December 2008/January 2009
I'll begin with a bit of a Thanksgiving message by simply saying a very sincere and huge thank you to our faculty and staff whose work allows us to develop the leaders of a global, free-enterprise society. Three areas of heartfelt thanks for your efforts include:
- The economic, political, social, global, and other issues of the day continue to swirl and I’m constantly amazed at how you bring these concepts to the learning environment and engage our students to think through the issues, the associated decisions, and the longer-term impacts. THANK YOU!
- We have hit the themes of collaboration, continuous improvement, and retention quite directly in the past 12+ months and our recent retention numbers – especially given and in spite of the existing conditions – show strength in winter enrollments (more on that from President Pretty in this week’s message from him). THANK YOU!
- Our Board of Trustees Academic Committee meets Wednesday, December 17. The materials for the meeting show great progress being made on so many fronts across our academic areas. We’ll be sure to make these materials available to you. THANK YOU!
In this month’s AQIP in Action, we’re focusing squarely on assessment, which happens to tie directly to Strategic Theme 1 — Enhancing the Learning Environment.
In mid‐October, a team from across the Northwood system attended the Higher Learning Commission’s workshop on assessment. The team spent long days and nights thinking through the assessment needs of the University, setting priorities for assessment activities, and determining necessary structures and resources for success. The strategy this group developed is one that embodies the One Northwood ideal and allows for the individuality that our faculty and disciplines require.
There are five key focal points of this proposed One Northwood assessment strategy:
- A Learning Focus: As a university, our goal is to help students learn. Assessment is a process that can provide the information we need to improve our methods for helping students learn. But, as the HLC team taught us – you cannot fatten a pig by weighing it! Measurement in and of itself does not enhance the learning process. It is the action that we take BASED ON the measurements that improve our work. The team agreed that our focus will be providing the tools and training that faculty need in order to move ahead with the assessment of student learning and then providing the resources necessary to implement the improvements that the measurements recommend.
- Meaningful Action: Assessment is really about teaching and scholarship. As faculty, we are doing assessment all the time – what would take us to the next step is to do what we already do in a more purposeful fashion. The key steps in the assessment of student learning are:
a. Determine what you want your students to learn.
b. Devise a play to help them learn it.
c. Find out if they learned it (assessment …).
d. Decide how they can learn it better in the future – redesign.
The team is working on a structure that faculty can use to work through the steps of this process with useful input and feedback from their peers. Look for this plan to roll out after the first of the year.
- Rewards for Risk Taking and Innovation: Assessment is something that we are all responsible for, and in this respect, it is an expected component of our work as faculty. But those faculty who are willing to go that extra mile – to try a new technique, to measure in a way that provides research quality data, to help a colleague implement a new technique, to collaborate across curricular lines to determine how we are meeting our outcomes – those faculty should be rewarded in some fashion for this work.
- Assessment is in our Mission: We have committed ourselves to developing the future leaders of a global, free-enterprise society. And we, as faculty, meet this goal through student learning. When we assess how well our students are learning, we are improving our ability to achieve our mission.
- Communication is Key: One of the things we realized during this workshop is that Northwood faculty are already doing great work in the assessment of student learning. The creation of a vehicle for sharing this work would allow everyone to benefit. The team will be introducing a Blackboard site as a way for our faculty to share their experiences with assessment. Look for this to be online after January 1.
In order to maintain the best levels of support for assessment across the One Northwood system, we are naming six Assessment Mentors. These faculty will be part of a larger assessment team that will be available to support faculty in their assessment efforts. These mentors are:
- Cathy Bush – DeVos MBA
- John Dexter – Michigan undergraduate and ADP
- Gerry Moultine – Michigan undergraduate
- Tara Peters – Texas undergraduate
- Dennis Bechtol – Florida undergraduate
- Steve Brazill – International
Completing the team are Laura Vosejpka (Assessment Coordinator), Stacy Smith (Director of Institutional Effectiveness), and Tina Brisbois (Director of Academic Records) as well as the respective academic deans from our operating units.
The Key Questions as we move forward with assessment:
- How are your stated learning outcomes appropriate to your mission, programs, degrees, and students?
- What evidence do you have that students achieve your stated learning outcomes?
- In what ways do you analyze and use evidence of students learning?
- How do you ensure shared responsibility for student learning and for assessment of student learning?
- How do you evaluate and improve the effectiveness of your efforts to assess and improve student learning?
- In what ways do you inform the public and other stakeholders about what and how well your students are learning?
Finally, please know we are also exploring outcomes. Assessment includes broad outcomes (e.g., a mission statement) and narrow ones (e.g., program standards and/or course objectives) as well. We’ve had faculty input on a couple of fronts, led by the Curriculum Development Working Group of the Semester Transition Team. This group, in analyzing curricular changes, inquired about key outcomes. We had a few faculty members draft a set of possible educational outcomes and these were corroborated by faculty from our three campuses. We even brought a few faculty and staff together to talk about end‐state leadership competencies of all Northwood graduates; they met in a focused fashion twice before Thanksgiving and provided some provocative food for thought!
At the end of the day, we have 12 Outcomes and ensuring these are measurable is a key step as we move forward. We wish not to create layers of outcomes and not make assessment or tracking of "things to know" cumbersome. On the other hand, we should be addressing/questioning/improving our broad outcomes, discussing a blending of general education and business core outcomes and, ultimately, what sets Northwood leaders apart from the field. That is what’s being explored currently. More to come after the first of the year.
Future AQIP in Actions
Coming monthly issues of AQIP in Action (the next will be in the beginning of February) will cover updates on our terms to semesters progress and One Northwood Curriculum Reviews; the excellent work of our Faculty Development Team members; survey updates; an exciting redesign for the Freedom Seminar; discussion on work associated with analysis and upgrades of learning areas/technology; and more! Much is going on and I know your Operating Unit Leaders, Deans, Department/Division Chairs do their best to keep you up-to-date. As per the norm, if you have any questions or concerns, please always ask those around you and do not hesitate to engage me as well!
Again, thanks for all you do in the name of our students. As we close this calendar year and prepare for Christmas, enjoy the holiday season and look forward to 2009. Here’s to you and yours as you encounter a most blessed, joyous, and thankful time together.
Yours in teaching and learning,
John Jasinski, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President/Chief Academic and Operating Officer
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org