Marilee J Bresciani Ludvik, Ph.D.

 


About Marilee Bresciani

Accountability & Assessment

Assessment

Presentations

Publications

Research

Consultation

Clients

Mindfulness Education, Integrative Inquiry, and Contemplative Science

Teaching

Commitment to Diversity

 



Case Studies

Disclaimer: These case studies are based on real examples - ah, we mean, fiction. Identities have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty). If you identify with any of these examples - then wake up; ah, we mean that was clearly by coincidence. However if your conscious is bothering you, then…

Case Study #1
(Bresciani, M.J., Rust, J., Goode-Vic, C.)

Northeastsouthern University is in the early stages of implementing assessment of their undergraduate education program. All programs throughout the university have been notified by the Provost that they are expected to develop clearly defined broad statements of their educational objectives. Also, they have been asked to define a set of student learning outcomes: what is it that the students are expected to be able to do or know upon graduating from the program.

Dr. Flours is the director of the Horticulture program. As Department Head, you first approached Dr. Flours with the news and the request from the Provost's office. Dr. Flours is furious. The first response is anger, with raised voice; Dr. Flours exclaims that this is just another way that the administration is trying to get in the business of the faculty. He exclaims, "can't they just leave us alone to do what we know how to do and have been doing well for years?" Later, Dr. Flours explains that the faculty of a program are the experts in what should be taught and what should be expected of the students of a given program. Dr. Flours goes further to state that an activity such as this is going to lead to nothing more than "teaching to the test".

Three weeks later you (the Department Head - you lucky dog) approach Dr. Flours to ask how progress is coming on implementation of assessment in the program and Dr. Flours angrily states: "I am doing a fine job directing this program, my research funding is high relative to others in the college and my teaching evaluations are above average as well. I am doing my job and doing it well and I don't have time to start implementing another activity that will soon go away."

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get Dr. Flours involved in implementing the assessment process?


Case Study #2
(Bresciani, M.J., Rust, J., Goode-Vic, C.)

Your Provost has just appointed you chair of the institution's institutional effectiveness team. Now convinced that it would have been better to be struck down by a plague, you grudgingly accept, because after all, she does always bring you back those fine bottles of wine from her research trips to France. Reluctantly, you call in all your favors and assemble a team of well respected colleagues to go out to each college to collect the evidence of student learning that you need. You know it exists as you have heard faculty talk about the improvements they have been making to curriculum each Friday at the local pub. All you have to do, you think to yourself, is gather it in one place.

However, you quickly learn that faculty have not documented all of their fabulous findings, let alone the decisions they have made to improve their curriculum. Worse yet, the faculty claim they can not document all this, as there is no time to write it all down. You find yourself stumbling into your Provost's office with a case of the fine French wine, ready to give it all back and give up. Unfortunately, she won't let you. She gives you a graduate assistant and directs you back onto the battlefield.

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get faculty involved in implementing the assessment process?

Case Study #3
(Bresciani, M.J., Rust, J., Goode-Vic, C.)

Your institutional effectiveness review is eight years away and you read that the best way to prepare is by collecting annual assessment plans and reports from each program. In this way, programs can evaluate the number of outcomes that is manageable to them each year and provide plenty of time for their reflection and recording of decisions to improve. You are excited to know that you have 8 years in which to collect meaningful data on how well students are learning at your institution. Eight years allows you to actually take all those vacations you had planned, and maintain your research schedule. Life is good, you think to yourself.

As you roll out your well-funded, well-planned faculty development program to gather these assessment plans and reports; you get incredible push-back from the faculty. The push back is not based on the time that this will take, nor is it based on their perception that this is not valuable: rather the push-back comes from the question of how you - the Assessment Coordinator - as well as the Deans, and the Provost will use this information. Your colleagues don't want to provide you with any assessment plans and reports because they are unsure of what will be done with the information. Your insistent urgings of "trust me, we just want to know if you are evaluating student learning" is not working with your colleagues at all.

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get faculty involved in implementing the assessment process?

Case Study #4
(Bresciani, M.J.)

As Associate Provost for Undergraduate Programs, you have been working to ensure all programs at the university grow together in outcomes-based assessment program review. The College of Engineering Sciences has argued that since they have very detailed assessment activities associated with their professional accreditation, they should be excused from the university assessment - based program review reporting process. When presented before the faculty university committee for assessment of undergraduate education, a lively discussion ensues.

