Using Accreditation for Assessment
Joanne Easley Arnold University of Colorado, Boulder
Although some argue that the accreditation process is too costly in time and money; that it is often outdated, rigid, and inappropriately prescriptive; and that it typically fails to address the effectiveness of instructional programs, most observers believe accreditation is here to stay. With thoughtful changes to encourage institutions themselves to define their goals and missions, to move toward more flexible standards, to serve better and more openly the public interest, and -- above all -- to examine student outcomes, the benefits of accreditation to academic programs and their institutions will outweigh the costs. Here, a systematic approach to measuring instructional outcomes is outlined, beginning with laying intended course outcomes against a grid of Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) accreditation standards, filling the gaps through curriculum development, and defining ways to express objectives and measure hoped-for outcomes.
The most straightforward starting place for thinking about measures of student outcomes is with accrediting standards. Indeed, one could argue that such a starting place is the most obvious way to construct a coherent instructional program and the most useful basis for assessment.
Assessment and accreditation are joined in this case to help individual instructional units identify strengths, discover areas for improvement, and enhance communication with a variety of important constituents. It is not the purpose here to discuss in depth the approaches taken by higher