Waterfalls and Cascading Data: A Story of IR in Pakistan and the U.S.

Shajeel Imran Khokhar is the Assessment Officer in the Quality Enhancement Cell (QEC) in the Offices of Assessment and Institutional Research at Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan. Shajeel has completed three AIR Data and Decisions® Academy courses and attended his first AIR Forum in Orlando in 2014. He spoke with eAIR about his experience as an international IR professional participating in AIR educational events. 

Interview by Elaine Cappellino 

ShajeelKhokhar.jpgeAIR: How did you get started working in the field of IR?

I have been working in the assessment and institutional research field since 2009. I joined the field as a research associate. Later, in 2012, I was promoted to Assessment Officer, but prior to 2009 I had no experience in this field. I think my background knowledge in economics and mathematics, a students’ information database (EMPOWER), and a little experience with statistical software such as SPSS and Eview enabled me to work in this field. I began by assisting the director of assessment and IR in entering data, coding data, performing descriptive and inferential statistical analysis, verifying the accuracy and validity of data, and conducting focus groups and internet-based research studies. I also conducted, supervised, trained, and tracked online computerized testing through ACCUPLACER, Versant, and the ETS Proficiency Profile.

eAIR: In light of your Data and Decisions® Academy and Forum participation, do you find any significant differences in how IR work is done in Pakistan versus the U.S.?

I am privileged to have taken three Data and Decisions® Academy courses and also attended the 2014 AIR Forum. In my view, there are not too many significant differences in how IR work is done at Forman Christian College in Pakistan versus in the U.S., except that Forman is in the developmental stages and we are learning from our peers and through professional development training. I started my career under an American supervisor, Dr. Douglas E. Trimble, the pioneer of the assessment and institutional research field at Forman in 2008. In 2009, we manually implemented an alumni survey for our baccalaureate honors students, and now, after several years, we conduct a number of satisfaction surveys for undergraduates, intermediates, hostel residents, entering freshmen, and advisees, as well as a number of tests through different internationally recognized testing services for our faculty and students. One difference may be that the usage of analytical software such as Campuslabs, DigitalMeasures, SAS, iDashboards, and Tableau is much wider in the U.S. than here in Pakistan at Forman.

eAIR: Can you share something you learned at the Forum that you have already applied to your work?

There are some new functions I learned during the Forum that I have applied, such as use of Pivot tables and different statistics in Excel and merged datasets in Access. Two more interesting things I learned are creating dashboards through Tableau and iDashboard analytics software. Many things I took away from the Forum I have already discussed with my colleagues and intend to apply to our work. Some of these include forecasting in Excel, program-level retentions and graduation rates, measuring student success, assessing general education assessment methods, assessing college student leadership development, and student satisfaction assessment.

eAIR: What do you find most enjoyable about your work in IR? What is most challenging?

I enjoy performing different analyses through SPSS; for instance, running crosstabs, correlations, reliability analysis for different tests, and survey scales, as well as interpreting the results of the calculated statistics and assessing student and faculty performance over a period of time and comparing them with their previous performance through ACCUPLACER and Versant. Sometimes, the most challenging for me is to limit the analysis and decide what the best way is to report the data. My former supervisor used to say that some people better understand data through graphical representation, some only through tables, and some through both with an interpretation of the data.

eAIR: You had to travel a good distance to attend the 2014 Forum. What is the craziest thing that ever happened to you while traveling?

There were a few, but the craziest and funniest thing was when a colleague and I were coming back after visiting Brasstown Bald in Atlanta and decided to visit Helton Creek Falls. It was almost evening and it was raining off and on. We drove for quite a while to see the waterfalls and it looked like we were almost there, but in reality we were not even close. Soon the road narrowed and went from a paved road to a muddy and broken path. I asked my colleague if we should we go back as it was dark and we were in a heavily forested area. However, my colleague was confident that we would find the waterfalls and suggested we drive five miles more and then make a decision. Well, after five miles there were still no waterfalls. Those of you who have visited Helton Creek Falls can relate to this. Happily, after driving a few more miles we heard the waterfalls and were very excited. It was worth the long drive to visit Helton Creek Falls after all.