Accreditation Primer 2013
We’ve got to do it…
Although considered “voluntary,” without accredited status, educational institutions cannot receive federal funding for their students and courses cannot be used for transfer to other institutions. The “stamp of approval” provides students, the public, faculty, and staff with assurances of our integrity, quality, and effectiveness.
We should want to do it…
Besides the obvious advantages of being accredited, a school can benefit from taking the time to stop and evaluate the way it functions. We don’t often take time from our daily routine to ask, “How are we doing? Could we do better?”
First, we need to conduct a thorough self study, involving faculty, administrators, classified staff, and students. We will appraise our performance against the Commission’s standards as well as our own stated goals. Based on our discussions and research, we will write a comprehensive report, which sums up our findings and responds to the recommendations made last time.
Nail biting time
A team from the Commission will read our report, visit the campus in Spring 2013, interview some of us, and write a report, with commendations for exemplary practices and recommendations for areas needing improvement. The Commission uses all of this information to determine our status and makes its decision public.
Your Job as Co-Chair:
- Set a schedule of meeting times for your team. Plan for your committee to meet twice in the summer, at least two times a month during the fall semester. The steering committee (made up of all the co-chairs) will meet several times this year. We will also have meetings of the whole crew – the kick-off on May 4th and another meeting in the fall.
- Assign a facilitator to keep dialogue going smoothly (could be you), a note-taker (could be you), and some writers to draft sections (also could be you).
- Set deadlines and assign tasks to do research, write, and gather evidence. Your team will collect supporting documents and evidence and get it to me.
- Make sure everyone attends meetings and follows through on tasks.
- Submit a first draft by November 30, 2011
- Submit a final draft by March 30, 2012
Keep your Accreditation Chair in the loop! Let me know when your team is meeting and contact me if you need help. Check the LAVC website for information on our progress.
Contacting Deborah Kaye, Accreditation Chair:
Office – B83
My mailbox in the main office
Dialogue – a Key to Improvement
The Commission has made it clear that an ‘ongoing, self-reflective dialogue’ is central to institutional processes. “A dialogue is a group discussion among colleagues that is designed to explore complex issues, create greater group intelligence, and facilitate group learning.” They see this dialogue as helping the college to promote quality and improvement.
- Dialogue occurs when individuals see themselves as colleagues.
- Dialogue involves active listening, seeking to understand, giving everyone the opportunity to talk, and trying not to interrupt.
- Groups engaged in dialogue develop greater insights, shared meanings, and collective understanding of complex issues and how best to address them.
- A practice of dialogue can benefit the individual as well as the institution.
- Dialogue can help build self-awareness, improve communication skills, strengthen teams, and stimulate innovation that fosters effective change.
- Dialogues are powerful, transformational experiences that lead to both personal and collaborative action.
- Discussions can allow controversial topics that may have in the past become sources of disagreement and division to be explored in a more useful context that can lead to greater group insight.
- Dialogue is a means for an institution to come to collective understanding of what it means to be learning-focused…and how resources and processes might be structured to support the improvement of student learning.
- Unlike debate, in which most academicians are trained to seek to score points and to persuade, the goal of dialogue is mutual understanding and respect.
- A conscious commitment to engage in dialogue ensures that a group welcomes a range of viewpoints during its search for effective ways of addressing important issues.
- Retaining the use of a facilitator can help ensure that the ground rules are maintained and can help clarify themes and ideas.
- Instead of avoiding controversial topics, we can use dialogue lead to institutional growth. By discovering common ground and developing the willingness to work collegially to solve problems, dialogue can improve an institution’s ability to deal with the inevitable disagreements that arise.
- The new standards’ focus on student learning calls for dealing with a complex issue -- improving student learning. It calls on institutions to change and learn. Dialogue can be a powerful strategy for generating the creative discussions and collective wisdom that enable change.
Using the Themes
Several themes are threaded through the standards. These themes can provide guidance and structure to self-reflective dialogue and evaluation of institutional effectiveness. Here are the themes:
- We’re being asked to make a commitment to provide high quality education congruent with our mission.
- Does our mission statement reflect the intended student population and our commitment to student learning?
- Can we ensure consistency between our mission and our goals and plans and that it guides our action?
- Do we support student learning as our primary mission?
- Do we regularly review our mission statement, adapt it as needed, and renew commitment to achieving our mission?
Evaluation, Planning, and Improvement
- We are being asked to evaluate and improve to help serve students better, focusing on achievement, learning, and the effectiveness of processes, policies, and organization.
- Do we have an ongoing and systematic cycle of evaluation, integrated planning, implementation, and re-evaluation?
- Does our evaluation inform college decisions about where we need to improve? Are resources distributed to implement these goals? When resources are insufficient, does the college adjust its priorities or seek other means of supplying resources? Once improvement plans have been fully implemented, do we evaluate how well the goals have been met?
Student Learning Outcomes
- Do we consciously and robustly demonstrate the effectiveness of our efforts to produce and support student learning by developing student learning outcomes at the course, program, and degree level?
- Do we measure and assess them to determine how well learning is occurring so that we can make changes to improve learning and teaching?
- Do faculty engage in discussions on how to deliver instruction to maximize student learning?
- Doe we provide student support services to develop student learning outcomes and evaluate the quality of policies, processes, and procedures for providing students access and movement through the institution?
- Are student learning outcomes at the center of our key processes and allocation of resources?
- Do we engage in self-analysis leading to improvement of all that we do regarding learning and teaching?
- Do we facilitate engagement in inclusive, informed, and intentional dialogue about institutional quality and improvement?
- Do all members of the college community participate in this reflection and exchange about student achievement, student learning, and the effectiveness of our processes, policies, and organization?
- Is it based on reliable information about the college’s programs and services and evidence on how well the institution is meeting student needs?
- Is the information quantitative and qualitative, responsive to a clear inquiry, meaningfully interpreted, and broadly communicated?
- Does the institutional dialogue result in ongoing self-reflection and conscious improvement?
- Do we demonstrate concern with honesty, truthfulness, and the way we represent ourselves to all stakeholders?
- How do we treat students, employees, and the public?
- Are we concerned about clarity, accessibility, and appropriateness of our publications?
- Do our faculty provide for open inquiry in our classes as well as student grades that reflect an honest appraisal of student performance? Do we have an expectation of student academic honesty?
- Do we demonstrate regard for issues of equity and diversity? Do we look at our hiring and employment practices as well as to our relationship with the Commission and other external agencies?
- Are we self-reflective and honest in all our operations?
- Do we have inclusive, informed, and intentional efforts to define student learning, provide programs to support that learning, and evaluate how well learning is occurring?
- Are we organized to identify and make public learning outcomes, to evaluate the effectiveness of programs in producing those outcomes, and to make improvements?
- Do we have adequate staff, resources, and organizational structure (communication and decision making structures) oriented to produce and support student learning?
- How well does our organization support learning?
If you were involved in previous cycles of accreditation, you know that many of the standards are the same. However, in 2002, a new element was added to accreditation’s focus: Student Learning Outcomes. These focus on what students have learned as a result of attending college. This focus requires that the institution provide evidence of a conscious effort to:
- make learning the institution’s core activity
- support and produce student learning
- measure that learning
- assess how well learning is occurring
- make changes to improve student learning
- organize its key processes to effectively support student learning
- allocate its resources to effectively support student learning
- improve learning as an important means to institutional improvement