Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Evaluating the Efficiency, Effectiveness and Sustainability of Outcomes-Based Program Review

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Evaluating the Efficiency, Effectiveness and Sustainability of Outcomes-Based Program Review

Article excerpt

This paper describes criteria used to evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of outcomes-based program review. The criteria were generated from a grounded theory analysis of thirteen institutions whose faculty and administrators have been practicing outcomes-based program review from seven to thirty-two years. Examples of the application of each criterion are provided as well as their relevance to improving student learning, particularly as it relates to the role of faculty.

Legislatures and government agencies are increasingly observant of institutional practices and desire ever increasing involvement in institutional decision-making; accountability has become a prevalent concept and programmatic initiative (Allen & Bresciani, 2003; Bresciani, 2006; Ewell, 1997a, 1997b; Ewell, 2003). While many practices to ensure accountability have been implemented in higher education over the past several decades (Ewell, 2002), research to examine the sustainability of these practices is inconclusive.

The inconclusive research may be due in part, to varying definitions in accountability, or perhaps due to the varying means in which the effectiveness of accountability is evaluated. It is also plausible that the characteristics to determine these processes' success have focused primarily on the process and not the intended outcomes of the process, such as the improvement of student learning and development (American College Personnel Association [ACPA] & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators [NASPA], 2004).

While some scholars have noted the differences between effective versus efficient outcomes-based assessment practices (Banta, 2002; Bresciani, 2006; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, & Whit, 2005; Maki, 2004; Mentkowski, 2000; Suskie, 2004), the process of identifying practices that are equally effective, efficient, and enduring may be beneficial for the continued commitment to improving student learning and development. As such, the purpose of this study was to determine which characteristic were used by thirteen institutions to evaluate the sustainability of their outcomesbased assessment program review process for the improvement of student learning and development.

Review of Literature

The review of literature will first present a definition of outcomes-based assessment program review and how its practice aligns with the notion of accountability. Next, criteria that defines good practice in outcomes-based assessment program review will be presented, followed by criteria that illustrates the ability to identify transformation in institutional practice that may result from the implementation of outcomes-based assessment.

Outcomes-based Assessment Program Review

The term, "outcomes-based assessment" is defined in many ways (Palomba & Banta, 1999). Regardless of which definition used, the reader will observe that many of these definitions have one theme in common: the process of gathering data to inform decisions for continuous improvement (Allen, 2003; Banta, 2002; Bresciani, Zelna, & Anderson, 2004; Maki, 2004; Palomba & Banta, 1999; Suskie, 2004). To engage in the assessment process means that one is implementing a practice, which involves purposeful planning for the delivery and evaluation of intended end results (e.g., outcomes). By design, information gathered in the assessment process can be used to make informed decisions about how the intended outcomes can be met at a greater level of quality (e.g., to improve student learning).

In outcomes-based assessment, the practitioner or faculty member evaluates the intended outcomes or end results of a course, project, or program. The entire assessment process is conducted in a manner that

a) specifies what [that person] wants to have accomplished,

b) identifies how [that person] plans to deliver the learning,

c) illustrates how [that person] plans to evaluate it, and

d) then later reports on what [that person] has learned about what was accomplished in a manner that informs decisions to specifically improve the "doing. …

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