Outcomes Assessment and the Faculty Culture: Conflict or Congruence?
Tener, Robert K., Journal of Engineering Education
"There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who would profit from the old order, and lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order." -Machiavelli 
In most engineering faculties, instituting an outcomes assessment program is certainly "to initiate a new order of things" in the sense of Machiavelli's admonition. A popular and relevant dictum from the field of management is that management of change, especially change of institutional paradigms, is the most difficult task leaders face. The heuristic which underlies the following discussion and analysis is: Thegreatest challenge to developing an effective outcomes assessment system is the institutional of the faculty.
The literature on total quality in higher education is replete with support for this notion. Arguments and experience supporting it appear in references?*8 Ewell admonishes in reference 9 that "... assessment is less a 'mechanism' than a mindset." Numerous discussions during the symposium, "Best Assessment Practices in Engineering Education," sponsored by NSF at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology (April 10-12, 1997) bore out the premise stated above. From experience at West Virginia University, it was concluded that "Implementation of an assessment plan in which faculty provide and respond to feedback will be a difficult task. At most institutions it will require a significant paradigm shift in faculty behavior.... (i)f this problem is not dealt with forthrightly at the outset, implementation of an effective assessment plan is doomed."'
However, there is little found in the literature about definitive methods which a faculty team, charged to develop an assessment process, can use to deal with the problems they encounter due to existing faculty attitudes and department paradigms.
The purposes of this paper are, first, to describe some typical characteristics of an engineering faculty culture which will create challenges and opporrunities for the outcomes assessment (O/A) team. Next we describe some specific issues which the O/A team will face and must decide what to do about. Finally we develop some approaches by which the O/A team can deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by the faculty culture.
For the purposes of this discussion, outcomes assessment (O/A) system is broadly defined to include all assessment-related activities of a quality improvement process, from goal and objective setting through the evaluation, feedback, and action stages.
II. THE OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT TEAM
We presuppose in this discussion that an engineering department decides to form a team, primarily composed of faculty members, to develop an O/A system for the department. This approach is common and appropriate. Schachterle observes, "At most institutions, the faculty own and manage the curriculum. Thus they must take the lead in implementing in their own programs the changes. . . that EC 2000 promotes."8
The makeup and the experience, knowledge, strategy, tactics, and attitudes of the O/A team - of its members and as a unit - all have significant influence on the effectiveness of the system they will produce.
Usually and desirably the O/A team is comprised primarily of current faculty members. It may be part of or identical to an existing committee of the faculty, or it may be a new task committee. There may be adjunct members on the committee. For example, it may be useful to include in the team one or more persons expert in educational assessment practices, members of the department's industry advisory committee, students, and staff people who will administer the O/A system once it is developed.
But in all cases the O/A team membership must include suitable representation from the de facto leadership in the department. The …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Outcomes Assessment and the Faculty Culture: Conflict or Congruence?. Contributors: Tener, Robert K. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Engineering Education. Volume: 88. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 1999. Page number: 65+. © AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR ENGINEERING EDUCATION Oct 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.