The College of Education faculty, as well as the Business faculty and Architecture faculty posit that they could all argue the same point and begin to do so. They repeatedly argue that since they are engaged in their own professional accreditation process, they do not need to participate in the university outcomes-based assessment accreditation process. In the middle of the heated discussion, you are asked to weigh in on the argument. Finding no quick way out of the room, unable to get your assistant to buzz you with an emergency, and unable to fake a heart attack, you take a deep breath and get ready to respond.

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get faculty involved in implementing the assessment process?


Case Study #5
(Bresciani, M.J.)


You have been charged by your president with coordinating assessment for your institution. You have done the hard work of gathering good practices from across the country. You have analyzed these with a small group of faculty and together you have designed a strategic plan for implementation of assessment. Knowing that faculty ownership is a key to pervasive, systemic, and sustainable assessment, you and your faculty team bring the plan to the faculty governing board for discussion. Before you can even illustrate how your keen intellect was at work in creating this plan, it gets shot down by concerns of faculty workload.

Please continue reading, but select a perspective that is most appropriate for your institution. For example, if your institution has unionized faculty, select that perspective and proceed. If it doesn't, then select that perspective and proceed. For extra credit (joking) or just to impress your friends with your wit and cleverness, choose both perspectives and define strategies to overcome the barrier.

The faculty governing unit explains that you can't possibly come to them with "additional" work for faculty. The faculty senate does not see assessment as an integral part of teaching nor do they see at as an integral part of application of faculty's research to the classroom. You continue to hear that this is something extra and faculty should not consider it as a part of their contractual agreements. They also argue that leadership does not consider it a part of the tenure and promotion process, so why should faculty engage in it if it is not to be rewarded.

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get faculty involved in implementing the assessment process?


Case Study #6
(Bresciani, M.J.)


You have recently been asked by your Vice President for Student Affairs to involve students in the process of assessing your institution's student leadership program. She wants to be able to tell the President how students at your institution are exemplifying leadership abilities through the co-curricular or through a combination of the curricular and co-curricular. You are excited about this prospect as you know this is a key learning advantage that your institution has above other institutions.

As you learn more about these programs, you also learn that there are a number of varying approaches through which student leadership abilities are taught. The Business Program has one curriculum for teaching student leadership attributes; the Student Union and activities organizations have another; the student government folks another; Greek Life another; and Residence Life another; and these are just the ones you know about. As you pull representatives of these groups into their first meeting, you find that none of them can agree on what student leadership looks like, therefore they can not agree on common outcomes.

You know that you have to be able to answer the question for your Vice President about how well your institution is evaluating student leadership, but you are unsure how to proceed when programs can't agree on outcomes and therefore refuse to evaluate them.

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get the student leadership abilities' leaders involved in implementing the assessment process?

Case Study #7
(Bresciani, M.J.)


The Provost and the Vice President for Student Success have charged you with forming a team of students to review the outcomes that the Faculty Senate has approved for general education. The Provost provides you with a list of the general education outcomes and asks for you to get feedback from various students so that they can assure that these outcomes are meaningful to students. You applaud their desire to make sure that the students understand what they are suppose to get out of general education while you ponder just how you should approach getting student involvement.

No students were involved in informing the Faculty Senate on the current set of outcomes at the time of their initial drafting. The outcomes have been approved by Faculty Senate and the faculty do not fully understand why the Provost and Vice President want to involve students at this time. However, the Provost and Vice President are thinking that student fees may assist in evaluating general education and therefore, they want the students' buy-in on how much more meaningful general education will now be since there are outcomes and a proposed plan to evaluate them.

The faculty insist that students should not be involved at all and make a public announcement stating such. You know you need to get the student involvement.

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get the students involved in implementing the assessment process?

Case Study #8
(Bresciani, M.J.)

Some of the Faculty Senate leaders at the University of Autonomous Colleges have been reading the Chronicle of Higher Education and have become interested in the national and international accountability conversations. They propose that institutional effectiveness be placed on the faculty senate agenda and commence several meetings to discuss what the institutional plan for addressing national accountability should be.

Upon consultation with several faculty involved in professional accreditation, other institutions, and administrators at the University, they propose a comprehensive plan to implement outcomes-based assessment to the Provost. The plan is complete with a conceptual framework, common language, assessment plan and reporting templates, and criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of each college's review process, and a budget to secure centralized and de-centralized resources.

After presenting the plan to the Provost and her primary staff, the Provost reports that she is confused about what the faculty are trying to accomplish with this plan and tells them to wait until she can consult the Deans. While the Provost consults with the Deans, the faculty leaders consult the Deans as well and report back to the Provost that the Deans do understand what the faculty are trying to accomplish. The Deans, understandably, just don't want too much interference from the university in their disciplinary accreditation processes; they want one process that will work for all of their accountability needs.

