Assessment should focus on quality, not quantity, vice president says

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President Robert Vela calls on more than 150 faculty and staff to provide excellent education and services to students through data and collegewide assessment Tuesday during the first SAC Scores in McAllister. Vela encouraged faculty and staff to be methodical in planning and evaluation for student success.  Photo by E. David Guel

President Robert Vela calls on more than 150 faculty and staff to provide excellent education and services to students through data and collegewide assessment Tuesday during the first SAC Scores in McAllister. Vela encouraged faculty and staff to be methodical in planning and evaluation for student success. Photo by E. David Guel

Departments and administrators participate in first SAC Scores event.

By Katherine Garcia

kgarcia203@student.alamo.edu

In lieu of convocation to open the semester, President Robert Vela convened a session called SAC Scores to focus on collegewide assessment through the use of data.

“When you combine data with a heart — SAC(‘s) heart — we’re going to do some good things,” he said.

Vela called Sac Scores a Data Day in which administrators, faculty and staff meet two to three times per year for assessment.

Dr. Kris Clark, interim vice president of student and academic success, tells more than 150 faculty and staff evaluation of student success must be not be addressed as separate interconnected goals but as one target. Clark compared the concept with throwing darts at a dart board Tuesday during the first SAC Scores in McAllister.  Photo by E. David Guel

Dr. Kris Clark, interim vice president of student and academic success, tells more than 150 faculty and staff evaluation of student success must be not be addressed as separate interconnected goals but as one target. Clark compared the concept with throwing darts at a dart board Tuesday during the first SAC Scores in McAllister. Photo by E. David Guel

Robin Collett, project coordinator for the president’s office, said spring convocation is still in the planning stages, but it will take place in February, and a date has not been determined.

With the accrediting agency Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges “right on our heels,” Vela said the question is how to improve and provide excellent instruction for our students through data collection and assessment.

“The goal for the day is to reach new levels of understanding around assessment, data, planning and improvement,” he said.

Specific moments of success in assessment need to be captured more often, he said. District has a similar initiative in which Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance and ITS, invites certain faculty members to share their WIGS, or Wildly Important Goals, with the board of trustees.

Vela also said if President Barack Obama’s proposal for free community college for the first two years pans out, the government will pay more attention to what the college has been doing.

Vela said he’d make it his charge to brag about this college whenever he can.

“I believe we’re the best in the country, and we need to stop keeping that a secret,” he said.

Dr. Kristine Clark, interim vice president of student and academic success, explained old habits should be reevaluated to improve student success.

She said applying change at work is difficult because it’s easy to fall into habits.

“We move away from habits to evaluate what we’re doing and see if we’re accomplishing what we set out to do,” Clark said.

She suggested employees look at what needs evaluation and find out what needs to change to improve student success.

Higher education assessments focusing on quantity, including grades, enrollment and degrees achieved, are no longer the sole focus of evaluation agencies such as SACS-COC, Clark said, adding the agencies now expect colleges to demonstrate quality of education to make sure students are learning.

Finding ways to improve student success should be “the forefront of what we do on a daily basis,” Clark said.

She said the six assessment methods this college uses — 4DX, WEAVE, eLumen, student learning outcomes, strategic planning and unit review — should not be treated as separate methods, but different facets of a single assessment system.

Four Disciplines of Execution, 4DX, is a program from the FranklinCovey company that involves every employee in the district. WEAVE is a software initially used for strategic planning. Elumen is a software that records student learning outcomes.

Clark showed a visual of the six methods as hitting targets, and Dr. Frank Solis, mortuary science professor, explained how to hit those targets during the unit and department assessments.

While the six methods are not new, Solis said the unit assessment’s goal is for employees to discuss within their respective departments how to use those methods to improve student success.

He also listed some questions for employees to ask themselves including:

• Have I created measurable outcomes? Are those outcomes being measured?

• What data do I use to make a decision? How often do I review this data?

• Do I participate in unit reviews?

• What did I do to meet goals and recommendations from the last unit review?

He said SACS-COC believes any point of contact the college has with a student, whether in the classroom, with a department head or meeting with a professor after class, can lead to student learning.

“It forces us to ask ourselves, if I’m not here to promote student success, then why am I at SAC?” he said.

“Our goal is to assess where you are in each of these processes and to determine as a college where we all are, and to determine as one college how we can all improve,” he said.

After the early session, departments and units met to assess their knowledge and compliance with the assessment methods to determine the resources and training they might need.

A division assessment between the chairs and directors and their respective deans was from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

A college assessment conducted by the president, vice president and deans began at 3 p.m.

Cynthia M. Herrera contributed to this story.

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