Assessment, Accreditation, and Institutional Research Data and Process Review

Institutional effectiveness should be about more than changing just because external accrediting bodies tell us to. When processes are designed to actually provide useful data back to the individuals on campus that can impact change, everybody wins. Assessment and accountability aren’t possible unless we get buy-in from relevant campus stakeholders. This includes faculty, staff, administrators, and even students. From the faculty perspective, assessment needs to be meaningful. If data is seemingly being produced to live in a filing cabinet or cumbersome system from which no usable results emerge, it’s hard to get excited. Assessment doesn’t have to focus on institution-wide themes even. It can be relevant to an individual faculty member’s personal pedagogy. Or curricular design. Or even student success. It is essential that we work to limit faculty concerns with assessment. Results of assessments shouldn’t be viewed as an element of faculty evaluation. The process should be made as streamlined as possible to minimize duplicative efforts and unnecessary bureaucracy. And it should be genuine. The faculty member should be able to easily translate what they do in their classroom to what they report to an assessment office.

Meaningful assessment and accountability means intentionality. A well-grounded, informative assessment process will not just emerge on campus. It takes trust. It takes tools that minimize the process. It takes providing useful information back. No one likes doing something simply because they're told they have to; it runs counter to our very human nature. But, if you build a culture that shows why assessment matters, you'll find a campus community more willing to meaningfully engage with your office and your efforts. Sound assessment and regional accreditation strategies are critical for all institutions of higher education today. Public or private. Large or small. Well-resourced or not. Every decision made on campus involves time and money. In an environment characterized by increasing demands and limited resources, setting forth an intentional, vision-based path through both areas is essential. But the process has to be meaningful.

All of this isn't to say that accreditation doesn't matter. We know it does. As demanding as it might be to fulfill the requests and standards set forth by SACSCOC, their stamps of approval equate with financial aid, which assures we enroll students and even have jobs. But the key is making it so our efforts every day are geared at assuring we advance our campus in an intentional, mission-driven way. If we take care of the day-to-day in a meaningful, proactive way, accreditation reports should be opportunities to brag. Accreditation, after all, should be more about progress than merely compliance. But compliance clearly matters, as well. And to be prepared to meet the demands of SACSCOC, we need to ensure that our entire campus community is aware of the purpose of regional accreditation, their expectations, and how our collaborative, collective work can help eliminate the anxiety surrounding these efforts. With shared knowledge, a campus culture can emerge that positively positions the campus into the future.

Assessment Process Review

While every campus will create a process unique to their culture and needs, there is a basic formula most campuses follow. A well-designed assessment process can ensure faculty and staff buy-in and the submission of results that benefit students, faculty, staff, academic programs, and the institution as a whole. This review will involve examining current practices and leadership of assessment and institutional effectiveness (both academic and administrative) on campus along with faculty and staff attitudes toward these efforts. It will also include the making of recommendations that could be followed to improve assessment on campus based on best practices for institutions of higher education, especially in the SACSCOC accreditation region. Specific activities include:  

  • Holding on-campus conversations with relevant assessment and institutional effectiveness stakeholders

  • Examining recent years of assessment plans and reports across campus

  • Examining course syllabi to determine how assessment is presented by faculty to students

  • Examining administrative outcomes of offices across campus

  • Assessing key components of assessment on campus, including available mission statements, learning outcomes, curriculum maps, reporting templates, and sample evidence or documentation of assessment

  • Examining the use of the assessment management system for faculty and staff assessment efforts

  • Examining current policies and procedures related to and/or impacting the assessment process

  • Measuring faculty and staff attitudes toward assessment on campus through a campus-wide survey

  • Determining potential areas for faculty and staff professional development on campus related to assessment

Assessment consulting tends to come in one of three varieties:

  1. On-site visits and consulting

  2. Telephone or Skype consulting

  3. Document and process review

On-site visits typically involve a series of focused meetings with campus groups related to assessment issues and concerns. Telephone or Skype consultations involve a group meeting where we can cover a variety of topics of interest to the campus community. Documentation and process reviews involve reading and examining assessment and planning-related documents.

