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In November of 2005, the UNK Assessment Committee adopted a new strategic plan for guiding the further development of assessment at UNK for 2006-08. The first strategic plan for assessment was developed in 2001 by Dr. James Roark when he was the Senior Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs. That strategic plan was used to guide efforts with developing the current assessment processes in place at UNK. It was comprehensive and provided an excellent model for guiding the development of assessment to meet the Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation criteria that were in effect at the time. At the Director of Assessment’s request in January 2005, a subcommittee of the UNK Assessment Committee reviewed the 2001 strategic plan and compared the developments in assessment from 2001 to 2005 with the purpose of updating the plan to reflect current and future assessment priorities for UNK.
The subcommittee began its work by reviewing the Higher Learning Commission’s criteria related to assessment and program development that became effective January 1, 2005 to determine how closely the current assessment program reflects the new criteria. The subcommittee then analyzed the 2001 strategic plan for assessment to determine accomplishments and continued needs.
The consensus of the subcommittee was that an updated strategic plan was developed that emphasized continuing needs and reflected the recently implemented Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation criteria. Three priorities were identified.
UNK Assessment Program Priorities
1. Use effective assessment practices to evaluate and optimize student learning in all settings as an essential aspect of a vibrant university seeking to meet the needs of the 21st century student.
The first priority identified the necessity of continuing to emphasize principles of assessment “best practice”. The collection of valid and reliable data for decision-making purposes is dependent on the development and implementation of effective assessment tools and procedures. This priority reflects the importance of systematically reviewing assessment practices being implemented so that the most accurate data about student learning is obtained. It is safe to assume that poorly collected data will lead to poorly developed instructional and program decisions.
2. Use a continuous systematic assessment and data analysis process to assist the establishment of priorities, facilitate planning, and align resources to improve programs and enhance student learning.
The second priority focused on the importance of using the assessment data to assist with making decisions regarding establishment of instructional priorities, facilitating planning, and aligning resources to foster enhanced instruction and learning. The only reason for conducting assessment is to use the data to “close the loop” in regarding to planning. This priority is the major focal point of the Higher Learning Commission’s criteria that is now in effect. UNK will be evaluated by the next accreditation team by its success in implementing this priority. An analysis of the annual assessment reports submitted this fall semester suggests that approximately 50% of departments are beginning to utilize the data in some decisions regarding their programs.
3. Implement benchmarking standards to define, measure, and enhance student learning.
The third priority focuses on utilizing benchmarking standards as a methodology for defining quality of student work and establishing targets for successfully meeting program outcomes. Adoption of this strategy will enable faculty to clearly define their own success levels and facilitate planning.
In closing, these priorities will guide implementation of initiatives during the next two years. The intent is to further promote the relevance and utility of assessment and have UNK on track for its next accreditation visit.