Samford University has long fostered a culture of assessment, and in the spirit of the continual quality improvement paradigm that has guided the university, assessment processes are regularly reviewed, most recently in 2013–2014. In recognition of the complexity of the institution and ever-increasing demands to document institutional effectiveness, Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, Samford’s president, created the positions of chief strategy officer (CSO) and chief institutional effectiveness officer (CIEO) to develop/implement Samford’s strategic plan and to guide accreditation and assessment efforts.
Samford’s model of assessment was developed and implemented in 2006. This model revolves around five guiding principles. The assessment process must: (1) accommodate the mission of each unit and the institution; (2) be manageable, flexible and simple; (3) should not duplicate current assessment efforts; (4) should have a clear timeline; and (5) disseminated in a consistent format to all relevant Samford personnel. Each academic, administrative and educational support unit submits an annual assessment report. These reports are reviewed by the department's respective supervisor(s), academic deans, chief institutional effectiveness officer, vice presidents, provost, and president.
Assessment and Accreditation Council+
The Samford University Assessment and Accreditation Council (SUAAC) is established to serve as an advisory body on assessment and institutional effectiveness in support of the work of administrative and academic support units. This council also provides guidance to the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment & Effectiveness (OIRAE) and helps coordinate data collection and reporting across divisions. The council is comprised of a representative from each of Samford University’s divisions, schools, Center for Teaching and Learning and Samford On-line. The Council is currently chaired by the Assistant Provost for Assessment and Accreditation and meets monthly.
Institutional Effectiveness calendar for annual assessment reports is as follows:
2013–2014 CycleAcademic annual reports due March 5, 2015. Primary and secondary reviewers complete their reviews by April 20, 2015. Institutional Effectiveness completes its reviews and summary report by May 1, 2015. Administrative and educational support unit reports are due April 5, 2015. Primary and secondary reviewers complete their reviews by May 1, 2015. Institutional Effectiveness completes its reviews and summary report by June 1, 2015.
2014–2015 CycleAcademic annual reports due Oct. 5, 2015. Primary and secondary reviewers complete their reviews by Nov. 20, 2015. Institutional Effectiveness completes its reviews and summary report by Dec. 15, 2015. Administrative and education support unit reports are due Nov. 5, 2015. Primary and secondary reviewers complete their reviews by Dec. 15, 2015. Institutional Effectiveness completes its reviews and summary report by Jan. 15, 2016.
2015–2016 CycleAcademic annual reports due Oct. 15, 2016. Primary and secondary reviewers complete their reviews by Nov. 20, 2016. Institutional Effectiveness completes its reviews and summary report by Dec. 15, 2016. Administrative and educational support unit reports are due May 30, 2016. Primary and secondary reviewers complete their reviews by June 30, 2016. Institutional Effectiveness completes its reviews and summary report by August 1, 2016.
Faculty undergo annual performance reviews. An overview of the process is described in the Samford University Faculty Handbook and Part-Time Faculty Manual. Staff also undergo annual performance reviews. Information and processes related to these reviews are highlighted on the Human Resources Management Performance Appraisal website.
Departmental and Program Reviews+
Each academic, administrative and educational support department (unit or program) is to submit an annual assessment report.Submission of reports is done via the Assessment SharePoint website. Administrative unit assessments are reviewed and feedback are sent by the president. Academic and Educational Support unit assessments are reviewed and feedback provided by the provost/executive vice president.
The workflow for the reports follows the process below:
- Assessment Plan. Each unit separately and in conjunction with their respective division/school's plan, develops an annual assessment plan.
- Assessment Implementation. Each unit implements its plan over the academic year.
- Report Submission. All department chairs complete and submit their respective unit reports online.
- Primary Review. Primary review of all reports is performed by two separate groups: (1) the associate provost and (2) the respective vice-presidents and deans. Recommendations for unit reports are sent back to the department heads/chairs for modification and additional evidence. Upon approval by the vice president or dean, the report moves onto the secondary review.
- Secondary Review. The secondary review is performed by the president and/or provost. Clarification and recommendations are subsequently sent back to the respective vice-president or dean.
- Peer Review. Internal and external peer reviewers (biannual) evaluate each unit's report.
- Dissemination of Results. Through personal interviews, emails and the SharePoint assessment workflow comments, department heads/chairs receive feedback on their respective reports.
Each academic department undergoes an intensive review every five to seven years. Departments requiring external accrediting agency visits will use their respective self study as one of their reviews. Departments that fall below threshold (on consensus criteria that are to be developed) could incur an immediate review. Electronic submission of materials (i.e. portfolio, assessment website) will be the recommended mechanism. These electronic materials will provide for transparency as well as enhance the availability of the information to relevant persons, including external peer reviewers. A template for submission of materials is available to assist in the review process.
Scheduling full program reviews requires the involved department to be notified a minimum of 6 months in advance. An opportunity to delay the review an additional year may be made by the involved department's majority of faculty, or appropriate administrator. Requests for a delay would need to be in writing with a rationale and be approved by the provost and chief institutional effectiveness officer.
Program reviews can be focused or comprehensive. Comprehensive reviews would include the entire department, its programs and services. A focused review would involve an intensive study of one or more major elements of a department, its programs and/or services. The option of a focused review would be dependent on a successful comprehensive review from the previous review cycle. Excerpts from these reviews will be displayed with the other university assessment information on the Institutional Effectiveness website.
Resources & Tools+
Assessment of student learning can be defined as the systematic collection of information about student learning, using the time, knowledge, expertise, and resources available, in order to inform decisions about how to improve learning (Walvoord, 2004). Assessment can enhance a program’s curriculum, pedagogy, structure,advising and resources. The Internet Resources for Higher Education Outcomes Assessment contains valuable links to general assessment resources, assessment handbooks, specific skills or content assessment, institutional assessment websites, accrediting organizations and faculty/course assessment.