Southeastern Louisiana University identifies expected outcomes for educational programs and administrative and educational support services in several ways:
- Southeastern's strategic planning process
- the University's Guidelines for Institutional Effectiveness
- the Louisiana Performance Accountability System (LaPAS)
- individual degree program accreditation standards or academic program review standards, and
- faculty and staff evaluations.
In each case, assessment and analysis procedures are implemented, allowing the University to determine if expected outcomes are being reached and what further steps might be taken for continued improvement.
Southeastern's Strategic Planning Process
Southeastern's University Planning Council serves as an advisory body to the President and consists of a broad representation of administrators, professional staff, faculty and representatives from the Faculty Senate, the Council of Department Heads, and the Student Government Association. The following are the responsibilities of this Council:
…to review and make recommendations to the President on revisions to Southeastern's statement of purpose or mission; to participate in the development and review of institutional goals and objectives and in the identification of institutional strengths and weaknesses; to develop procedures and schedules for major planning efforts; to coordinate planning processes by reducing duplication of effort and by providing a forum to discuss cross-impacts and planning problems; to direct the preparation of the University Strategic Plan for review by the President and by the University community...
Southeastern's Employee Handbooks, Part XI Section A
The University Planning Council identifies strategic priorities that promote the University's mission to lead the educational, economic and cultural development of southeast Louisiana. Through the strategic planning process, outcomes and performance standards are evaluated. Measurement of progress on strategic priorities is specified in the Vision 2005 Measurement Plan.
Although the strategic priorities are broadly worded, recommendations for action are suggested through “strategies” which are more specifically worded. Outcome measures (and how they are to be measured and when) are specified; both quantitative and qualitative measures have been used where feasible. Yearly action plans (2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04,
2004-05) list the actions to be taken in that fiscal year and are also updated at the end of the year to show what actions have occurred.
For example, Strategic Priority 1. To recruit, advance, and graduate qualified students:
Strategic Priority 1. To recruit, advance, and graduate qualified students
Through reputation, geographic location, and creative marketing approaches, Southeastern attracts a diverse, prepared student body. The University promotes personal growth, student success, and retention as well as the development of intellect and character through academic, social, vocational, and wellness programs. Southeastern offers a safe, friendly and inclusive environment in which students are known by name and respected as individuals. Timely completion of degree programs and success in a competitive job market are important indicators of success.
The University will develop and implement a university-wide plan to recruit students with high potential for success.
The proportion of admitted high potential undergraduate and graduate students will increase 10% each year over the previous year. To be measured Fall 2001 (baseline), Fall 2002, Fall 2003, Fall 2004, and Fall 2005.
Action Plan Steps for 2003-2004:
- Implement recruitment plan strategies with intent of meeting recruitment targets;
- Develop new targets as appropriate
Actions Taken in 2003-2004:
- Marketing/Recruitment Plan goals reviewed and updated;
Key enrollment strategies in areas of communications, increase academic involvement, territory management, and scholarship maximization implemented;
- Position of Dean for Enrollment Management implemented;
- Web Coordinator hired and plans begun for re-design of www2.selu.edu
data report shows progress on the outcome measures over time. In many cases the unit primarily responsible for implementation and oversight of the strategy will have worked with the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to design data collection strategies that are beyond the scope of normal collection procedures, e.g., collection of point-of-service satisfaction data. In all cases, Institutional Research and Assessment is responsible for coordination and maintenance of data related to evaluation of strategic planning outcomes.
Through this comprehensive strategic planning progress, the University achieves its goals of widespread campus leadership, involvement, and vision; specification of what the University considers to be the most important strategic priorities; development of strategic priorities into actionable steps that are infused into daily operations, personnel decisions, and budget; and measurement of outcomes and progress over time.
Institutional Effectiveness at Southeastern Louisiana University focuses on instructional/student learning outcomes as they relate to courses and curricula; and productivity outcomes as they relate to administrative services, student services and public service. This systematic and ongoing process incorporates a recurrent planning-assessment-improvement cycle that includes each level of the institution: the university, college, department, program, and individual. Southeastern has a full program of activities for assessment of all institutional outcome components. Instructional and student learning outcomes are evaluated through Major Field Assessment and General Education Assessment. Productivity outcomes of services are evaluated through the Assessment of Support Units.
The Guidelines for Institutional Effectiveness policy manual was revised in 2002 and reflects the refinement of goals and outcomes at the University. Multiple measures of student outcomes are used to determine the levels of knowledge, values, and skills students have attained after completing relevant courses in their major field. The Institutional Effectiveness Committee is a standing committee appointed by the Provost, and is comprised of faculty, staff, and student representatives. This committee meets to review University policies and procedures that relate to assessment and evaluation. Periodically, the committee recommends revisions, additions, and/or clarifications as appropriate.
The Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment serves on the Institutional Effectiveness Committee and provides data, information, expertise, and leadership directly related to assessment and evaluation. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment designs and conducts surveys for all University units, provides expertise in measurement pedagogy, communicates information to both internal and external units, and collects and stores documentation relevant to all aspects of institutional effectiveness.
Major Field Assessment
Embedded in Southeastern's policies for Major Field Assessment is the concept that curriculum change (while acknowledging the drivers of external accreditation standards, changes in the discipline, accountability, efficiency, etc.) should be data-driven and that outcomes data focused on desired student knowledge, skills, and dispositions is critically important to curricular improvement. Also embedded in those policies is the concept that curricular change and outcomes assessment must be directed by the faculty in that discipline who have the content and skills knowledge.
Each academic program has a Major Field Assessment liaison responsible for coordinating the process of collecting and reporting student outcomes. The liaison works with a faculty committee in the department (in many cases, the curriculum committee performs this function) to review assessment data and make recommendations to the full department on curricular changes. Every two years a report is completed and submitted to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. The report details the ways in which assessment results have been used to improve the department's academic programs, as well as how the program responded to the changes. The documentation of each academic program is kept in the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. Examples of Major Field Assessment Plans are available for review on the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment's web site.
As an example of how the Major Field Assessment process works, the graduate counseling program in the Department of Human Development instituted the following changes based on analysis of student exit interviews, Student Opinion of Teaching surveys, Alumni Surveys, and Standardized Testing: increased the program from 48 to 60 hours, added a number of new clinically-focused courses, instituted a two-semester internship requirement, changed the admission process, and developed an improved method for tracking students and graduates. This is documented in the Counseling Program's Review of MFA Assessment Results and Report on Curricular Changes
General Education Assessment
The procedures and guidelines for General Education Assessment are found in Southeastern's Guidelines for the Evaluation of Institutional Effectiveness on page 11. Undergraduate Programs Comprehensive Standard 3.5.1 details Southeastern's commitment to student acquisition of the knowledge and skills set forth in the core curriculum, as defined by Louisiana Board of Regents (Academic Affairs Policy 2.16). The 2002 Report on the Status of General Education cites new programs and/or changes to existing courses in math and English, the two academic areas previously rated lowest in surveys of entering freshmen and alumni.
The Department of Mathematics has shown significant improvement as a result of several initiatives begun during the past decade. In an effort to improve students' skills in basic math courses, the University created the position of Director of Freshman Mathematics in the Fall of 1999. Outlined on page 20 of the Report on the Status of General Education, the duties of the Director include acting as a liaison between the Department of Mathematics and other departments who work with freshmen, facilitating and monitoring department activities associated with freshmen level mathematics courses, and providing evidence of the math department's commitment to students' attainment of the Board of Regents General Education goals.
In addition to appointing a Director of Freshman Mathematics, faculty in the Department of Mathematics and the College of Basic Studies collaborated to develop a Math Drop-In Tutoring Lab. As discussed on page 18 of the Report on the Status of General Education, the lab has been expanded and improved to its present configuration, which includes an average of 25 hours per week of tutoring by mathematics faculty, as well as additional tutoring by graduate assistants. Students also have access to computers, videos, and supplementary textbooks to enhance their knowledge and skills in mathematics. Of the 2735 students who used the lab during 2001-2002, 966 were enrolled in two entry-level college algebra courses (Math 160 and Math 161).
Evidence of improvement as a result of these changes is depicted in the chart on page 19 of the Report on the Status of General Education. Alumni responses to survey questions involving mathematics proficiency were compared to responses of entering freshmen and showed an increase occurred in the perception of students' mathematical abilities during their matriculation. Further evidence of improvement is seen in the data comparing student withdrawal rates in the entry-level math courses between 1997 and 2001. During that time period, student withdrawal rates in Math 160 decreased from 28% in fall 1997 to 19% in fall 2001. Grade distributions during the same time period also indicate a movement toward higher grades in the entry-level courses. This data can be found on pages 17 and 18 of the Report on the Status of General Education.
The Department of English offers another example of increasing standards and improvement in general education. English proficiency at Southeastern is demonstrated by successful completion of English 102, in which students exhibit in portfolio form skills in writing, reading, and critical thinking. Since 1993, the criteria for attaining proficiency have been continuously assessed and revised. A comparison of the 1993 and 2000 criteria for English proficiency (see page 48 and 49, Appendices L and K, of the Report on the Status of General Education
) indicates that a timed essay is now required and greater emphasis is placed on research-based writing.
