Recently I attended the Annual Meeting of the North Central Association-Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. Upon returning from this conference, several of my colleagues inquired if I learned anything. It has taken me a few days to form a response. What I learned is:
I'd like to use this issue of the DATAWave to discuss each of these points. To the non-faculty reader, I'd encourage you to read on, as assessment does include you. Not only because your office or program will be directly involved, but as members of a community of learners you share in this responsibility.
It is difficult to find absolutes in the assessment field. Often I'm reminded of the parable which counsels that "the blind lead the blind into a ditch." I can only share with you that all indicators are we are doing the right thing. To support this, I am sending out the chapter on assessment to all department chairs, and have included in side bars the Five Evaluative Questions For Assessment Plans, and the Hallmarks of Successful Program to Assess Student Academic Achievement (all from the Handbook of Accreditation:1994-1996). This flexibility also is associated with lower objectivity, which makes it more difficult to know what objective measures we need to meet.
In the fall of this academic year, the Assessment Committee adopted a framework for the development of outcomes assessment plans. Our plans are characterized by a mission statement that is consistent with that in the catalog, a program goal that is consistent with the mission statement, intended outcomes/objectives, assessment criteria and procedures, and plans for implementation. This format allows us to address many of the Hallmarks and previously reported characteristics of effective plans. As I review the efforts of other institutions, many of which have been approved, I believe that once fully implemented, we can be proud of our plans.
Most of us are aware that a plan for academic assessment is to be submitted to NCA in June. Assessment does not end here. NCA has clearly articulated that both institutional effectiveness and academic assessment are to be addressed. Much of the work accomplished in the development of academic outcomes will be suitable for addressing Criteria Three and Four of the Self-Study. But it does not stand alone in our assessment and effectiveness efforts. I suspect that as an institution, we best serve ourselves and constituencies by replicating our assessment activities for all University departments and programs...from Housing to Accounting to Academics to Building and Grounds.
Eastern is positively regarded for its assessment efforts that demonstrate commitment and innovation. We have not done a very good job of sharing the results of assessment with students and others. Neither have we done a particularly good job of showing the changes that have occurred in our programs because of assessment; though it certainly exists.
An example would be our nine year commitment to assessing general education. While this data has been reviewed by many, it has not been systematically shared. Though this newsletter is a small effort to address this concern, all members of the institution must conscientiously share their results, to make public the areas where they excel and the areas that need improvement.
Students need to not only be involved in the planning of our efforts, but encouraged to actively and positively participate. I would suspect that the biggest barrier to this is the attitude towards assessment of some staff, faculty, and administration. Each of us are responsible to convey to students that assessment will lead to institutional improvement. I write this because Everett Frost and George Mehaffy have assured me that this is so.
Associate Directors Spangehl and Mason of NCA presented a progress report on assessment. I felt their comments on assessment tools was worth repeating. First, it was pointed out, that there are no specific instruments and procedures. Second, varied and multiple approaches to assessment are encouraged. Third, it is desirable to ensure that the tools (measures) are appropriate. Fourth, it is important to determine that the measures are realistic--i.e., can they be managed, and supported. Finally, it is important to ensure that the measures occur with appropriate frequency.
Spangehl and Mason also share some qualities of good assessment plans, which in some cases emphasize what I have already written, but nonetheless are worth repeating. The qualities they mention are:
The history and current improvements of Eastern's assessment practice is excellence. Continued commitment of all members of the campus is very much required. My visit to the NCA Annual Meeting confirms this, and I am pleased to share these results with my colleagues.
|NCA Hallmarks of Successful Programs to Assess Student Academic Achievement|
|Five Evaluated Questions for Assessment Plans|