Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

National Survey of College and University Honors Programs Assessment Protocols

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

National Survey of College and University Honors Programs Assessment Protocols

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Educators concerned with the development and maintenance of collegiate honors programs throughout the United States face considerable hurdles in these times of decreased funding, concerns about charges of elitism, and calls for accountability (Campbell 95). In 1990, the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) published a monograph that identified a minimum of five concerns that should be periodically and systematically evaluated within a program: causes of attrition, liberal education goals of the curriculum, participation in cultural and community activities, administrative structure and budget, and advising responsibilities (Reihman, Varhus, & Whipple). Although the NCHC, as well as accrediting bodies, strongly supports the assessment of honors programs, Greg Lanier reports little consistency in the process or the findings of such assessments (84).

In spite of a growing body of literature supporting the benefits of honors programs (Achterberg; Cosgrove; Hartleroad; Park & Maisto; Ross & Roman; Seifert, Pascarella, Colangelo, & Assouline; Shushok), some members of the national community of honors educators remain resistant to the concept of assessing their programs. Lanier cites the spring/summer 2006 volume of the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council (JNCHC) that included nine essays in its "Forum on Outcomes Assessment, Accountability, and Honors"; he writes that two thirds of them focused on the problem and dangers in program assessment. A common theme in several of the essays opposing assessment was that the unique and qualitative nature of the stated outcomes of honors programs makes assessment difficult or unhelpful (Digby; Freyman; Strong).

My question was whether honors educators in 2009 had regular methods of evaluating honors or were resisting the national movement to require empirical evidence of the success of their programs. This paper reports the results of a national survey of honors program assessment protocols among both NCHC members and nonmembers to determine whether honors programs are being assessed and, if so, how they are being assessed.

METHOD

Participants

Honors programs were identified through two methods. A current (2009) listing of members of the National Collegiate Honors Council was obtained from the NCHC website . Member institutions were numbered, and a hundred participants were randomly selected.

Nonmembers of NCHC were identified through a member list of all Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) institutions available through the AAC&U website at . The NCHC member list contains over 800 institutions and the AAC&U list contains over 1,200; however, the overlap is considerable. Those AAC&U members which were also members of NCHC were eliminated, as were those listed that were not colleges, community colleges, or universities. The resulting population of non-NCHC member institutions was just over 600. One hundred participants were randomly selected from the AAC&U list, with ineligible names eliminated. Additional random selections occurred until the non-NCHC participants also numbered 100. Of this sample, 27 were eventually eliminated because they did not have an honors program. The remaining non-NCHC sample of 73 reflects about 11% of the total AAC&U institutions that are not members of NCHC while the NCHC sample of 100 reflects approximately 12% of the NCHC member institutions.

The final two groups consisted of 100 members of NCHC and 73 nonmembers of NCHC. Completed responses were returned by 24 NCHC members (24%) and 14 nonmembers (19%) for a total response rate of 38 (22%).

Materials

Materials consisted of a three-page questionnaire, The National Survey of College and University Honors Programs Assessment Protocols, which was developed by the primary researcher (see Appendix A). …

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