2004-2005 Annual Report of the Council on Academic Assessment
The Council on Academic Assessment, in its first year of existence, organized itself to receive and review the assessments that were completed as part of the externally mandated seven-year cycle of departmental assessments. The Council receives both an internal self-assessment and an assessment made by outside reviewers.
The council divided itself into two committees, a “qualitative” and “quantitative” committee. These names are only roughly descriptive since both qualitative and quantitative research is done in many departments and since the Council has tried to assign the same number of assessments to each committee even though there are usually more qualitative than quantitative programs to review.
In the course of discussing departmental assessments, several issues of policy and procedure have been addressed and, at least in the short run, resolved. Other issues are still being debated within the Council.
Policy issues involve mainly the content, use and accessibility of assessments. To facilitate departments’ internal assessments, the Council has developed Guidelines for the Review of Academic Program Self-Study Documents and a checklist of data that should be included and issues that should be addressed by departments and outside reviewers. In most cases the checklist clarifies SUNY-wide standards, but some policies go beyond SUNY’s. For examples, the Council, effective with next year’s assessments, expects departments to include two years’ worth of data on the distribution of all undergraduate grades (by course level). As more departments supply these data, they (the data) will become more useful.
In order to be of maximum value, assessments should play a continuing role in influencing departmental policies and priorities. Consistent with this principle, the Council has asked that every department, beginning the year after its first assessment on the seven year cycle, submit a brief (one or two page) annual report addressing progress toward assessment goals. These two recommendations have been incorporated into the University at Albany’s Institutional Assessment Plan that was adopted by the Provost’s Assessment Advisory Committee in February 2005.
The Council discussed issues of access to and confidentiality of departmental and external reviews. A consensus developed that even though assessments might include material that could embarrass the university, these reports should be available to those who seek them. Among the considerations that support a policy of openness is that, as a matter of law, all tables and graphs compiled by public institutions are public documents. In the vast majority of cases the supporting text clarifies and explains the data.
At its April meeting the Council unanimously adopted the following motion.
Departmental self study reports, reports of outside evaluators and departmental annual assessment reviews shall be permanently stored at the offices of CETL. However, the Director of Assessment may elect to keep the most recent documents in her or his office. All University at Albany faculty and administrators shall have on-site access to these documents. Other persons may secure access by filing a request that specifies the documents to be examined with the Director of Assessment, who shall inform the Assistant Vice President for Strategic Planning and Assessment, the Chair of the Council on Academic Assessment, and the appropriate department chair. Requests to make photocopies of these documents shall be made to the Director of Assessment.
In effect, all assessments are available to anyone who seeks them, but the university will be able to prepare a considered response if and when it anticipates criticism or praise from outside persons.
The Council several times discussed the extent to which it should seek to call attention to programs that, for a variety of reasons, most often because of underfunding, are not meeting their responsibilities. Should such matters be reported to the appropriate dean, to the Senate and to other Councils directly concerned with resources? Or should such matters be confined to internal Council documents?
The council also discussed the scope of its campus responsibilities. For example, should the CAA play a role in assessing general education? The Dean of Undergraduate Studies bears primary responsibility for these assessments, which are mandated by the Board of Trustees. Should the CAA review these assessments just as it reviews departmental assessments? If so, should the CAA have a role in determining the content of these assessments? For now the Council is giving priority to meeting its central responsibility of receiving and evaluating externally mandated departmental assessments. But the CAA, which according to the Senate Charter, is broadly concerned with all campus assessment, might wish to expand the scope of its activities in future years.
Departments whose assessments were reviewed by the CAA during the 2004-05 academic year were:
Slavic and Eurasian Studies
Scheduled for review during 05-06
Geography and Planning
Mathematics and Statistics
Business and Accounting
In addition, the following programs are scheduled for accreditation:
School of Business
The Council is ably staffed by Barbara Wilkinson, who was recently appointed Director of Assessment. Ex officio members are Bruce Szelest, Assistant Vice President for Strategic Planning and Assessment, Sue R. Faerman, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, and Marjorie Pryse, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies. Members of the Council are Deborah Bernard, Joel Berkowitz, David Dai, Lee Franklin, William Lanford, Malcolm Sherman (chair), Maria Brown, Richard Collier, Kristina Bendikas, Menoukha Case and Lisa Dulgar-Tulloch.
Submitted by Malcolm Sherman, Chair
April 29, 2005