The Office of Institutional Accreditation and Effectiveness (IAE) led many initiatives this past academic year designed to improve organizational processes and the student experience. Collaborating with hundreds of faculty, staff, and administrators and leading multiple cross-campus committees, the IAE team worked hard to ensure the university’s success in accreditation and assessment.
Here are some of the major accomplishments of IAE’s initiatives over the past year:
Launching the University’s 2018 Reaffirmation of Accreditation.
Every ten years, UT Austin undergoes reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Besides supporting internal quality control and demonstrating accountability to constituents, accreditation entitles UT Austin to receive federal funds, including research monies and student scholarships and loans.
From fall 2015 to spring 2018, campus partners will collaborate to prepare the institution for its reaffirmation; this year, IAE unveiled a new website to keep the campus community informed about accreditation.
Also this year, President Fenves convened an Accreditation Steering Team that provides oversight of reaffirmation. SACSCOC President Dr. Belle Wheelan and Vice-President Dr. Mike Johnson accepted our invitation to visit campus in March. During the successful one-day event, the SACSCOC representatives met with the president, provost, and members of the steering team to discuss accreditation benefits and processes.
Last semester, IAE met with over 60 faculty members, staffers, and administrators who are writing the Compliance Certification Report (CCR), which documents institutional accomplishments and practices across 94 SACSCOC standards of quality.
Selecting the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan.
As part of UT Austin’s reaffirmation, the university must create a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that proposes a major, well-defined, evidence-based, five-year initiative that impacts student learning. In the spring, the IAE team kicked off the QEP selection process by convening the QEP Development Committee. This group of faculty and administrators conducted an environmental scan that included reviewing structures and resources, identifying constituencies, and assessing strategic documents and reports. The committee also reviewed substantial state and national data related to student learning initiatives. Committee members have identified potential topics and will discuss their recommendations with the provost over the summer.
Revising the University’s Assessment Framework.
The university began assessing all academic programs and many non-academic services and departments in 2006 with the goal of engaging in continuous improvement. In 2014, IAE reflected on institutional assessment processes, concluding that the university would benefit from a new approach that acknowledges the evolution of assessment over the past eight years. Consequently, the team led a 2015 initiative to adopt a new assessment framework. Along with faculty, staff, and administrators who served on the Institutional Effectiveness Committee, they conducted extensive research, including benchmarking, case studies, literature reviews, and a campus needs assessment.
The findings led IAE to launch a new assessment framework in the fall 2015 that focuses on use, utility, and meaningful and sustainable practices; it also creates more uniform language and expectations across academic and non-academic units. The intention is that the framework will provide more flexibility to units, especially allowing them to capture more comprehensive and strategic changes to curriculum, pedagogy, processes, operations, or services.
Early feedback indicates that campus partners think the framework is simpler, more comprehensive, and more meaningful.
Generating Assessment Principles and Guidelines.
IAE, along with the Institutional Effectiveness Committee (IEC), crafted and ratified principles and guidelines to support the university’s assessment culture. The IAE team is pleased to have these statements, which can serve as touchpoints about why and how we conduct outcomes assessment. Units can look to the principles and guidelines in order to further develop their own processes and structures. True to the guidelines, many colleges/schools, departments, and units created assessment committees this year that ensure local ownership of assessment and provide opportunities for collaborative reflection and decision making.