What Matters to Students? Using the Critical Incident Technique in Student Affairs Assessment

with Jӧrg Vianden, Lisa Erwin

About This Course

This briefing provides a detailed overview of the critical incident technique (CIT), highlights its benefits and limitations, and offers specific recommendations for applications of the CIT in higher education/ student affairs assessment practice.

Since the 1950s, the critical incident technique (CIT) has aided researchers in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of qualitative data. In a higher education/ student affairs context only a very small number of CIT studies exist. This workshop provides a detailed overview of the CIT, highlights its benefits and limitations, and offers specific recommendations for applications of the CIT in higher education/ student affairs assessment practice.

The CIT is unique in that it provides the participants the opportunity to identify the experience, event, encounter, interaction, or incident most memorable, significant, effective, or critical to them. CIT studies in higher education and student affairs settings could examine student-faculty or student-staff interactions, student satisfaction with any student- or academic affairs unit or programs, or student learning or development in any university-related activity in- or outside of the classroom. Aside from instrumental data on student learning and development, CIT data provide instructive data to be used for institutional marketing purposes.

The presenters have extensive CIT experience and have used the CIT with nearly 200 participants at four U.S. and three German institutions. The presenters' CIT research has resulted in three presentations at national conferences, and two peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of Student Affairs Research & Practice.

The University of Minnesota-Duluth (UM-D) used a CIT study to better understand how its students connect to, commit to, and trust their university. Under the direction of Dr. Erwin, the UM-D Division of Student Affairs used the findings to work on strategies to improve the student experience and retention. She will identify the steps taken at UM-D to conduct the study and what strategies resulted from the results. Dr. Vianden will describe the conceptual and theoretical foundations for CIT and review the methodology of the research projects. The bulk of the workshop will be spent assisting attendees to conceptualize specific strategies for a CIT assessment on their own campus or in their divisions.

Who Should Attend

This Live Briefing is useful for student affairs professionals responsible or interested in program assessment and evaluation.


This session is $99 for NASPA members, $169 for non-members. Pricing will be accurately reflected in your cart.

Accessing the Presentation

Once you complete your registration, you will be able to access the course by clicking on the "Login" button at the top of this page (or any page on olc.naspa.org).

  • You will be asked to login with your NASPA user name and password. Once you have done so, you will hit continue and be redirected to your dashboard in the Online Learning Community.

  • You will find the session listed under "Enrolled."

  • This session is recorded. By clicking into, "Contents," you will find the session recording, resources, and PowerPoint slides. You may view the materials as many times as you'd like, at whatever pace you would like.

  • If you have any difficulty accessing the materials, please contact Jace Kirschner (jkirschner@naspa.org).

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