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UNK Welcomes NCA

North Central Self Study
Chapter 5: Criterion Three

The institution is accomplishing its education and other purposes.

Assessment of
Appropriate Student Academic Achievement

Documentation of student academic achievement was first formally instituted at UNK in 1992. In keeping with the commitment of the UNK Role and Mission to provide a quality educational experience for each student pursuing an undergraduate education, guidelines for assessment were developed and approved by the Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate, the Dean's Council, the Planning Council, and the Administrative Council. These guidelines provided that assessment would be department based and carried out by chairs and their faculty committees. They also established the purpose of assessment as a means of gathering information on student academic achievement to direct curricular and programmatic change and to enhance student academic achievement. The results of assessment activities were to be addressed at the department level and summarized for Deans. Assessment summaries were also to be included in self-studies for five-year program reviews, annual updates, and accreditation studies. The time line for implementation of assessment procedures provided for full implementation of policies and procedures during the 1993-1994 Academic Year.

The first annual report of the UNK Office of Assessment was published in the Appendix of the 1994 NCA Self-Study Report. The goals of the first report were to inventory existing assessment practices, clarify department missions in terms of assessment, and identify additional assessment activities that would document the achievement of department missions. Guidelines directed departments to develop and use multiple means of assessment. This initial phase of assessment resulted in the implementation of assessment practices for all departments offering majors and minors as well as all programs offering minors. (Assessment Plans and Reports for 1993-2000 are available at

Current Progress in Assessment

Assessment has remained a continuous process at UNK from 1994 to the present; however, revisions to the initial procedures and guidelines were undertaken in 2000 because implementation and annual reporting of assessment results had become uneven. Whereas some departments regularly carried out both direct and indirect means of measuring student learning outcomes and reported them in a timely fashion each year, others lacked clearly articulated goals and objectives and/or instruments that would effectively and reliably measure stated objectives. Still others-some of whom were carrying out assessment-failed to report annually or were erratic in implementing their assessment plans. Additionally, in a number of departments, assessment was developed, implemented, and carried out almost exclusively by the chair with little or no faculty assistance or participation. Moreover, many administrators and faculty members were aware that the 1993-1994 plans adopted by departments and programs failed to satisfy the more stringent requirements instituted by NCA because they tended to be department-centered rather than student-centered. From a broader perspective, the processes and procedures needed to be updated institution-wide to more satisfactorily reflect the characteristics identified in the NCA Levels of Implementation (Addendum to the Handbook of Accreditation, Second Edition, March 2002).

Consequently, in November 2000, UNK undertook a renewal and revision of its assessment procedures. The SVCAA developed a strategic plan for assessment as an initial step in the process (a copy is available in the archives). To enhance UNK's department and program assessment processes, the SVCAA, in concert with the Faculty Senate Executive committee, named members to a Faculty Senate ad hoc Assessment Committee. In addition to the chair and the coordinator of assessment, this committee was composed of the Director of Operations Analysis, two faculty representatives from each undergraduate college, one faculty representative from the graduate college, and one representative each from the library, registrar's office, Council of Department Chairs, and Student Government. In fall 2002, the Director of General Studies was added to the committee.

The Faculty Senate ad hoc Assessment Committee was charged to:

During Spring 2001 the committee undertook the study of assessment methods. The SVCAA's office provided additional support of the committee's efforts by sending the chair and four members to the AAHE Conference on Assessment hosted by AAHE and the Higher Learning Commission (Denver 2001). During Fall 2001 and Spring 2002 semesters, the ad hoc assessment committee developed materials for review of department and program assessment plans and reports. These materials, which included "Guidelines for Best Practices," an "Assessment Glossary," and a "Department/Program Assessment Review Sheet," were designed to help departments and programs enhance their current assessment plans and reports, to ensure that they included multiple means of assessment (both direct and indirect) and reliable methods for measuring student learning outcomes. Folders of committee-designed materials (available in the Resource Room) were distributed to department chairs (April 2002), the Council of Deans (May 2002), and the general faculty (September 2002). The ad hoc committee was also divided into subcommittees for each college and subcommittee members met with departments and programs to assist in the development of assessment plans.

