Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Assessing Curriculum: An Internal and External Review with an Emphasis on Student Work

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Assessing Curriculum: An Internal and External Review with an Emphasis on Student Work

Article excerpt


Both an internal and external assessment of a competency-based interior design program was conducted Although the assessment focused on student work (outcomes), it also included a written evaluation of the program and resources (inputs). The internal assessment was conducted by the faculty in the program, and the external assessment was conducted by a threemember Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER) team. A comparison of the results of the two assessments revealed differences and confirmed the importance of having outside evaluators assess the curriculum and student work to determine if the program meets stated goals and prepares students for careers in their profession.

Today, more than ever, academic programs within institutions of higher learning are required to justify their existence in the face of changing economic, social, cultural, and political conditions. The demands for greater accountability of academic programs have led to the need to demonstrate the quality of student performance to constituencies both inside and outside the academic institution. A method of validating quality performance or providing a means to improve performance is faculty participation in both internal and external program reviews. These assessments, when carefully planned, executed, and analyzed, provide a greater understanding of how well the program prepares its students to meet expected standards. The purpose of this study was to compare the results of an internal and an external assessment of both the inputs and the outcomes (student work) of a competency-based interior design program.

Internal assessments or self-studies are often conducted by faculty and unit administrators to assist institutions in their strategic-planning processes, to provide documentation to support institutional accreditation, or both. The assessment allows the academic units to provide information on the quality, efficiency, and value of the program of study. Although these qualitative assessments are extremely beneficial for the identification of strengths and limitations of programs, they may be subject to some degree of bias. Submitting a program to a formal external assessment allows an unbiased evaluation of the program's academic standards and its abilities to meet the needs of a specific field of study.

External assessments are conducted in numerous ways including, but not limited to, surveying professionals in the field and graduates of the program or submitting the program to a formal accreditation process. Family and consumer sciences has a long tradition of voluntarily subjecting its programs to the rigors of an external review process. The American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) is recognized as the reliable authority for quality education in family and consumer sciences. Published standards and criteria for undergraduate programs in this broad field of study assist the academic units in preparing for the review process, which can result in the AAFCS accreditation. Within this accreditation, professional programs, such as foods and nutrition, clothing and textiles, interior design, and family and child development, must provide breadth and depth in content while reflecting the mission of family and consumer sciences.

Additionally, specific accreditations for several of the professional programs are often administered in family and consumer sciences units including, but not limited to, dietetics, interior design, and the child life specialty. These specialized accreditations were established to improve professional preparation for entry-level positions and to benefit the professions they represent and the public they serve by ensuring quality educational programs. The Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER) is the specialized accrediting agency responsible for promoting excellence in interior design education through research and the accreditation of academic programs (FIDER, 1996). …

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