Every 10 years, the College participates in a self-study as part of the Middle States reaccreditation process – this is one of those years.
Usually, 14 set standards are evaluated equally by the Committee on Planning and Priorities (CPP) to determine a school’s eligibility for accreditation. Half consist of institutional standards and the other half are issues of curriculum.
Although the College is still responsible for reporting on the same 14 standards, a new option has been presented. Now, more study and evaluation can be conducted on standards that are of particular concern to the institution.
The College has chosen three standards to study more closely: Planning, Resource Allocation and Institutional Renewal, Institutional Assessment and Assessment of Student Learning.
On Sept. 29, the CPP and three subcommittees working on specific standards explained to the campus community their recommendations to improve education at the College. The meeting was headed by David Venturo, associate professor of English, is also co-chair of the CPP. The purpose of this study is to “look back to evaluate things we have done,” Venturo said, in order to create a more efficient way of doing things for the future.
The three subcommittees are composed of faculty, students and staff. They’ve evaluated how things were being handled over the past five or six years. Through their research, the subcommittees have written up a proposal on how to fix these problems.
Thomas Hagedorn, associate professor of math, represented the subcommittee on Planning, Resource Allocation and Institutional Renewal. This subcommittee is responsible for determining whether planning processes were sufficient to direct institutional projects and whether resource allocation was appropriate for the College’s long-term goals.
The main question asked was if the current planning process enables and encourages continued institutional renewal in the future. Or “do we lay the foundation for successing our success?” Hagedorn asked. This subcommittee is looking at the direction in which the College will go. “Where do we need to go in the next five years?” Hagedorn asked. “Do all the elements work together?” The subcommittee found that the College’s planning process is not completely efficient, but it could and will be within a few years.
A few recommendations Hagedorn proposed were to develop a better communication of information in the College. “Strategic reports, institutional assessments and assessments of student learning need to be readily accessible by the campus community,” Hagedorn said. He also recommended that periodic strategic reviews should be done every four to five years that analyze a unit’s strengths, weaknesses and goals.
Andrew Clifford, associate professor of math, represented the subcommittee on Institutional Assessment. This subcommittee is divided into two categories of institutional assessment: strategic and operational. Strategic is one-time events that help the development of major initiatives.
According to Clifford, the College does strategic assessments very well. “Big changes go very well,” Clifford said. Operational assessments are periodic data-intensive evaluated events designed to determine the effectiveness of individual divisions and ongoing projects within those divisions.
“Those doing well can’t learn from those doing well,” Clifford said. “Assessments needs to be organized and archived.” Clifford recommended that the Faculty Senate unit meet every five to 10 years to discuss issues on campus and come up with recommendations on how to solve these issues.
Rebecca Li, chair of the sociology and anthropology department, represented the subcommittee on Assessment of Student Learning, which found out what students have learned and what they are supposed to learn. Student surveys were given out to see if students learned how to write and think critically. The subcommittee also looked at student portfolios and writing samples and observed students in their classes.
A problem encountered was that “academic and nonacademic programs have a lot of useful information that is hard to find,” Li said. The subcommittee recommends that all assessments for research be put in one place. This will promote collaborations and avoid repeats.
A small crowd showed up for the presentation, none of which were students. Stephen Briggs, Provost, was also present. The faculty present were very supportive of the recommendations made by the subcommittees. The completed self-study will be submitted to the Middle States in October. A Middle States visiting team will visit the campus Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. To view each proposal in full text, visit tcnj.edu/~academic/middlestates.htm. To submit any comments, suggestions or questions, e-mail CPP@tcnj.edu.