31 March 2009

Demonstrating Improvement: The Final Part of the Cycle

Outcomes assessment has a rhythm to it: name the outcome, measure it, make improvement, measure again to demonstrate effectiveness of the improvement. Start all over again.

Demonstrating improvement can be a long time coming especially if initial measures include time to establish benchmarks or norm instruments. A narrative on a web page of University of Nebraska - Lincoln offers Exemplars: How is the Outcomes Assessment Process Contributing to Improvements? Most of the exemplars reflect the ongoing nature of the inquiry, not yet claiming success. The page is published by UNL's Office of Undergraduate Studies.

The pertinent question appears to be how much time does it take to actually demonstrate improvement (or no improvement, of course). A colleague hard at work on an accreditation report is struggling with how to highlight the good faith effort of academic programs as they repeat assessments to test for improvement. The answer lies in multi-year assessment cycles with provision for annual measures.

Postscript: A few days ago, Pat Williams (U of Houston) addressed this issue (with the same example) on the Assess this! blog, although I spotted that blog entry just yesterday. Clearly, we were influenced by the same online conversation in a listserv—and the same persistent question.

© 2009 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Email contact: bold[AT]marybold.com. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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