AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | accreditation

Well, hello there! I’m Michelle Baron, Academic Assessment Specialist at Utah Valley University, and an Independent Evaluation Strategist.

I’d like to share some tricks of the trade with you in building a culture of assessment in higher education. As an evaluator, the main idea for me is helping people understand what works, why it works, and how to use the resulting ideas and information to improve programs and organizations. These same principles apply directly to building a culture of assessment in higher education.

Why build a culture of assessment?

Building a culture of assessment in institutions of higher education is a multi-faceted process filled with both successes and potential pitfalls. Evaluators must take into account many internal and external factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • National and specialized accreditation requirements
  • Federal, state, and local government education policies and standards
  • Internal ease of access to information through institutional research or other entities
  • Internal capacity of entities to take the initiative for assessment activities
  • The willingness and ability of entities to use assessment results to enhance student learning and strengthen programs

Hot Tip #1: Speak their language:

Many times organizations do assessment, but because they may use different terminology, there is often a disconnect between the evaluator and the organization in communicating ideas and information. Understanding the terms they use and using them in your conversations helps get the message across more smoothly.

Hot Tip #2: Keep assessment visible:

In the daily activities of faculty and staff members, assessment is often last on their to-do list – if it’s there at all. I make a point to meet early and often with associate deans, department chairs, and assessment coordinators to help them develop and use assessment in their areas of responsibility. Regular communication with these entities keeps assessment at the forefront of their minds and helps them to make connections between assessment and their other activities (e.g., teaching courses, engaging in research, developing strategic plans).

Hot Tip #3: Recognize assessment champions:

There are often many people within an organization who see the benefit to assessment and actively use it in their departments and programs. I take opportunities to recognize these assessment champions in meetings and other public events and activities. This not only validates their efforts and helps them know their work is well received, but recognizing them also introduces them to other members of the campus community as potential assessment resources.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hi, I’m Lisa Bertrand, professor of educational leadership at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO.  For the past three years, I have facilitated the external evaluation process in our department as we prepared for accreditation with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), state accreditation within Missouri, and finally with our professional organization of the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC).

As a department, we prepare leaders for building-level school administration in the Master of Arts degree program, as well as the district-level superintendency at the specialist degree level.  Assessment data for the evaluation of both programs is collected with the use of course and activity rubrics, aligned to our leadership standards.  The department reviews assessment date each semester to ensure systematic use of the results to improve both leadership candidate and program performance. Below are some tips for preparing for an external standards-based evaluation.

Hot Tip:  Make sure you have the most recent set of standards and processes for the evaluation preparation.  During our preparation, the accreditation process for NCATE was altered.  Accreditation and evaluation are no longer based on “inputs,” such as the number of students enrolled in a program or the number of course offerings.  Current processes have been revised to reflect more on “outputs” with curriculum, instruction, and assessment based not only on candidate growth throughout the program, but also the impact the prepared school leader will have on student achievement in PK-12 schools.  Stay updated through webinars provided by the accrediting agency and by reviewing their website often.  In addition, seek out informational sessions that relate to accreditation preparation when attending national conferences. Keep current in the professional field!

Hot Tip:  Perform a needs assessment on current course objectives and the alignment to professional standards.  In order to design courses aligned to the standards, a gap analysis of all objectives was performed.  This collaborative activity provided a means to review current course objectives to determine the need for revisions.  Syllabi were also revised to include authentic activities and assessments designed to prepare leaders for the work of school administration.  Rubrics were created and used to collect and organize data regarding candidate performance.

Hot Tip:  Continue the work of evaluation and program improvement.  Interpretation and analysis of the data occur periodically.  Due to these discussions, assessment rubrics have been revised and activities have been added to provide a more enhanced leadership preparation program.  The department has a structure in place to emphasize the curriculum of our courses (what), the instructional methods (how), and the assessment of and for learning.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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