Examining strategies to work toward consensus

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Question: Reflect on the reading below about common obstacles to assessment. Using and citing the readings, how might you summarize some effective strategies for resolving those obstacles? How might a renewed understanding of assessment help faculty, staff, or administrators to become involved in assessment efforts and work toward consensus?


Some of the common obstacles to assessment include framing credible and legitimate processes, balancing credibility with salience, engaging stakeholders, connecting science with decision making, consensus building and characterizing uncertainty. The assessment process faces obstacles to be perceived as legitimate and credible. Trust comes from the shared beliefs and values held by the scientific community. The values and beliefs shared by scientists may not be known by the policymakers. It may difficult to let everyone who is affected by a decision voice their opinions. The assessment process may also lack people with relevant knowledge in the specific subjects and this means that it may lack credibility.  Some stakeholders may fail to participate in the assessment process. It may also be very difficult to allocate resources and time for a broad engagement when engaging the stakeholders.

Connecting science and decision making may be challenging due to the complexity of various issues like climate change. They might be dissenting voices among the participants of the assessments, and these adversely affect the legitimacy of the assessment. Characterizing uncertainty, specifically determining the kind of uncertainty information that will be important for the decision-makers is a challenge. “While there is evidence that decision-makers have an aversion to ambiguity, uncertainty is unavoidable in many decision-making contexts” (Hutchings, 2010). The level of uncertainty may have to be described before the decision-makers make a certain conclusion.  

The engaging stakeholders’ obstacle is more of a perceived obstacle because all stakeholders may be available during the assessment process. It may not be difficult to get everyone to voice his/her opinions. Getting the assessment process to be perceived as legitimate is more of a perceived obstacle because it is easy to give serious consideration to views given by all stakeholders; the views have to be analyzed before being considered (Kinzie, 2010). All stakeholders may also agree to take part in the assessment process. The obstacle of dissenting voices among the participants is also perceived because the stakeholders may present common views. Not all stakeholders need to have opposing views that make it difficult to build a consensus and make the assessment legitimate.

Lack of people with relevant knowledge in the specific subjects is an actual obstacle to a large extent because there may not be people like scientists who make the assessment process credible. Allocation of resources and time to the assessment process is more of an actual obstacle since there may not be adequate time to carry out the process. 

Some of the obstacles such as engaging all stakeholders are created by assumptions like the unavailability of some stakeholders during the assessment process. Consensus building is also created by the assumption that the stakeholders may disagree during the assessment process. The controversy over-assessment is due to the challenge of being perceived as legitimate and credible. Institutions must ensure that they involve qualified individuals in the assessment process. At the same time, the process should be inclusive and consider the views of all stakeholders. The stakeholders may have varying views about the assessment, and this makes it difficult to complete the process.


Hutchings, P. (2010). Opening doors to faculty involvement in assessment. NILOA Occasional Paper, 4.

Kinzie, J. (2010). Perspectives from campus leaders on the current state of student learning outcomes assessment. Assessment Update, 22(5), 1–15. 

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