Skip to main content

Assessment Tools

We measure the effectiveness of our work through multiple assessment tools. These tools focus on The Conversation Project class and First Year Experience.

  • Qualitative Assessments

    In the Conversation Project classes we collect various forms of qualitative data. We emphasize that the course takes a process-oriented approach to learning, developing skills over time. Our syllabus language includes statements such as this: This course offers students the opportunity to engage not only in an intellectual and cognitive way, but also with the “whole” of you. We encourage you to see the course as an on-going conversation between the material, the unfolding community of the class, and your own experience, including experience with wider communities.

    Student Reflections: Journal
    Students keep a Journal for the course in which they reflect on the materials and their experience in each class session. They share their entries with faculty and also other students. Sometimes we provide specific prompts, but in general we encourage students to think about the journal as a place to reflect on wisdom and invitations using these questions: What insight have I gained from engaging with the materials? What wisdom have I gained from my own experience, the exercises, and the discussions with my classmates? What invitations for my life are present here?

    Pre and Post Class Assessments
    The pre-class reflection allows us to assess what experiences and perspectives students are bringing into the classroom. The post-class reflection asks about how perspectives have changed over the course of the class.

         Sample Pre-Class Assessment Questions: Thinking about the goals of this course, and about conversations across differences: What do you do well? Where would you like to improve? Why is this work important for your life?

         Sample Post-Assessment Questions: Reflect on your personal growth this semester. How have you grown as a participant in difficult conversations? Reflect on your personal growth this semester. How have you grown as a facilitator in difficult conversations? How do you understand the challenges and opportunities of conversations as a reflection of this class?

         Select Post-Assessment Student Responses:
    “I think realizing that conversations aren’t a performance, or a zero-sum game, changed my worldview profoundly”

    “It's hard to put into words, but the world is no longer a stage that I must diligently prepare, everyday, to present myself on. There’s no right script or technique that will allow me to win over an audience; there’s no semi-final or super round that I need to qualify for. The world is too big for that. Why reduce people to their gaze? I want to see people for who they are. And that has made me a kinder person, overall.”

    “I feel as though I can better ground myself and settle myself during difficult conversations and listen for understanding instead of listening to react.”

    “Throughout the changes that I experienced, I had to make deep conversations with many people. I used the skills that we practiced in class and it made the outcomes of each conversation a little better.”

    Contemplative Practice Logs
    Students try a range of practices to settle the body and mind as part of “Preparing a Self For Conversation.” These practices include different modes of mindfulness, journaling, meditation, loving kindness meditation, joy/happiness/pleasure practices, poetry, and others. The course utilizes what the discipline of Contemplative Studies calls critical first-person learning. Critical first-person learning emphasizes the way individual lived experience can be viewed as the “primary text” of the course and entails critical thinking and self-reflection in conversation with others in the class. The contemplative practice log tracks students progress through different practices: Contemplative Practices Log Fall 2023. Students reflect on their practices individually, with partners, and with faculty.

  • Quantitative Assessments

    We gather quantitative information on the First-Year Experience in collaboration with our Office of Institutional Research in the College Colloquium Survey. The survey asks students to reflect on how their individual and classroom conversational cultures developed throughout their first semester. If you would like to see our current assessment tool, please contact one of the PI’s for the Project, Dr. Wendy Petersen-Boring ( or Dr. David Gutterman (

Willamette University

The Conversation Project