From October 2002 to April 2003, assessment subcommittee members reviewed department/program assessment plans as they were submitted and by April, of a total of 47 UNK departments/programs, 26 had been completed and were ready to be implemented. By mid-September, the number of completed plans had risen to 33 and many departments were submitting assessment reports based on the plans completed the previous spring. (Completed 2002-2003 assessment plans and reports are available at By January, 2004, only a few programs did not have approved assessment plans in place. These programs are expected to have completed their plans by April, 2004.

In recognition of the need to coordinate and maintain assessment efforts, the Chancellor and the SVCAA appointed a faculty member to serve as Director of Assessment on an interim basis until a search could be conducted in the Spring 2004 semester. The Director was charged with reviewing the governance structure for the assessment process at UNK and developing the process for sharing and utilizing data in a more effective manner. As part of this initiative, the Coordinator of Assessment's position is being redefined. The present coordinator will become responsible for maintenance of the assessment web site as the Web Site Manager. A new Coordinator will be employed during the spring semester of 2004 to work with departments and Colleges with their assessment plans and reports as well as with data analysis and dissemination. The Director and the Coordinator will serve on the Strategic Planning Committee as part of an effort to share data regarding student performance at the planning stages. The Director and the Assessment Committee are presently engaged in developing a plan for the structure and management of assessment at UNK. The completion of this task will complete the list of initial charges given the Committee.

The Director shared a proposal for the organizational development and management of assessment planning and reporting with the Assessment Committee, the SVCAA, and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee during the fall semester of 2003. The intent of the proposal is to have the Director and the Assessment Committee focus on the major issues regarding assessment practice and policy at UNK while Colleges and departments implement those practices and policies within the context of their respective fields. These individuals or groups provided feedback on the initial proposal. The proposal is currently being revised with the intent of resubmitting it to the SVCAA and the Faculty Senate upon completion of the Assessment Committee's revisions.

The interim Director attended two conferences during the fall semester to develop a broader knowledge base regarding assessment of student performance. In addition, an assessment expert from North Carolina State University visited UNK in September and reviewed the assessment plans and process at UNK and recommended suggestions for the future. The recommendations tended to focus upon establishing an organizational structure that would support the assessment process with clearly defined support roles and requirements for Colleges and departments for the long term. A major need that was identified was the development of a manageable data collection, analysis, and dissemination process.

As a result of the recommendations, an initial effort to disseminate the results of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) data for UNK has been undertaken. The results have been shared with interested deans, department chairs and various campus committees. In order to identify trends and possible implications for curriculum, several campus groups are currently analyzing this data. A faculty and staff forum was held in January to discuss the survey results with interested faculty and staff. A faculty survey about first year experiences will be administered in February, 2004 as part of a self study of the Foundations of Excellence Project. The data from this survey will be analyzed and matched with seven traits from the NSSE by a research center at Penn State University. This data will be useful for further analyzing the effectiveness of this institution with first year students. However, the Director has identified the utilization of assessment information like this to facilitate institutional planning and support as a major need.

The renewal of UNK's assessment efforts has enhanced a number of its previous practices. UNK has made significant strides in developing a university-wide culture in which administrators; faculty and professional staff understand and value assessment. Faculty have taken responsibility for assessment and nearly all departments and programs have revised their assessment process. These departments now have clearly articulated goals, objectives, and plans that either have already been implemented or are ready to implement during the 2003-2004 academic year. As a result several departments have prepared and submitted initial reports. In addition, the assessment committee is itself undergoing a transition that will remove its ad hoc status as a Faculty Senate committee and establish it as an administrative standing committee reporting to the SVCAA.

While these renewal efforts have substantially heightened faculty ownership and administrative support of assessment, many challenges remain. Most notable among these are:

Continued and sustained efforts in the current revitalization of assessment at UNK are necessary to move the institution forward from the status of making progress in assessment toward more mature stages of continuous improvement.

During the Spring Semester of 2004, the following assessment initiatives are being undertaken.

Assessment of the General Studies Program

Comprehensive assessment of the General Studies Program (GSP) has been a regular component of the agenda for the General Studies Council since its inception in 1993. Given the creation in 1993 of new requirements of Writing Intensive courses and Cultural Diversity courses, a large amount of attention was devoted to the development and encouragement of these courses. Even so, a rotation for the assessment of the categories and course content objectives for each General Studies category were developed and approved. The ultimate goal of this activity was the assessment of whether the objectives were being achieved. Up to the 2000-2001 academic year, the somewhat rapid turnover of Directors and the importance of developing new courses that enabled students to meet graduation requirements stifled the development of a formal student outcome assessment program.

