Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Similarities and Differences between the Key Elements Identified by Faculty and Administrators Leading to Successful Implementation of Student Learning Outcomes

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Similarities and Differences between the Key Elements Identified by Faculty and Administrators Leading to Successful Implementation of Student Learning Outcomes

Article excerpt

The initiation of new accreditation standards for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 2002 mandated assessing student learning as a requirement for all community colleges. This study examined a non-Californian community college recognized by experts as having successfully institutionalized student learning outcomes. Qualitative data from 18 faculty and seven administrators were examined to determine what elements could be identified as keys to successful implementation. Twelve categories emerged from the data. Each category was further analyzed to elicit elements that were key to faculty and/or administrators and to note similarities and differences among the groups. Faculty were most focused on what impacts their existence in the classroom; they see improvement of teaching and learning as the force behind their commitment. In contrast, administrators tended to take a broad institutional view in describing what was key. Findings from this study demonstrate the importance of understanding these two perspectives as essential to successful implementation.

Background

American colleges and universities have long been credited as the foundation of our nation's economic success and overall prosperity (National Commission on Excellence in Education [NCEE], 1983). Flagship universities have been touted for their outstanding research programs and numerous contributions to the scientific and intellectual communities. State universities provide liberal arts degrees and specialized program degrees. The advent of the third tier of American postsecondary education - the community colleges - made possible broadening the mission of higher education to include transfer, vocational/ technical education, continuing education, basic skills, and community education programs (Cohen « Brawer, 2003). A 1982 Gallup Poll of attitudes toward public schools revealed that education is extremely important to an individual's future success, and that education is integral to our future strength as a country: "The primary importance of education is the foundation for a satisfying life, an enlightened and civil society, a strong economy, and a secure Nation" (NCEE, 1983, p.8).

Beginning in 1983, however, several national reports (NCEE, 1983; Education Commission of the States, 1986; National Governors' Association, 1986) documented decrements in students' academic performance and identified an overwhelming public perception that the quality of higher education had significantly declined. This concern resulted in a nationwide call for education reform - including certification of the quality of student learning and accountability for funding higher education - from the federal government, state governors and legislatures, business leaders, students, families of students, and leaders from within higher education (NCEE, 1983).

Today, more than 20 years after these reports on the decline of postsecondary education, we still struggle with securing the confidence of the American public regarding the quality of higher education. "Information about student learning outcomes is important to government, students, and the public because these constituents increasingly tie judgments about the quality of an institution or program to evidence of student academic achievement" (Council for Higher Education Accreditation, 2002, p.l). In an attempt to meet these demands, accrediting agencies continue to develop more forceful accreditation models to improve student learning and regain public assurance (Ewell, 1997). The federal government is also trying to improve accountability via accreditation (Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, 2006) .

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges is the last accrediting agency to adopt standards that include establishing institutional effectiveness based partially on the measurement of student learning outcomes (SLOs) (Gallagher, 2008). These new standards were adopted by California community colleges in 2002 (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, 2002). …

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