2005-2006 Entering the Maintenance Phase - Expanding Awareness

The 2005-2006 school year was the end of much of the development and the implementation of the assessment system, and the start of the maintenance cycle. More familiar with procedural tasks, instructors explored in depth the potential for designing assessment events which were more aligned to their own existent questions. Instructors were introduced to the new gen ed competency checklists, and efforts to expand the awareness and understanding of assessment to all members of the learning college were undertaken more aggressively.

HLC ExpectationA member of the Core Team was charged with developing materials and strategies for introducing students to their role in the assessment process. The Core Team tried to determine what message most faculty had delivered to students as positive reasons for being involved in assessment. It seemed that much of the focus was on the benefit to the institution. The Core Team was eager to shift the emphasis from the institution to that of the student and the students's own learning. A team of faculty and counselors met to create a student learning brochure (see Appendix Q), which framed for students a rationale for participating in assessment and reflecting upon their own learning. The brochure indicated ways in which students could discover how they best learned, and use that information to create strategies for achieving their identified educational goals. The brochure was distributed in our orientation course in cooperation with counselors who helped students map their educational plans. The brochure was also made available to faculty to deliver and discuss in their own classes.

In December, 2005, 54 faculty completed an eleven-item survey based on their knowledge, attitudes, and participation in assessment and strategic planning. The survey also contained three open-ended questions about past and future professional development activities.(See Appendix R for the complete survey results). The survey offered seven levels of response along a continuum with contrasting statements at either end, e.g. I assess because I have to and I assess because it leads to improved student learning. The items receiving the lowest scoring levels were those related to understanding the purposes of assessment and applying data to instructional and institutional change, e.g. Item 1, quoted above averaged 4.2. The items receiving the highest scores were those relating to the Area Facilitators and Core Team and the Learning College, e.g. Item 11, I do not see the necessity for the Learning College framework and I accept the embedding of assessment within the Learning College concept” averaged 6.5.

Faculty appreciated most the workshop days devoted to area and discipline work and requested more of those activity days. They also suggested presentation on problem solving and critical thinking, learning styles, analyzing and applying assessment data, and more discipline/area-related presentations. A complete copy of the survey, as well as the full list of comments and answers to open-ended questions, appears in Appendix R.

This philosophical shift has perhaps been the most significant of changes in our assessment journey. Appendix A Reflection on Transformation is a paper prepared by a senior faculty member, who has observed the college's journey almost from its founding to the present date. It offers wonderful perspective on the certainty of change, while noting that Sauk Valley Community College has always maintained certainty of purpose.

Demonstrating Links among Processes

HLC EpectationCareful consideration went into the development of the assessment cycle and timeline in light of the importance of assessment in the budgeting and planning processes of the College. The cycle exists as part of the strategic planning master timeline, which coordinates many of the administrative functions of the College to coincide with deadlines for fiscal cycles and state-mandated reporting. This alignment guarantees that appropriately selected, analyzed, and summarized data is available to decision-making committees at the time it is needed most. The assessment cycle, then, follows a three-semester model which maximizes faculty discussion and gives faculty an appropriate amount of time to research their plans of action to determine if the plans require additional consideration in terms of budget allocations or curricular policy changes.

Data collected in the fall and spring semesters for the year's transfer and career objectives is reported and aggregated for discipline-level discussion by August of the next academic year. Individual instructors will have already analyzed the data and determined if their personal data collection warrants instructional or curricular change. Discipline-level conversations will result in a collective plan of action, which will be implemented based on the timeline established by the discipline. Area-level aggregation for transfer programs will be completed in October. General Education results of the previous year's collection and CAAP testing results will be digitally aggregated and presented to the full faculty in late September, in anticipation of the area-level discussions, where faculty may identify ways in which the area or discipline could contribute to improving general education scores across the institution.

Area facilitators then provide the assessment committee with summaries of area and discipline discussions in November. These summaries will be analyzed by the assessment committee to determine which decision-making body is the appropriate receptor of the data. Plans of action which require financial support will then be directed to OPIC and considered for the next budget. Plans of action which require curricular change will be forwarded to the Curriculum, Policy, and Faculty Development Committee. (A copy of the master timeline appears in Appendix F.)

Organizational Changes and Resource Allocations in Support of Assessment

Major changes in the organization of the College's decision-making bodies required a significant support network of faculty to oversee the implementation and continuance of the system. To ensure that the process was carried out with faculty as the primary leadership, the Vice President of Learning Services created the Assessment Committee Core Team and allocated funds to allow each member of the team to have release time from one class per semester. Additional money was also released to ensure adequate training opportunities for Core Team members, including materials purchases and conference attendance.

HLC ExpectationAnother significant organizational change in support of the new system was the creation of Faculty Discussion Hours. Each Wednesday from 12:00 to 1:30 pm is set aside as a time when no classes are offered on campus, providing plenty of opportunities for the faculty to meet both as a whole and within programs in order to carry out each level of assessment required to complete the cycle and feedback loops. Faculty were released from one office hour per week in order to attend. As a result, there has been full participation on the part of full-time faculty.

The nature of the assessment system, with aggregation, discussion, and action plans created at both the discipline and program levels, required that leadership be in place within each program. With that in mind, the Vice President of Learning Services created the area facilitator roles—positions for faculty who were willing to become assessment experts and coordinate the aggregation and reporting for their areas. The facilitators were granted stipends or release time from classes and were in charge of calling meetings, maintaining faculty involvement, keeping records, and reaching out to the adjunct populations.

Other Budgetary Allocations. Since the comprehensive visit, the College has channeled significant financial resources to the improvement of the assessment system and campus assessment culture. Total expenditures for the program improvements since the 2002 visit total approximately $188,000, which was distributed among the following initiatives:

Professional Development. Increasing the faculty's awareness of major assessment topics was addressed in two ways, both by having faculty attend major conferences and by bringing workshop presenters to the College. Faculty attended a broad range of conferences which focused on assessment and related activities, including local conferences such as the Assessment Fair for Community Colleges and national conferences such as the annual HLC conference and the League for Innovation.

  • Direct cost for conference attendance was approximately $38,000. Faculty who attended filed reports of findings and gave presentations on the conference materials to the entire faculty at forum sessions.
  • Professional development funds were also used to bring speakers to campus, and a grant was used to hire a consultant, Dr. Roberta Teahen. On-campus presenters included Regis McCord, who conducted a session on creating and using rubrics to measure student outcomes, and Smith and Nagel, who conducted a workshop on critical thinking. Total expenditures for workshops and in-service days were approximately $29,000.

Faculty Compensation. The largest part of the assessment budget, approximately $98,000, has been compensation for faculty serving as Core Team members and area facilitators. Because of increasing workloads in the design stages of the plan, those faculty members were offered release time or stipends equivalent to overload compensation. It was understood that the design stage of the process would be the most time-consuming, and that these incentives would help keep the necessary pace. It is understood that this level of financial commitment is not possible or necessary for long-term system management, and that the maintenance phase will be less time consuming, with much of the workload subsumed by normal committee duties.

Materials. The final portion of the assessment budget has been dedicated to materials, including CAAP testing supplies, print and publication costs, and memberships in professional organizations. The total cost of these items was approximately $23,000.