A landmark event was a formal Academic Program Review in the fall of 2001. A UNK faculty team prepared a self study of the program during the spring and fall of 2001. (Available in the Resource Room) Included in the self study was a detailed review of general studies course enrollment patterns for 1993-2000, surveys of faculty, students and alumni concerning various aspects of the General Studies Program and a critical analysis of the Program since its last review in 1988 and its reorganization in 1993.

The Review team consisted of an external reviewer (Dr. David Christiansen of Truman State University), two representatives from each College, as well as Library and Faculty Senate representatives. Three students also served on the review team. The review culminated with the submission and acceptance of a final evaluative report composed and submitted by Dr. Christiansen on December 20, 2001.

The report listed a number of concerns to be addressed, which are summarized by their major headings listed below:

  1. Rationale of the GSP
  2. Structure of the GSP: Modifications
  3. Structure of the GSP: Issues to be Studied
  4. Governance of the GSP: Director
  5. Governance of the GSP: General Studies Council
  6. Governance of the GSP: Approval Process
  7. Assessment of the GSP
  8. Advising in the GSP
  9. Name of the GSP

The full text of these concerns are available in the Resource Room. The concerns are categorized into governance and operational issues (IV, V, VI, VIII), Program Name and Structure Issues (I, II, III, IX), and Assessment (VII).

As a result of this Academic Program Review the following outcomes were accomplished:

Additional Evidence of Appropriate Student Academic Achievement

Honor Societies: Student academic performance is further enhanced by the recognition and opportunities provided by the twenty-seven honor societies that invite the participation of students who excel in academics, leadership, performance, and service. In addition to chapters of interdisciplinary national honor societies such as Phi Eta Sigma (National Freshman Honor Society), Mortar Board and Phi Kappa Phi (which installed its UNK chapter in 2002), the following sixteen honor societies housed in UNK academic departments are affiliated with national honor societies:

The remaining honoraries recognize special student contributions to organizations such as the UNK Student Union, residence halls, Greek societies, and marching bands. In addition to providing students with opportunities to exercise leadership by holding office, planning fund raising, and organizing events, many honoraries support scholarly and creative activities by offering students advisory and financial assistance for presentations at national conferences.

Registrar: As the "keeper of the record" the Office of the Registrar is responsible for creating and maintaining a variety of academic records for the institution. The student's permanent academic record, or transcript, is housed in the Office of the Registrar. The transcript represents a composite, chronological listing of all courses taken by the student and the grades received. Other functions of the Office of the Registrar include:

Faculty Governance of Academic Programs: Faculty members are responsible for the development of new courses, new programs, and the review of all programs at UNK. Each College has a faculty committee designated by it's constitution to review courses and programs.

The overall responsibilities of each committee vary slightly from College to College, but each has one committee with responsibilities for the review of new courses and programs and the review of course and program alterations. The appropriateness of course content, teaching methods, and the credentials of the faculty are reviewed and ultimately approved or denied by these committees. (See College Constitutions for details of the structure and function of these committees.)

The Faculty Senate has a standing committee, the Academic Affairs Committee, which also reviews any new courses and programs and any courses or programs that have been significantly altered. The committee serves as a safeguard against needless curricular duplication of courses and programs:

The committee maintains liaison with the Graduate College so as to coordinate undergraduate and graduate curricula and programs, reviews actions taken by the General Studies Council, and considers any other academic question as directed by the Faculty Senate or the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

If a new course has a graduate component or is exclusively a graduate course, the Graduate Council reviews and approves the proposal. New courses and programs are described in the minutes of each committee/council, which are reported to the full Faculty Senate for review and comment. The final step of the process is the review by the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Some course offerings are approved in a manner that preserves a high degree of flexibility for the department. Independent Readings, Independent Research, Practica, Internships, and Apprenticeships are approved in a manner that assures proper supervision of students and maintains high academic standards, yet does not tie the course down to a specific topic. The Department Chair usually assumes responsibility for maintaining those standards as the experiences are designed for each student.

The five-year Academic Program Review for each department is the standard mechanism for review of the academic offerings. It is intended that assessment of student learning will be integral to this review process as data is collected and analyzed. It is not unusual to see major curricular change following these reviews. Copies of Academic Program Reviews are located in the Resource Room.

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