November 18, 2011

Should the Accreditors Determine Your Learning Outcomes?

In the November 18, 2011 Inside Higher Education electronic newsletter, there was an article that highlighted what is happening at the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) a regional accrediting association.  Higher education professionals need to read it to be aware of the next wave in the accreditation and assessment of student outcomes wars.  The full article can be found at:

The underlying premise is that, in the name of quality assurance and it's responsibility to the public to assure the credibility of the institutions it accredits, policies have been adopted where the accreditation letter and the accrediting team's report will be posted for the public to see.  The article states:

"One major prong of the package (proposal package) is that the accreditation process needs to become more transparent, and with the commission's approval this month, WASC will now be the first of the regional accrediting agencies to make public on its own website all of its "action letters" (in which the commission announces whether it has reaccredited an institution or taken some punitive action instead) and the reports of its accrediting teams on which the commission based its action. The norm for accrediting agencies to date has been to release a list of institutions that were either approved or sanctioned in some ways, and lists of the relevant provision numbers, but little to no additional detail."

Two other proposals were not adopted (yet, anyway):

"One would require institutions not only to define a "stated level of proficiency" for five skill areas for graduates (written and oral communication, quantitative skills, critical thinking, and information literacy) but to compare themselves to other institutions on at least two of those areas. The other was a suggestion that all institutions might be required to map their expectations for degree recipients to the Degree Qualifications Profile proffered by the Lumina Foundation for Education." 

If you haven't seen the Lumina Foundation Degree Qualifications Profile, it is a must read:

Outcomes assessment is coming under greater scrutiny than ever...will we be ready?

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