campus offices, and academic programs are encouraged to contact Dr. Kristen McIntyre at firstname.lastname@example.org if they are interested in having a student-led focus group to support their assessment efforts. Spring end-of-semester deliverables from the program include a presentation from the student facilitators paired with the campus partner as well as an executive summary of findings. Campus partners have included the Library, eLearning, Safe Zone, the Multicultural Center, and the Office of Financial Aid.
Methodology: Why Use Student-Led Focus Groups
According to the Center of Inquiry (2019):
Focus groups can help us gather new evidence and answer questions with more detail and nuance than we might get from a survey. Focus groups can also be a useful way to supplement the quantitative assessment data we already have. Focus groups allow us to dig into the mechanisms behind the patterns we see in quantitative data to get at the “why” and “how.”
Why involve students in this work? Having students lead and help analyze focus group conversations can make conversations even more useful for several reasons. First, students are more likely to talk openly about sensitive issues with their peers than with faculty or staff. Student focus group leaders may also have a better sense of student culture than faculty or staff and have a better idea of how best to probe to ask useful questions. Finally, student focus group leaders may better understand when focus group conversations are authentic and how to push harder if they are not.
Working with students doesn’t just help you gather better data; it also benefits the students who engage in this work. Learning how to conduct focus groups, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting the results to stakeholders on campus can be a powerful educational experience for student focus group leaders. Faculty and their student focus group leaders often treat the work as a form of undergraduate research. Some student focus group leaders also report being more invested in their education as a result of this experience. Finally, many students who participate in focus groups as interviewees say they appreciate the opportunity to share their thoughts and reflect on their educational experience. (https://centerofinquiry.org/workshop-on-using-student-led-focus-groups-to-support-assessment/#1557178483488-dcf7d0e7-dd9f; para. 3-5)
Others who have used such a methodology talk about the benefits of this to their own institutions. For example, Nicholas Truncale, an Assessment Fellow and Director of the University Assessment Scholars program at the University of Scranton, said this about his work with student-led focus groups (https://centerofinquiry.org/workshop-on-using-student-led-focus-groups-to-support-assessment/#1557178483488-dcf7d0e7-dd9f)”
The University of Scranton greatly benefited from implementing a Student Assessment Scholars program. Our program provides indirect evidence and qualitative assessment data to stakeholders on campus, which ultimately led to university-wide improvements. The data allows stakeholders to undergo reflection and discernment, both of which are integral to the Jesuit educational paradigm and allows them to make informed decisions. This program also contributes to building a culture of evidence-driven improvement on our campus. Students are able to see their perspectives being incorporated into the university decision-making process. Our student scholars credit the program with improvements in their report writing, project and time management, critical thinking, teamwork, leadership skills, and adding something unique to their skill sets.
See the National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment for more information about the University of Scranton’s Assessment Scholars program.
For another example, see information about the Wabash-Provost Scholars program at North Carolina A&T State University.
Questions? Contact Kristen McIntyre at email@example.com.