During April 8-10, 2013, the Assessment Network of New York (ANNY) held its first annual conference hosted by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. ANNY is a professional network established to assist New York State’s colleges and universities in their efforts to assess student learning and institutional effectiveness. Colleges and universities outside of New York State can participate and have participated in ANNY events. Lehman College’s Assessment Coordinator, Raymond Galinski, played a key role in the creation of ANNY and the organization’s successful annual conference. A number of vendors, including Taskstream, whose electronic assessment solution has been adopted by Lehman College, helped sponsor the conference.
Workshops were held on a wide range of topics. Some of the areas covered included “Institutional Assessment: Beyond the Classroom,” “The Big Picture: Student Learning Outcomes and Grading,” “Encouraging Active Learning: Assessing the Effectiveness of Reading Journals,” “Being Successful with Middle States Standards 7 and 14,” “Sustaining Academic and Institutional Assessment,” and “Where Middle States Is Going: An Information Conversation with a Middle States Commissioner.” There were also information consultations with the vendors who were present at the conference.
A number of themes emerged from the conference:
- Middle States is shifting its focus from process to outcomes; a review that will lead to a strengthening and consolidation of standards is underway
- Institutions are engaging in a range of experiments that include more closely aligning student grades with achievement of student learning outcomes, the use of reading journals to enhance student learning, and use of end-of-year writing assignments and rubrics to better understand what seniors actually know
- A growing emphasis on linking planning, budgeting, and assessment for purposes of satisfying Middle States standards 2 and 7 with evidence to support the relationship
The growing attention to the linkage between planning, budgeting, and assessment was discussed in my October 29, 2012 blog entry “Assessment in a Challenging Higher Education Environment.” The same theme was highlighted at the November 2012 ANNY Regional event and the 2012 Annual Middle States conference.
Looking ahead to the forthcoming Periodic Review Report (PRR), some of the issues that could be examined by Middle States in its review of Standard 7 (institutional effectiveness) include:
- What share of the goals and objectives set forth in Lehman’s 10-year Strategic Plan have been achieved, are underway, or have been changed? In other words, is the College making progress toward its strategic goals and objectives that were highlighted in, among other places, Lehman’s Monitoring Report of April 2011?
- How has the Strategic Plan informed the budgeting process? Were budget allocations made in a fashion consistent with the strategic priorities? Put another way, did the College commit itself to those priorities?
- Did findings related to progress toward the Strategic Plan lead to changes in resource allocations?
- Is progress on the Strategic Plan reviewed on an annual basis and in year-ahead planning, whether part of a formal review process, part of discussions related to the PMP, and/or in other avenues?
The ability furnish a narrative addressing such issues, along with supporting evidence or examples, would demonstrate a linkage between planning, budgeting, and assessment. Middle States would be looking for reasonable and sufficient evidence of linked processes and that developments, performance, or new information inform decision making going forward.
Even as it prepares for its PRR in a more rigorous accreditation context, the College can take pride in its progress since its 2009 decennial review. The College highlighted significant assessment-related achievements in its 2011 Monitoring Report. It documented continuing progress and new initiatives related to student learning in its 2013 Progress Report. Strategically, it has also made some tangible gains. Examples include the creation of the STEM Coordinating Council as a step toward strengthening its STEM and health sciences programs (Objective 1.2.3), building “a culture of continuous assessment” to improve student learning outcomes and academic programs (Objective 1.2.6) that was documented in the Monitoring and Progress Reports, the development of an Information Technology strategic plan (Objective 3.1.3), and new workshops offered by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to strengthen faculty expertise in seeking research funding (Objective 3.2.2).