Notes from the ARC: Once Upon a Time...

As an institutional researcher, most of my work in assessment (i.e., the systematic process of ensuring quality and improvement) has centered on numbers and rigid methodology. But that approach only allows for limited understanding of the student experience. It was not until I joined the New York Film Academy (NYFA) that I began to see the value of storytelling as a method of assessment.

A powerful story is one generated by an author with a strong sense of purpose, building characters accountable to themselves and others, who take action using tools necessary to succeed, all of which plays out for an audience the author hopes to affect in some deep way. 

What is assessment after all, if not the story of student success?

At NYFA, we set out to assess co-curricular learning experiences, or learning experiences that occur outside of the classroom, through the art of storytelling. Our goal is not only to tell the story of the student experience, but to create an environment for students to author their own stories. 

These co-curricular learning experiences led us outside of the classroom walls and onto basketball courts, to student club meetings, across study tables, to professional film sets, and into local communities. These are the moments that shape our students and, with our storytelling approach to assessment, we can tell these stories.

With every interaction, students are creating their stories. From advising meetings to writing support, students are expected to take authorship of their experience, build and demonstrate character, take action using the necessary tools, and have a lasting impact on their audience via their service and civic engagement.

Our intentional process included alignment of institutional mission, inventorying program activities, consideration of WSCUC criteria, and incorporating Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) in Higher Education best practices. 

This process led student services professionals to reflect on opportunities to make implicit learning more explicit. One major finding was that learning about diversity occurred when we facilitated interaction between diverse individuals – rather than having explicit co-curricula around diversity, equity, and inclusion. This revelation transformed how programming is created around diversity, equity, and inclusion topics and how we interact with diverse populations.

We encourage practitioners to take the journey toward the storytelling approach and watch as students take an active role in their stories. Watch as the empowering journey unfolds itself from author to audience.

Rosa Belerique, MS, is Vice President of Institutional Research and Effectiveness for the New York Film Academy. She presented at the #2019ARC on Thursday, April 11 in a session entitled, “Assessing Co-Curricular Learning: Inventory and Evolution”

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