Institutional effectiveness incorporates effective planning and strategizing of academic goals, the implementation thereof, as well as the assessment and evaluation of what has been implemented. In 2005, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) determined various guidelines to facilitate developing and checking the systematic, explicit processes involved in documenting and measuring performance within institutions of higher learning. The aim is to ensure that the mission of the institution meets the academic goals and objectives set out and that students receive the best education. The meeting of these objectives ties up with principles of accreditation and ensuring quality enhancement at all times. Ultimately, successful education of the student is paramount.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regional body in the Southern states that accredits institutions of higher education regarding granting degrees. The commission's mission is to ensure quality education and institutional effectiveness through attaining the highest standards. The commission also accredits other institutions of higher education in various international locations.
Guidelines from SACS include appropriate planning and evaluation techniques and strategies. The academic institution requires systematic documentation of expected results, methods for implementation toward this end and ways with which to analyze the results. Educational goals need to be formulated with clarity, with a follow-up evaluation procedure to determine achievement of set goals. Success is evaluated primarily by student achievement. This is ascertained by a combination of checking the completion of coursework, examination results and subsequent job placement. Further guidelines include planning and evaluating effective administration and student support services. Research is considered an important aspect of institutional effectiveness as well.
Institutional effectiveness comprises key features relating to a shared and clearly stated purpose by the academic institution and the concomitant goals. In addition, procedures to actualize these goals are carefully and thoroughly put into practice, followed by ongoing evaluations and assessment of results.
The measurement of effectiveness is determined by the synchronicity between the proposed goals and the subsequent achievement. Whereas efficiency is related to volume and management of work, effectiveness corresponds to quality. Academic achievements of students is a measure of institutional effectiveness that is clarified through observations, inspections and gathering data. Educational effectiveness occurs when systems are implemented and evaluated in a value- or quality-orientated way to reach preset goals.
Institutional effectiveness began to gain ground in the 1980s. In higher education institutions, student outcomes assessment was already in practice. Within a few years, federal government took an interest, and the idea of institutional effectiveness became increasingly high profile. The role of professional accreditation associations, plus heightened focus on accreditation by regional, state and government bodies, contributed to the movement. What became necessary was the transferring of theoretical ideas into clear and effective practice.
In A Practitioner's Handbook for Institutional Effectiveness and Student Outcomes Assessment Implementation, James O. Nichols suggests that the most important advice is the notion that each institution should adapt the implementation process to its unique requirements and not attempt to change the institution to fit the implementation model.
There are many routes toward institutional effectiveness, determined by the unique environment of the campus. In order to refine and enhance the educational process, methodologies are implemented by practitioners in the academic institution. They need to share a common commitment toward institutional effectiveness and quality enhancement. This focus and desire to achieve educational effectiveness and assessment of outcomes are crucial to the program. At the same time, the requirement to be accountable to accrediting bodies and state government agencies goes a long way toward a successful plan and achievement.
Thorough and systematic planning, as well as the assessment of outcomes, is essential to institutional effectiveness. The two are inextricably linked as excellent planning is only valuable in conjunction with evaluating whether the goals and objectives have been met. High levels of organization, documentation and the assurance that assessment is carried out are key tools in the process. These assessments and evaluations allow for an increased level of understanding as to whether the programs have been effective. If they are not, changes and improvements can be systematically implemented.