Regardless of the type of consultation desired, it will include an advanced review of materials and come wiith a post-report, which will sumarize findings and suggestions. Beyond documents specific to assessment or accreditation, I prefer to also review documents that help me get a sense of your institutional culture. This allows me to best understand who you are and what you are attempting to do.

Potential topics for assessment consultation include:

  • Assessing student learning in academic programs

  • Assessing student learning in the general education curriculum

  • Assessing student learning in students services and development

  • Assessing institutional effectiveness across campus

  • Designing integrated planning frameworks

  • Strategic planning

  • Writing strong student learning outcomes

  • Curriculum mapping

  • Simplifying assessment processes

  • Assuring faculty buy-in to assessment efforts

  • Making use of assessment results

  • Assessment strategies, tools, and methods

Accreditation Process Review

As an experienced former SACSCOC Liaision Officer and off-site and on-site review committee member, I am prepared to assist in reviews of full documents or selected pieces. In my on-campus role, I successfully led efforts for a Full Reaffirmation, a Fifth Year Interim Report, two substantive changes, and a level change (combined first Master's program and first online program). My experience centers on all aspects of institutional effectiveness, student success, and faculty credentialing. But, I am available for full report reviews, as well. You will receive detailed feedback, suggestions, and unlimited phone consultations to discuss your report and next steps to be successful.

Services offered:

  • Reviewing draft documents (in full or selected standard)

  • Structuring campus committees and responsibilities

  • Designing internal processes to maximize potential for success

  • Providing workshops to prepare faculty and staff for the accreditation process

  • Examining case for compliance and reviewing for adequate evidence of compliance

  • Helping to prepare for on-site reviews

Every campus approaches SACSCOC reporting slightly differently based on their culture and needs. Again, however, there are basic formulas that can be followed to position the institution to be successful. Well-designed approaches to regional accreditation can alleviate anxiety and stress caused by SACSCOC requirements and ensure all campus constituencies are aware of expectations long in advance of  materials being due. This review will involve examining the most recent Fifth Year Interim Report and full reaffirmation reports submitted by the campus to SACSCOC to identify areas of strength and further development, planning efforts for the upcoming full reaffirmation efforts (including staffing and campus communication plans), and faculty and staff awareness of SACSCOC efforts and requirements. It will also include the making of recommendations that could be followed to improve the accreditation process on campus based on best practices for institutions in the SACSCOC accreditation region. Specific activities include:

  • Reviewing the complete Fifth Year Interim Report and full reaffirmation report submitted to SACSCOC

  • Examining the process used on campus for completing SACSCOC reports

  • Holding on-campus conversations with relevant accreditation stakeholders (especially the individuals most directly involved in the most recent reports)

  • Assessing current practices on campus for identifying substantive changes and faculty credentials

  • Reviewing new and revised SACSCOC standards with campus stakeholders and designing a readiness exercise to determine current status

  • Determining current planning and timeline for successful completion of upcoming full reaffirmation report

Institutional Research and Data Review

Institutional research offices play a vital role on college and university campuses today. As institutions have become data rich with more sophisticated questions being asked by internal and external stakeholders, it is essential that institutional researchers are prepared to be nimble, collaborative, and proactive in helping campus consider courageous answers to provocative questions that arise. This review will involve examining the current staffing and operations of the institutional research office on campus to determine areas of strength and further development—including looking at the roles and functions the office performs, reporting structure, and opportunities for increased efficiencies and campus involvement—and faculty and staff perceptions of the office and its role on campus. It will also include the making of recommendations that could be followed to improve the areas of institutional research and data management on campus based on best practices for institutions in higher education. Specific activities include:

  • Holding on-campus conversations with relevant institutional research and data management stakeholders on campus

  • Reviewing current data practices and institutional research functions on campus

  • Determining cross-functional opportunities for institutional research involvement and areas of under-utilization

  • Reviewing data request process on campus and how it is presented to the requestor

  • Examining most recent year of external survey completions and internal assessments

  • Assessing current survey completion process to ensure maximum efficiencies