The Provost says that she still doesn't understand and asks the faculty to just stop what they are doing and wait for her direction.

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get the Provost involved in implementing the assessment process?

Case Study #9
(Bresciani, M.J.)


The Faculty Senate Chair, Dr. Inn O'Vate, has asked you, the former Faculty Senate Chair, to lead the institution's outcomes-based assessment effort. You are charged with preparing your comprehensive institution for the regional accreditation visit, which is five years away. Dr. Inn O'Vate makes it very clear to you that the institution needs to demonstrate extensive and pervasive faculty involvement in the outcomes-based assessment process. He wants you to come with a plan to document that type of involvement.

You work with the institutional research office and have several templates that you can pass out to faculty for them to complete. You think this is going to be easier than you had heard it would be, so you strut into Dr. Inn O'Vate's office to tell him the good news. You can't wait to tell him that you have a template and a series of excel spreadsheets that will mark off programs' involvement in the process.

However, Dr. Inn O'Vate is less than pleased with your news. He announces that the purpose of outcomes-based assessment is for the faculty to engage in meaningful dialogue and planning about their students' learning expectations. It is not a "plug and play" or a "check in the box" activity and he urges you not to promote such a concept. "After all", he exclaims, "this is a thinking person's process. You must get the faculty engaged to consider what it is they want students to know and do as a result of their academic program and you must be able to demonstrate that in a manner that takes into account our unique institutional culture. We have to demonstrate deliberate planning and reform."

Thoroughly depressed, you return to the IR director's office and seek her counsel. You ask her, "How do I provide a framework for faculty to demonstrate that they have assessment plans and reports without it appearing to be a plug and play activity? How do I show that we have faculty pervasively and systematically involved in this process? How do I demonstrate that it is genuine effort to reform our student learning and development?"

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get the faculty involved in implementing the assessment process?


Case Study #10
(Bresciani, M.J.)


Having worked at your two year institution for almost twenty years, you feel you have worn just about every hat that there is to wear. And now, you get to wear the hat of preparing your institution for its regional accreditation visit. Knowing that there will be plenty of emphasis on the evaluation of student learning, you have hired an external consultant to come in and assist you with your preparation. You are quite excited for the visit as you have asked all the administrative and academic units to prepare draft assessment plans for the initial review. The consultant has had an opportunity to review these and you anticipate helpful feedback.

However, once the renowned consultant arrives, he begins to question why there are not more detailed plans for all of the activities that are in operation at the college. He questions where the academic advising plan is; where the tutorial services plan is; and where the supplemental instruction plan is. While you try to explain that those three offices are under one person, in addition to two other responsibilities; you begin to wonder if this is at all doable for your institution. How can you possibly demonstrate and evaluate the scope of what everyone does when one person does what other institutions have five people do?

When you visit the academic support director to tell her that she now has to write five assessment plans instead of one, she begins to dissolve right before your eyes. She is completely overwhelmed with the concept. You step back, apologize, and reconsider whether your request was out of line. If the national expert says you need to have these plans, but you don't see it as even possible, how can you proceed to a "win-win" position?

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get the staff involved in implementing the assessment process?

Case Study #11
(Bresciani, M.J.)

You are charged with evaluating your general education program at your two year institution. Knowing that a lot of assessment begins with pulling faculty together to articulate outcomes, you start there. You gather faculty who teach general education to the transfer students and those who teach general education in four varied programs: nursing, computer technology, paralegal, and auto technician support. Your intent is for them to articulate a common set of student learning outcomes for general education.

Thinking this will be an easy endeavor, you quickly learn that some of the Associates' Degree programs have different expectations for general education student learning. In addition, the faculty representing the various Associate Degrees have different expectations for student learning than those of the transfer program. Feeling frustrated and at a complete loss, you are about ready to give up on the entire project when you read an article that suggests that different groups of students may have different outcomes from the same program depending on their academic goals.

Feeling inspired, you reconvene the faculty and tell them what you learned. The faculty state with genuine concern that they don't think this is the thing to do. They feel that rather than having varying sets of outcomes for the general education program, they should try to come to agreement on one set. However, after proceeding under the latter approach, they end up in a greater debate than the one they originally had.

Which typical resistors to engaging in assessment are you able to identify?
What strategies would you use to get the faculty involved in implementing the assessment process?



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