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Assessing

03 May Posted by in Business | Comments Off on Assessing

We’re drawing to a close on the busiest season yet on program review, which keeps our office of assessment and many academic units quite busy. We established a system of seven-year reviews a few years back, and the pace has picked up considerably this year. All programs are involved save those with separate accreditation procedures.

My own involvement is fairly limited. I read the reports, attend a meeting with the review committee (normally composed of three dedicated faculty outside the program — these groups have been terrific this year), and later attend a meeting with our assessment leaders and the department involved, or representatives thereof.

I do get to learn more about key programs through this, and of course I can’t help but think about the process as a whole. Nothing like this greeted me when I entered academic life: it was assumed that appropriately trained faculty were hired; that they assessed student learning as part of grading in their courses; and that really was that. The world has changed, and I have some sympathy with faculty who look back on a simpler age. I certainly recognize that faculty in units under scrutiny, or subsets thereof, really spend a lot of time doing reports, checking data, planning further improvements. I also recognize that with the best will in the world, there’s a bureaucratic edge to the procedure — a certain number of learning outcomes stated just so, with evaluations of student learning stated just so — that can seem a bit formulaic. There’s no question that, if not compelled to these processes by our accreditation requirements, we might do it a bit more flexibly.

But I do believe units learn more about their collective endeavor through the process, and that this can in turn encourage some really useful planning, ranging from establishing better advising systems (a common deficiency) to thinking about how to move a higher percentage of students up to good levels of mastery of key learning outcomes.

I hope also that, over time and in a better economic climate, we can tie more budget allotments and planning to the results of assessment, to do more to help address deficiencies but also to reward program strength. The whole effort is a work in progress, though I’m cheered that all involved seem to be getting a bit better at it as each year passes.