Open Future Institute Founder Gerard Senehi recently delivered a thematic presentation at the annual conference of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) which took place in Seattle, Washington, this October. His presentation, titled Bridging the Connection Between What We Measure and What We Find Important, was one of many to engage this year’s conference theme on the relationship between the intentions of contemplative methods and their effectiveness.

There are many methods currently in use to assess the growth of students in contemplative practices, but these methods (including journal writing, teacher evaluation, and self-assessment surveys) do not always align with the intentions of the programs that employ them. When it comes to measuring success, the field faces many difficulties: How can we measure personal development? What constitutes as ‘inner growth’? How can we measure the intangible aspects of purpose?

When our team at Open Future first set out to design an evaluation method to assess students’ growth, we faced similar troubles. We knew we couldn’t adapt existing methods – we had to create our own tools to really reflect the goals of the QUESTion project and get to the heart of the development we wanted to support in young people. With help from friends and volunteers, we assessed the relationship between the intentions of our project – including, most importantly, what we hope students will get out of it – and the methods we might use to measure those intentions.

Asking the question, “What are we measuring for?”, helps us define what we want to accomplish, measure, and offer our students. Self-evaluation not only provides students with another channel for building self-awareness, but it allows us to frame our intentions and goals more concretely.