What a difference a minus sign makes…

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November 10, 2011 by pmilleredu

It was a few years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in one of my graduate school classes and the professor posted a slide that was explaining the results of a study regarding the “Relationship of Health Behavior with Student Success Outcomes”.

The professor clicked through and then left the following slide projected on the screen while he explained what it meant and talked about the implications of it considering our college student population.


This slide was put together by someone else, the professor knew about the study and was quite knowledgeable about the topic. All in all he was one of my favorite professors in graduate school. However, there were a few typos on the slide. I myself am not perfect and there will be typos in this post, despite my best efforts at proofreading.

For those of you that are having some trouble understanding this slide, it is explaining relationships between two things. So when you see the .13 between Life Satisfaction and GPA. That is saying that the higher your Life Satisfaction is, the higher your GPA will tend to be and the strength of that relationship is .13. The higher that number the stronger the relationship.

I would like to draw your attention to Alcoholic Beverage. According to this slide, the better your personal management skills are, the more alcohol you will drink, and the more alcohol you drink, the better your GPA tends to be!

Well luckily, the study did not show that, but quite the opposite, and for everyone out there that eats their vegetables willingly, the numbers for F&V Readiness are wrong too. F&V Readiness stands for Fruit & Vegetable Readiness (how likely you are to eat fruits & vegetables). So according to the actual study and not the mislabeled slide, people who tend to eat more vegetables also tend to have higher GPAs.

The point of this is not to tell you how to live your life, simply eating more asparagus and not changing other habits will not increase your GPA. The reason I post this is because as I work on the Assessment Professional Development Plan for my department, this lesson keeps popping up in my head. It does not matter how well conceived your assessment efforts are, or how well they are carried out; if you mislabel your data, it can make a world of difference.

So as you all carry out your assessments and find those small wins, just keep in mind what a difference a minus sign makes!

Thanks for reading!

Paul Miller…


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