Cover Image of ASK Standards BookletUse ASK intentionally as a basis to further develop your assessment knowledge and that of your staff. Endorsed by national accrediting bodies, associations, and assessment experts, the ACPA ASK Standards articulate the areas of assessment skills and knowledge (ASK) needed by student affairs professionals in all functional areas as well as by others. Use ASK to plan staff training or your own further development through ACPA eLearning courses, Webinars, State/International division conferences, and the annual ACPA assessment conference. ASK is your "what do I need to know?" professional development road map! ASK is a member service from the ACPA Commission for Assessment and Evaluation.


List of ASK Contributors

  • James Calliotte
  • LuAnn Linson Coldwell
  • Brian Dusbiber
  • Edward Grandpre
  • Gavin Henning
  • Lane McFarland
  • Alice A. Mitchell
  • Becki Elkins Nesheim
  • J. Worth Pickering
  • Ryan Poirier
  • Terrell L. Strayhorn
  • Melinda Vann
  • Stephen Zerwas

The Context for Assessment Skills and Knowledge Content Standards

Over the course of the past two decades, the public, legislative bodies,  parents and students have shown increased interest in fiscal and  learning accountability in higher education. Initiatives such as The  Student Learning Imperative (American College Personnel Association,  1996), The National Study on Student Engagement (National Survey  of Student Engagement, 2004), Learning Reconsidered (American  College Personnel Association & National Association of Student  Personnel Administrators, 2004), Greater Expectations (Association  of American Colleges and Universities, 2002), the Measuring Up  series (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2004),  Declining by Degrees (Hersh & Merrow, 2005) and more recently  College Learning for the New Global Community (Association of  American Colleges and Universities, 2007) are examples of criticisms  and higher education’s response to better identify and measure  college outcomes. 

In student affairs, the articulation and assessment of student  learning has been especially challenging given the complex psychosocial  and cognitive constructs that are the hallmarks of our work with  students. Messy constructs such as leadership, citizenship, appreciation  for diversity, critical and ethical judgement, and a host of interpersonal  and intrapersonal intelligences present unique measurement issues.  These constructs are found not only in student affairs but also in academic affairs where the constructs may include effective writing  and speaking, team work, critical thinking and problem solving ability. 

While student affairs graduates are taught basic research and  assessment skills in their programs, many more seasoned professionals  look to current publications and professional organizations such as  ACPA assist them with the development of the skills and knowledge  needed to successfully identify, measure, evaluate and articulate  students’ co-curricular learning outcomes. Seminal works such as  Assessment Practice in Student Affairs (Schuh, Upcraft, & Associates,  2001) and Assessment for Excellence (Astin, 1990) have helped to  guide our work in this area. 

While publications and other vehicles have been helpful, the ACPA  Commission for Assessment for Student Development (CASD)  notes that there is no agreement and no clear articulation of the  content areas and proficiencies needed to successfully assess student  learning outcomes in the co-curriculum. With this need in mind,  the ACPA CASD invites you to engage in thought and dialog through  The Assessment Skills and Knowledge (ASK) standards. 

The ASK standards seek to articulate the areas of content knowledge,  skill and dispositions that student affairs professionals need in  order to perform as practitioner-scholars to assess the degree to which students are mastering the learning and development  outcomes we intend as professionals. Consistent with language used in the context of educational accountability, these areas of  knowledge and skill are termed “content standards.” Phrased  conversationally, content standards describe “what you need to know.”  That is, what do student affairs professionals need to know in order  to do assessment?

Proficiency standards complement content standards. Proficiency  standards articulate the degree of expertise of the practitioner in a given  area of content. Again phrased conversationally, proficiency standards  describe “how well do you know it; how well can you do it.” Phrased  another way, how well do student affairs professionals know various  areas of assessment skill and knowledge? The primary focus of this discussion paper is to identify the appropriate  knowledge content areas all student affairs practitioners need in order  to engage in meaningful and useful assessment. The identification of  appropriate proficiency levels for each content area is outside the scope  of this project. However, it follows that once content areas are established  and generally agreed upon, a discussion of proficiency in each area will  and should follow. 

Developed in consultation with student affairs professionals from across  the Association, the Assessment Skills and Knowledge (ASK) content  areas are: 

  • Assessment Methods: Analysis
  • Benchmarking
  • Program Review and Evaluation
  • Assessment Ethics
  • Effective Reporting and Use of Results
  • Politics of Assessment
  • Assessment Education
  • Assessment Design
  • Articulating Learning and Development Outcomes
  • Selection of Data Collection and Management Methods
  • Assessment Instruments
  • Surveys Used for Assessment Purposes
  • Interviews and Focus Groups used for Assessment Purposes