Notes from the ARC: How to Fail Successfully

After receiving a ten-year reaffirmation, people kept asking me how I did it. 

“What software did you use?”

“How did you measure quantitative reasoning across all disciplines?”

“Did all your students exceed your learning outcomes?”

They wanted answers. Instead of telling them “This software did everything,” I told them “I tried several softwares, most of which failed.” Instead of “I developed the perfect universal rubric,” I told them “We developed a rubric for one discipline only to find that it failed in another.” Instead of “all our students exceeded our expectations,” I told them “No.”

As a first-time parent, I experienced a lot failures. I spent a lot of money on the latest and greatest: books, classes, and phone apps - but nothing worked. Sounds familiar, right? Spending money on the latest and greatest: books, training, and software. This is not what the book said would happen. This is not what they covered in class. The advertisement made it look so promising. Everything was trial and error, but mainly error. I felt like I was in over my head. This little human being was depending on me. As a data analyst, I tracked every single behavior of my newborn to see if I could chart some patterns or trends. No, really - I did. Nope, still didn’t work. Recalculate, RECALCULATE! I tried everything, but finally realized I had to. I had to try to see what worked, but I definitely had to see what didn’t work. It’s like assessment; I needed to monitor and improve. 

Here are some tips for surviving parenthood accreditation/reaffirmation:

1. You’ll never know unless you try
2. You’re not alone
3. Share, don’t compare
4. Not everything goes according to plan
5. Every baby institution is different
6. Trust yourself

The one thing that helped me the most as a new parent was hearing others' horror stories. I wasn’t alone. I want to take this opportunity to recognize my good friends Sharlene Sayegh (CSULB, Accreditation Liaison Officer) and Twyla Tanaka (Brandman, Director of Accreditation and Assessment). 

I have the WASC Assessment Leadership Academy to thank for these lifelong friends and lifelong learning experiences. Sharlene and Twyla are not just incredible assessment leaders on their campuses, they are also exceptional mothers whom I admire. Sharlene and I thought of this workshop together because of all those times we commiserated and then laughed about implementing a “brilliant” idea that backfired miserably. We aren’t the first, we won’t be the last, and we want others to know that as well. 

As Yoda says to Luke in The Last Jedi, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” It’s true. Learn from your mistakes, don’t dwell on them. Turn your failures into learning opportunities. If it wasn’t for missteps, we wouldn’t have potato chips, penicillin, or post-it notes. Who doesn’t love post-it notes? Join us this year at the WASC ARC for #FAILEDIT: Strategizing For The Future Using Present Mistakes

Deborah Lee is the Director of Institutional Research and Assessment at Concordia University Irvine. She’s also an Accreditation Liaison Officer and the not-so-perfect mother of Sirius Black (3 years old). Deborah will lead a session at the #2018ARC entitled, “#FAILEDIT: Strategizing for The Future Using Present Mistakes” on Friday, April 27. Learn more here. 

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