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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Constance M. Schwass
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Educational Leadership, Research, and Technology
Title: Assessing Student Learning Outcomes in AQIP Accredited Community and Technical Colleges
Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer, Chair
Dr. Andrea Beach
Dr. Katharine Cummings
Date: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
3208 Sangren Hall
Accreditation in higher education institutions continues to be regarded as the seal of collegiate quality even while questions have been raised about its effectiveness and what the process accepts as evidence of improved student learning. As a result, many regional accrediting agencies are requiring higher education institutions to implement assessments of student learning outcomes tied to student learning and instructional program improvements. New accreditation models based on quality management principles have been developed to support continuous improvement efforts in higher education. One such model, the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP), was developed by North Central Accreditation (NCA) and has, as its foundational criterion, a focus on helping students learn.
A web-based survey was sent to 143 AQIP member community and technical college personnel who were most responsible for the assessment of such student learning outcomes. The survey included questions for two program areas (General and Occupational Education) regarding a) participant’s familiarity and involvement with AQIP, b) assessment plan elements, c) measurable data collection methods, d) general evidence of assessment activities, e) improvements in the teaching/learning process, and f) obstacles encountered that may impede the assessment of student learning outcomes processes.
Responses from 75 individuals (a 52.4% response rate) responsible for their college’s assessment of student learning revealed that assessment plans at these AQIP-accredited institutions do exist, and are written, implemented, and embedded as part of their institutional culture and operational strategy. Significant differences between General and Occupational Education programs were found in the use of comparative data, communication with external stakeholders, faculty involvement in the assessment practices, perceived levels of improvement in the teaching/learning process, and the perceived obstacles in assessment processes. However, both program areas indicated there have been improvements in student learning outcomes and the teaching/learning processes, and that continuous improvement principles were being practiced to a high degree.
Moreover, although this study confirms the existence of obstacles in the assessment processes, it also confirms that most of these AQIP-accredited schools are reporting that assessment of student learning outcomes is indeed occurring.