Assessment of Administrative and Educational Support Services
Administrative and educational support services are assessed according to guidelines included on page 13 of the Guidelines for the Evaluation of Institutional Effectiveness. Each unit certifies compliance by reporting to the appropriate supervisor(s) and to the chair of the Committee for Institutional Effectiveness. Each unit maintains documentation on its mission, objective/goals, assessment methods, and use of assessment results. Each unit also identifies how it is in compliance with the following “Characteristics of Effective Support Units”:
- What the unit strives to accomplish supports the mission of the University.
- How the unit goes about achieving its mission is well defined and regularly evaluated.
- The unit is well managed in all aspects.
Louisiana Performance Accountability System
In addition to the University's strategic planning process, research productivity outcomes and public service outcomes are assessed and evaluated through the Louisiana Performance Accountability System (LaPAS). The Louisiana State Legislature sets performance standards, and on a quarterly basis state departments and agencies are required to set interim targets for meeting the performance standards as well as reporting actual performance.
For Louisiana's universities and colleges, state performance standards have been standardized to reflect particular expectations in regard to identified outcomes variables and the goals of Master Plan 2005. In FY 2003 – 2004, all universities were required to address the following performance objectives: overall enrollment, minority enrollment, freshman retention, graduation rates, program accreditation, students earning degrees in education, students earning teacher certification through alternative programs. Multiple indicators were established for each performance objective; for example, minority enrollment is measured by the minority headcount enrollment, the change in minority headcount enrollment from a Fall 2000 baseline, and the minority headcount enrollment as a percentage of total institutional headcount.
A statewide system for entering, recording, and monitoring data has been established by the Division of Administration's Office of Planning and Budget. All universities have an institutional liaison, and that liaison enters the institution's data as appropriate each quarter. Fiscal year-end performance is summarized in the LaPAS system. Currently state funding for public universities is not tied to the performance accountability system. However, the Louisiana Board of Regents staff and the University of Louisiana System staff frequently use the indicator data to review university performance in informal ways. The data also appear in the yearly appropriations bills at the State Legislature. An example of yearly performance indicators and how they are assessed is available for review in the University's 2003 yearly report.
Degree Program Accreditations
The Louisiana Board of Regents designates in its Academic Affairs Policy 2.13 the required accreditation status for programs offered by system universities, including Southeastern. The Board or Regents rates accreditation requirements for offered programs as “mandatory,” “recommended,” and “optional.” Programs which prepare students for employment in professions that require licensure, programs that require graduation from an accredited program for advancement in the occupation, programs considered crucial in order for students to be admitted to a more advanced degree program, and/or programs recognized by the Board of Regents as critically important have a “mandatory” accreditation requirement. These programs must achieve accreditation in order for the program to continue to be offered by the university. Accreditation for programs specified by the Board of Regents as “recommended” is not essential for continued approval; however, institutions are encouraged to seek accreditation from the appropriate agencies. At the present time, Southeastern has 33 programs with a “mandatory” designation for accreditation; all of them are accredited.
Nine programs offered by Southeastern are designated “recommended”; six of these are approved, one is ineligible at the present time, one is in the application process, and one is expecting accreditation late Fall 2004.
In addition Southeastern conducts academic program reviews
, a mechanism for external review of those departments and degree programs that have no recognized external accrediting agency. Criteria related to department and program performance, quality, student outcomes, research, and service are addressed in a departmental self-study report, and a team of three external consultants in the discipline review the report and supporting documentation and make a multi-day site visit to the department.
Faculty and Staff Evaluations
Faculty are evaluated annually as outlined in Southeastern's
Faculty Handbook (Part III Section E). Faculty members are required to submit documentation detailing their performance since their last evaluation. The faculty member's performance is evaluated in the areas of teaching, job effectiveness, professional activity, and service. Ways to improve performance are delineated, and goals for the upcoming academic year are established.
Unclassified Employee Handbook (Part III Section E) indicates that all new unclassified staff members are evaluated on a regular basis. Written evaluations outline the employee's performance of established job responsibilities, recognize good performance and provide suggestions for improvement when necessary.
As described in the
Classified Employee Handbook
(Part III Section E
), within the first thirty days of employment a Performance and Planning session is held between the supervisor and new classified staff member to outline the performance expectations of the position. A second Performance and Planning session is held at the end of the first six months of employment to evaluate performance, and sessions are held on a yearly basis thereafter. During the Performance Planning session, performance expectations that tie into the University's overall strategic goals are developed. Recognition for satisfactory achievement of these goals is provided through merit raises and promotions.