SART Foundations: What is Assessment?
Before we jump into talking about types of assessment, I want to spend a little time chatting about what we mean when we say “assessment” or “evaluation.” First, we aren’t talking about complex research that you need a professional statistician to conduct. We’re talking about the ability to ask critical questions and set up clear processes to find consistent information from those impacted by our Sexual Assault Response Team’s (SART) decisions.
- asking focused, clear questions about the impacts, results, or effectiveness of changes we have made as a team
- focused on listening, learning, and reflecting on the teams’ work with the intent to make new changes based on the information gathered during the process
- the use of pre-determined approaches that will help us understand if changes did what we hoped they would do in the response
- a judgment that uses clearly chosen criteria to understand if and to what degree our changes have been good, effective, or useful to victims/survivors
- evidence gathering to make better, more informed decisions as a team
If you can tell me your favorite coffee place, your favorite pizza place, or your favorite place to go on a walk, then you can do assessment work! That’s because you choose a few key qualities (criteria) about your subject, you choose a method to test those qualities, and finally, you make some decisions about the evidence you’ve gathered.
Let’s look at it in practice: for my walks/runs/hikes, I prefer a forested area, with few people, and moderate hills. So, every place I walk, I evaluate about a 2 mile path for those factors. From there, I choose which walk has the “best” of each of those criteria to choose my favorite place. That’s evaluation and assessment in everyday life!
Now, the same goes for SART work.
- Choose an area to assess—change to policy, new procedures, new referral processes, the team’s relationships.
- Choose your criteria—what matters most.
- Choose your approach to testing the criteria—make a plan of how to do the work
- Listen, reflect, and learn from the information gathered
- Use your learning to make new changes.
A simple example in practice with SART work: For the team’s relationships, we know the importance of open communication, routine meetings, and a clear understanding of one another’s roles. So, to evaluate these items, teams can look at their meeting attendance and schedule, ask about the efficacy of current communication practices, or determine every member’s understanding the roles each discipline plays in sexual violence response.
Now, hopefully you and your team feel a little more confident in defining assessment. Ideally, that also means you are ready to talk a little more specifically about the most common methods of assessment, which will be discussed in the next two posts for the month!