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Measuring a Culture of Evidence

Across the Division of Student Life, conversations on assessment have been increasingly focused on culture and movement toward a culture of evidence for assessment.

According to Bess & Dee, culture shows stakeholders both inside and outside the organization the values and goals that are deemed important by its members. Culture is “like water to the fish that swim in it — usually unobserved and accepted as a fact of life” (Bess & Dee, 2008, p362).

When it comes to assessment in the Division of Student Life, a culture of evidence means that departments regularly use evidence/data to influence behavior and decisions made. In their book, Assessment for Student Affairs, Schuh, Biddix, Dean & Kinzie identify several strategies on how a culture of evidence can be developed:
    • identify program goals in advance
    • appreciate multiple forms of assessment (i.e. going beyond the survey)
    • put someone in charge of assessment
    • report results (“close the loop”)
    • devote discretionary resources to assessment
    • reward assessment with resources
    • celebrate assessments
Across Student Life at the University of Tennessee, conversations are well underway. Attendees to the February 2019 Assessment Champions meeting were given copies of a rubric tool from Spurlock & Johnston to help them guide conversations on the culture of assessment within their own departments. The rubric outlines stages along the journey, beginning with a culture of good intentions, then to justification, strategy, and finally a culture of evidence. Departments will be reporting back their findings at the April meeting and discussing ways to continue movement along the continuum.

The Culture of Evidence rubric is also available on OASI’s website: click this link to access Spurlock & Johnston’s Culture of Evidence Rubric.



Bess, J. L., & Dee, J. R. (2008). Understanding College and University Organization: The state of the system. Stylus. Retrieved from
Schuh, J. H., Biddix, J. P., Dean, L. A., & Kinzie, J. (2016). Assessment in Student Affairs. John Wiley & Sons.
Spurlock, R.S., & Johnston, A.J. (2012). Measuring a Culture of Evidence. In M. Culp & G’ Dungy (Eds.) Building a Culture of Evidence (p.65). Washington, DC: NASPA.