With the granting of initial accreditation in 2002, Arkansas State University-Newport began developing an assessment plan to enable our institution to become more focused upon student learning and institutional effectiveness. The annual cycle of assessment provides a framework of measurable objectives to align academic programs, academic support services, student support services, institutional support services and community support services with our mission statement, strategic goals and accountability matrix.
As changes occur in the campus, the student body, or the course offerings, the priorities - quality teaching and attention to the individual student as a learner - will remain the same. The fundamental question for our institution is what do we most want our students to learn? What evidence can we gather to show that our students have achieved our learner outcomes? How can we improve our effectiveness?
As stated by the Higher Learning Commission, assessment is a strategy for understanding and improving student learning and educational quality. With this in mind, Arkansas State University – Newport has chosen several guidelines:
- Our program flows from our mission statement.
- Our conceptual framework is our nine stated strategic goals.
- Our faculty has ownership and responsibility of our programs.
- Our program has institution-wide support from the top down. Frequent conversation and dialogue concerning assessment is a positive and continuous method for improvement.
- Our program uses multiple assessment methods and strives to collect measurable data to further student learning and institutional growth.
- Our program provides feedback to our students, the communities within our service area, faculty, and to all who have a vested interest in our institution. We endeavor to provide feedback that is specific and timely.
- Our program is cost effective. We use our resources as economically as possible. We provide directional leadership and time lines for projects and reports.
- Our program leads to improvement through continuous monitoring and adjusting according to data analysis.
- Our program includes a process for evaluating the assessment program to see if it is working, appropriate, and useful.
The possibility of change through continuous improvement is a foundation for ASUN’s assessment program. The design of ASUN’s assessment plan is based on a continual quality improvement cycle exemplified in the Shewart PDSA Model – Plan, Do, Study, Act. The underlying premise of this method is that continual improvement requires repeated revolutions of this cycle and provides a structure for planned change through use of assessment information as a means to improve. ASUN modified the Shewart PDSA Model to accommodate our individual needs. The categories for our assessment tool are Plan, Do, Check, Action.
In order for the Arkansas State University-Newport assessment cycle to be effective, it must be a shared process among faculty, students and staff who actively participate in decision making. Our assessment cycle begins with a yearly review of our mission statement and institutional goals by our Chancellor, the Vice Chancellors, Division Chairs, Assessment Coordinator and representatives from faculty, staff and students. After this review, copies of any changes are distributed to the chairpersons of each core competency committee and the director of each technical program. The committees meet and develop measurable outcomes that reflect the current mission of our university.
After the assessment tool (Plan, Do, Check, Action) has been administered, data is collected, reviewed and interpreted by each committee. Any necessary changes are implemented, and the assessment cycle begins again. This assessment cycle flows from collected data that is reviewed to accommodate institutional growth and strategic planning on a yearly basis.