VPAA Corner is the first of several blogs that Kean Xchange will begin to publish in the upcoming weeks.  It features commentary by Dr. Jeffrey Toney, who was recently appointed as Vice President of Academic Affairs at Kean University.

It is an honor to serve as Kean University’s Vice President of Academic Affairs.  KeanXchange offers a unique opportunity to share the latest developments within the Division of Academic Affairs with colleagues and with the broader community.  Online social media has revolutionized the sharing of information, how students learn and how communities organize.  (Please see my regular blogs at ScienceBlogs and  The Huffington Post.)  Blogs are most effective when they initiate civil, engaging discussions amongst their readers.  I encourage you to post comments.

I would like to devote my first entry to the University’s activities on accreditation:

More and more universities and colleges are focusing on assessment at two levels – that of the institution itself and that of the student.  This focus is necessary not because of requirements by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or because of any accrediting body for that matter.  It’s because it is the right thing to do to improve student learning. 

What is the best way to accomplish this?  It must be a systematic, simple and verifiable process that is ongoing, designed to drive recommendations and decisions based upon data.  With each cycle, a frank assessment is made as to whether the goals sought reflect what has been accomplished.  If not, the process is an opportunity for improvement.  This is a healthy process for any institution, whether it is devoted to higher education or a private corporation.

What is Kean University doing to strengthen the key areas of institutional assessment and assessment of student learning?  During Summer 2011, there was a range of activities of a large number of faculty and administrators committed to this process.  A number of workshops were held by the Office of Accreditation and Assessment.  I invite you to explore their website as a rich resource on assessment activities by each of our academic programs.  These workshops, along with ongoing faculty meetings at the Department and School levels during Fall 2011, have been critical in further refining how each academic area defines student learning outcomes, their mission and their goals.  This is not to say that our academic programs have not done this before; these more recent activities were focused on reflection and further refining the process.  If you would like to learn more, you can subscribe to the Office of Accreditation and Assessment’s YouTube channel.

During November of this year, we brought in two experts on assessment:  Dr. David Gibson, who previously served as Dean of the School of Health Related Professions at UMDNJ, and Dr. Barbara Walvoord from the University of Notre Dame, who has evaluated more than 350 institutions of higher education for accrediting bodies and is widely published as a scholar on assessment.  These experts have provided independent insight and perspective on our assessment activities.  They have characterized our efforts as one of the best and most thorough.

Below is a summary of what has been accomplished so far:

  • ž  Board of Trustees Resolutions:
  • June 2011 – Mandating campus-wide assessment
  • September 2011 – Mandating academic program review (3 year cycle of all academic programs)

On Institutional effectiveness:

  • ž  Every major department and unit:
  • Articulated mission, goals and objectives and has an assessment calendar.
  • Is aligned to the mission of the University.
  • Has been trained to develop an assessment plan.
  • Has established an assessment cycle along with criteria for assessment.
  • ž  The University Planning Council has been redesigned to take a more active role in monitoring the latest strategic plan.
  • ž  The Institutional Effectiveness Report Card and its core indicators and benchmarks are ~ 80% completed.
  • ž  Established an Enrollment Management Plan.
  • ž  The Office of Accreditation and Assessment has:
  • Established ongoing training and support for all departments.
  • Assists with gathering evidence for these units campus-wide.

On student learning:

  • ž  All Colleges have mission statements as well as goals and objectives.
  • ž  All Academic Programs have:
  • Mission statements aligned with the University’s mission.
  • Explicitly stated Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs).
  • Gathered indirect and direct evidence of student learning for every SLO.
  • Curriculum maps that aligns core courses with SLOs.
  • An Assessment Plan.
  • A Program Review Schedule.
  • ž  All Academic Programs have:
  • Program reviews with a specific guideline aligned with the best practices of Middle States and complies with the mandates of the Board of Trustees as well as the Office of the President.
  • Capstone course syllabi that contain the program’s SLOs.
  • Mission statements and SLOs are on the Kean website.
  • Mission statements and SLOs are linked to the University’s catalogue (in progress). 
  • Capstone courses use the School of General Studies (SGS) written and oral communication rubric and an external tool (CAAP) to measure critical learning.
  • ž  Ongoing training for faculty in assessment practices from the SGS and the Office of Assessment.
  • ž  All Mission Statements, SLOs, Assessment Plans and Measures, were developed by faculty during the summer workshops and refined during the fall assessment   meetings.
  • ž  All Academic Programs will be participating in on-going program assessment activities including documenting in January 2012 “closing the loop” activities in required “Assessment Report” form that will be posted on the Academic Assessment AY11-12 chart on Kean’s Middle States website.

Your Thoughts

Very informative! Thanks, Dr. Toney.

Love the new VPAA Corner. Communication was cited by MSCHE as an area Kean needed to work on. I am glad to finally hear from you, as our VPAA. Silence from you, and rumors all these months since you became VPAA, has been at times very frustrating. Thanks for this opportunity to hear from you more directly and hopefully regularly.

Looks like a great effort that could propel Kean U to the next level of distinction. Accreditation and assessment of student learning are very important and have become even more important with the enhanced communication technology and social media that we now have. There is a clear necessity to look closely at changing the Gold Standard in the information delivery from its stand up presentation to a more interactive form or information transfer.

As we have always seen students reluctance to engage during lecture presentations, no matter how much one tries. It is embedded somewhere in the student's psyche, for fear of looking bad before one's classmates, not to engage the instructor with questions. Overcoming that barrier will require a different delivery system. That system, however will depend on the material being delivered? But it all basically comes back to "How to make the delivered information relevant to the student's life and aspirations?

The same argument can be made about the assessment protocols? Here again, with all the other constraints on the teaching process, the choices may not be many. Hence the intricate connection between how information is delivered and how the assessment is performed, entail a concurrent revamping of both, at the same time, to bring about a cohesive program that updates the delivery method as well as the assessment protocols of the student learning at the same time.

I think one way to accomplish that would be to establish a pilot program in which a specific course (or a small number of course), can be selected where a new innovative method of information delivery and student assessment, can be developed. It is probably best to try it in one discipline before applying it to others. Just some thoughts for discussion.


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