Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Recursive Process Model for AACSB Assurance of Learning

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Recursive Process Model for AACSB Assurance of Learning

Article excerpt


A key element in a successful AACSB accreditation is a process-based approach to meeting the current AACSB International "Assurance of Learning" (AoL) accreditation standards. AoL is one of three areas (Strategic Management Standards, Participants Standards, and AoL) that are represented by the current twenty-one standards that comprise the AACSB International Eligibility Procedures and Standards for Business Accreditation, adopted by member vote in April, 2003 (AACSB, 2010).

As a historical perspective, prior to 1991, AACSB learning standards were based on a "Common Body of Knowledge" requirement of all undergraduate and graduate business majors. These standards were based on discipline (e.g., finance and accounting) as well as more specific sub-disciplines which were evaluated based on contact hours within the program. In 1991, AACSB adopted mission-linked, outcome-oriented AoL standards and the peer-review process. The measurement of outcomes was broadly defined, with surveys of students, alumni, or employers allowed.

The latest conceptual change in AoL standards for initial accreditation and reaccreditation occurred in April, 2003, with the most recent revision to the 2003 standards occurring in Jan. 2010. The 2003 standards called for a more direct measure of learning achievement for each degree program as a natural extension of the concept of "outcomes assessment" introduced in the 1991 standards. Milton R. Blood, managing director of AACSB International at the time of the 2003 revision, stated that the new standards were more "evolutionary" than "revolutionary" and that the 2003 AoL element of accreditation is based on "achievement of learning rather than the pre-2003 "intention to provide" learning (Thompson, 2004; Miles, Hazeldine and Munilla, 2004).

AACSB currently provides twenty-one standards for business accreditation divided into three categories--Strategic Management (1-5), Participants--Students and Faculty (6-14), and Assurance of Learning (15-21). The greater emphasis on AoL is demonstrated by the seven AoL standards representing 33% of the 2003 AACSB standards compared to less than 10% of the 1991 standards. The current AoL standards are clear in definition and specific in purpose yet leave discretion to schools as to how AoL results are achieved. The standards support the principle of accountability through direct (rather than the pre-2003 indirect) assessment and continuous improvement.

Explicit in the new standards are the establishment of (a) degree-based learning goals linked to the missions of the school and each degree program, (b) direct measures of learning achievement (indirect measures are allowed as a supplement), and (c) an action plan for and documentation of progress toward achievement of program learning goals.

The AoL process presented below is based on the concept of recursion and drawn from recursive processes found in the sciences. The recursive process model was implemented in 2008 at the University of San Diego for a cohort-based specialized Master's level degree program (Program) offered by the School of Business Administration (SBA). The university is a private institution with approximately 8,800 students. The SBA is comprised of 1,152 undergraduate and 444 graduate students and is AACSB-accredited.

AoL Standard 19 addresses the knowledge and skills required for a Master's level degree in specialized programs and states that (AACSB, 2010):

The level of knowledge represented by the students of a specialized Master's level program is the:

* Application of knowledge even in new and unfamiliar circumstances through a conceptual understanding of the specialization.

* Ability to adapt and innovate to solve problems.

* Capacity to critically analyze and question knowledge claims in the specialized discipline.

* Capacity to understand the specified discipline from a global perspective. …

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