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Academic Innovation & Effectiveness

Academic Innovation & Effectiveness
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Brief History of Assessment at SIUE

Much of the following text is condensed from "Report of the University Committee on Assessment: A Proposed Plan for Assessment of Undergraduate Education at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville," approved by the Faculty Senate at SIUE on April 20, 1989.

The foundation for a University-wide assessment office at Southern Illinois University was laid in 1985, when the Faculty Senate expressed a need to consider outcomes assessment. The Final Report of University Self-Study (January 24, 1986) stated "Consideration of the University's evaluation principles…suggests that the University has good reason to explore additional means of identifying and documenting its strengths, needs, and outcomes." Goals set in June 1986 for the upcoming Faculty Senate said the body would "work with the administration in coordinating the various activities associated with outcomes assessment" and would "encourage and participate in an investigation [of] various methods of outcomes assessment."

The Illinois Board of Higher Education was also concerned about the quality of undergraduate education at public universities at this time. The Board asked for "multiple measures of student achievement over time in order to provide feedback to students on their progress in meeting objectives and to establish trends on which judgments can be made to improve undergraduate education." IBHE asked for public colleges and universities to submit their individual plans to the agency by the summer of 1989.

Faculty, staff and students were selected to serve on an assessment planning committee, which held its first meeting in March 1988. The group's charge, as outlined by Faculty Senate President Sid Denny, was to "begin the task of determining what we in the University want to do about outcomes assessment."

This initial committee believed "assessment of undergraduate student learning outcomes should enable programs and the University to:

  • Make improvements in program structure, in course content, and in pedagogy.
  • Provide individual students with periodic feedback on their performance relative to program objectives and facilitate placement and advisement.
  • Evaluate the competence of its graduates, "competence" being understood to include no only expertise within a discipline, but also attainment of the objectives of the University's general education program."

Furthermore, the committee named six principles underlying SIUE's undergraduate assessment program:

  1. The University shall be committed to assessment and to development of a unified, coherent program to assess baccalaureate education.
  2. The faculty, given their curricular role and responsibility, shall have primary responsibility for the development, implementation, and maintenance of assessment activities.
  3. Assessment requires clearly defined objectives against which educational outcomes can be evaluated. Statements of desired educational objectives of baccalaureate skills, of the general education program, and ultimately of the baccalaureate degree, shall originate with, and be approved by, the faculty.
  4. Assessment strategies shall be developed in such a way as to ensure that they are consistent with the SIUE undergraduate curriculum and are integrated with, and integral to, the learning process of SIUE students.
  5. The assessment program shall be considered exploratory in its initial phase.
  6. The non-aggregated data gathered by the assessment committee shall remain confidential and shall be used for the purposes of assessment defined above.

The planning committee also recommended the hiring of a full-time faculty who would serve as a coordinator of assessment and be responsible for undergraduate assessment and program reviews. Additionally, the group recommended that a permanent group, the Committee on Assessment, be established to implement this new assessment strategy. The committee, appointed by the Faculty Senate in consultation with the Provost, was to be comprised of eight faculty members, one of whom was a liaison between the group and the Curriculum Council of the Faculty Senate. Additional members were to include representatives from Institutional Research, the Office of Admissions and Retention (later Instructional Services,) the academic deans, the coordinator of assessment, and two undergraduate students.

Many other recommendations impacting assessment and education at SIUE were made by this planning committee. It recommended that the University establish objectives for both general education and a baccalaureate degree. It also recommended that all undergraduate students complete a senior assignment in which "the student can exhibit a general education perspective while demonstrating proficiency in the major." These assignments were to be evaluated by faculty on how well the two areas meshed, and students were to be informed of the results. Departments were also to document results for program review purposes. By the fall of 1991, each program was to submit to the new Committee on Assessment the objectives of the major and of how the University's general education objectives relate to the major. Implementation of the program was to begin in 1992.

Additional recommendations included placement tests for incoming freshmen and transfer students and a "rising junior paper." This paper would be written by all students who had between 70 and 100 credit hours and would assess their writing and critical thinking skills. The "rising junior paper" requirement was dropped in 1994.

Since its formation, the Office of Undergraduate Assessment and Program Review has been responsible for conducting regular reviews of all undergraduate programs at SIUE. Typically, these have been done in seven-year cycles. The Office of Assessment has also managed the University's Senior Assignment program and Undergraduate Research Academy.

David Steinberg, professor of mathematics, became the first full-time director of undergraduate assessment on Jan. 1, 1990. He left the position the following July to become the dean of the School of Science. University Archivist Louisa Bowen served as the part-time director from 1992-93, being replaced by Douglas Eder, associate professor in Biological Sciences, who served full-time as the director of Undergraduate Assessment and Program Review until August 2006. Following Dr. Eder's retirement, Professor Lesa Stern of Speech Communication served as director for one year. In July 2007, Victoria Scott, professor of Special Education and Communication Disorders, became director of the office.

In 2007, under the direction of Dr. Paul Ferguson, Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, the Office of Undergraduate Assessment and Program Review was reconfigured. The name changed to The Office of Assessment in order to reflect a broadened scope of assessment, including graduate level assessment and maintaining our regional accreditation through the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). The Director of Assessment was charged with responsibility for:

  • The oversight and management of the University-wide academic assessment program through collaborative efforts with the Faculty Senate, academic deans, and academic units.
  • The oversight and management of the University-wide Senior Assignment Program through collaboration with the academic units.
  • The conduct of regularly scheduled undergraduate and graduate academic program reviews in collaboration with the Faculty Senate, Associate Provost for Research/Graduate Dean, and the academic units.
  • The management of the Undergraduate Research Academy in collaboration with the Associate Provost for Research/Graduate Dean and academic units.
  • Serving as the primary point of contact for University and academic unit accreditation compliance and for coordination of program accreditation reviews with the Provost's Office and academic units. Serve as the primary point of contact for the University AQIP process coordinating effort and communication between the Provost's Office, academic units, Faculty Senate, and the Higher Learning Commission.

In 2014, the University moved to the Open Pathway through the Higher Learning Commission.

The office continues to provide leadership to the University in the development, innovation and implementation of an ongoing assessment system to support continuous improvement for all programs at SIUE. The mission of the office is to elicit faculty, staff, and student involvement in the development and utilization of assessment techniques that enhance the quality of 1) learning and teaching, 2) reflective practices, 3) scholarly and creative activities and the services that support research.

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