The Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s (MSCHE’s) Standard 7 declares:
The institution has developed and implemented an assessment process that evaluates its overall effectiveness in achieving its mission and goals and its compliance with accreditation standards.
Standard 7 is an “all-encompassing” standard. It covers all aspects of a college’s or university’s operations and activities, including academic, administrative, and community services. Evaluating an institution’s success in meeting Standard 7 addresses core questions related to its capacity to pursue its mission, its progress in doing so, and its ability to adapt to a continually changing higher education landscape.
When evaluating a College’s position with respect to Standard 7, the outcomes of Periodic Review Reports (PRRs) submitted to MSCHE provide a good starting point for framing analytical questions concerning Standard 7. Useful questions include:
- How comprehensive is the assessment process (assessment used in the broadest sense of the term to concern any review of outcomes)?
- How organized is the assessment process?
- Has the assessment process been sustained and is it sustainable going forward?
- Is assessment information used when planning and budgeting?
- Have changes from assessment results led to increased efficiencies and satisfaction in programs and services?
- Who receives the assessment results?
- Do all new programs and services have embedded assessment plans?
- What performance indicators or metrics are used to evaluate programs and services?
- Has each goal and objective of the Strategic Plan been assessed?
A review of research questions and MSCHE submissions from other institutions can augment those basic questions. Some additional questions that can be useful include:
- Have the processes used to measure the College’s progress toward its mission and strategic goals been assessed?
- How reliable are those processes?
- How can existing data be better utilized in informing planning, budgeting, and other decision making?
- What kind of new data would be useful for further measuring the College’s progress?
- Is every strategic goal/objective linked to shorter-term objectives, metrics by which they would be evaluated, and strategies for their achievement?
- To what extent is the data benchmarked against internal baselines and external peers/aspirational peers?
- In addition to formal assessment activities, where does informal assessment (discussion of a piece of data) occur?
A useful analytical framework for addressing the above questions is an inventory of assessment practices and tools. The inventory could be categorized by strategic goal/objective, unit or institution as a whole, academic or administrative activity/service, and/or MSCHE Standard. The inventory could also specify whether each assessment practice is regular and recurring, along with the date on which the most recent assessment cycle was completed. It could also highlight whether the assessment outcome led to a program, service, or budgetary change, as well as provide information as to the audience of the assessment results.