Accreditation, Student Learning, and Outcomes Assessment: What Does It Mean for Faculty?

AHA Session 163
Saturday, January 5, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Williford B (Hilton Chicago, Third Floor)
Elaine Carey, Purdue University Northwest
Tai Edwards, Johnson County Community College
Sarah Lucinda Grunder, Suffolk County Community College
Stacey Randall, Waubonsee Community College
Elle Van Dermark, Asnuntuck Community College

Session Abstract

Terms such as “accreditation,” “compliance,” or “site visit” often evoke feelings of apprehension, propelling even the most well-organized and successful institutions into a temporary state of uncertainty and anxiety. Surrounded by this rush to compile data-filled reports on finances, budgets, governance, and operations, faculty are sometimes left wondering, “What does this all have to do with me?” “What does it have to do with my teaching in the classroom?” Moreover, accreditors’ increased expectations for evidence of student success combined with public pressure to hold higher education more accountable has fueled concerns among faculty about academic freedom and government intrusion into the academy. Accrediting bodies such as the High Learning Commission, for instance, ask that institutions regularly report on student learning, leaving many faculty struggling to balance the time needed to comply with these requirements with the demands of teaching.

While recognizing these concerns, organizations such as the AAUP nevertheless argue that faculty need to be at the center of accreditation, especially when it comes to issues such as learning assessment. A recent report entitled “The Faculty Role in Regional Accreditation” argues that as content experts, faculty are best suited to measure student learning. Moreover, as accrediting bodies become increasingly concerned with academic freedom, tenure, governance, and morale, it is imperative that faculty voices be heard in these discussions that directly affect their working conditions.

The goal of this panel is to discuss the purpose of accreditation, focusing on issues that are most relevant to faculty: teaching, learning, and assessment. The panelists represent colleges and universities from a number of the regional accrediting bodies including the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. They also serve in a variety of roles at their institutions: Elaine Carey is Professor of History and Dean of the College of Humanities, Education, and Social Science at Purdue University Northwest and has served as the Vice President of the Teaching Division of the AHA. She has a great deal of experience with both accreditation and assessment. Sarah Lucinda Grunder, Associate Professor of History and Assistant Academic Chair for Social Sciences at SUNY-Suffolk County Community College, oversees assessment for her program, department, and discipline. Tai Edwards, Associate Professor of History at Johnson County Community College, leads the assessment efforts in her department. Similarly, Elle Van Dermark is professor of History and chair of the General Education committee at Asnuntuck Community College where she serves as the Assessment Coordinator. Stacey Randall, Dean for Institutional Effectiveness and Title V Project Director at Waubonsee Community College, manages assessment and has worked closely on the college’s accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission. As an HLC Peer Reviewer, she can also offer valuable insights into the accreditation process from the perspective of the accrediting agencies. This rich combination of knowledge, experience, and expertise will lead to a engaging and thoughtful conversation on the current state of accreditation and assessment.

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