Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Planning to Plan 2: Middle States Draft Standards

Please read the first part of this two part series for background about the Middle States Draft Standards and why I'm writing about them. Seriously, I'll wait while you get caught up if you haven't yet read last week's post. 

You ready to move on? Cool. Now, onto the remaining standards.

Standard V: Educational Effectiveness Assessment

I cannot recommend Nicholas Schiller's piece about value and values and assessment (published on this blog) highly enough. When you read my comments on this standard, please know that I have his ideas in mind. 

I could easily copy and paste everything from this standard into this post since it's pretty much all pertinent. However, I'm going to highlight a few choice phrases to concentrate on the pieces that are most relevant to libraries and librarians in higher ed.

From the standard itself: "Assessment of student learning and achievement demonstrates... appropriate expectations for institutions of higher education."

From criteria: 1. "clearly stated educational goals;" 2a. "define meaningful curricular goals with defensible standards for evaluating whether students are achieving those goals;" 2c. "support and sustain assessment of student achievement and communicate the results of this assessment to stakeholders;" and 3. "consideration and use of assessment results for the improvement of educational effectiveness... consistent with the institution’s mission."

As I read through the draft CHE standards, I kept thinking about the ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education and the assessment plan I've written about in the past. I also thought a lot about the draft Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education, another topic that's been discussed on LtaYL. The phrase "defensible standards" in 2a is the tie to these other documents, but it's still problematic for me. I, for the most part, agree with the Standards for Libraries in Higher Education, but I have serious misgivings about certain parts of the draft Framework. This means that those of us who are involved with instruction at my current library are going to have to have a conversation on this topic. See the above linked post (written by Jacob Berg) about the draft Framework for background, but I'm not entirely convinced that every part of the Framework is defensible.

Regardless of the source of the "defensible" aspect, it is clear that this standard and these criteria have bearing on all campus units that are involved with the educational efforts of the institutions. It's about using both internal (school mission) and external (relevant professional organization) markers to assess and evaluate. It's also about making changes based on those assessments. 

An example of this can be seen in our information literacy program. Since the college has a new core curriculum, we are trying a new approach to information literacy instruction. We piloted our new approach last semester and are going further with it this semester. We're assessing this time. With the one session I've run already, the professor created an assignment based on my suggestions (yes, you read that right - love him for being so open). The best part is that he's going to let me see copies of the finished assignments, with the student's personal information removed, so I can judge the efficacy of the info lit lessons. The librarians here will look at the results and make decisions about how to tweak, or not tweak, these sessions in the future.

Standard VI: Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement

This standard and its criteria are still about assessment, but more on the side of connecting budget to the results of assessment and planning. Are our financial decisions being made to support the goals of the institution, and can we prove it?

While much of this standard is at least tangentially related to the library, there are three in particular that are highly related: 1. "institutional objectives, both institution-wide and for individual units, that are clearly stated, assessed appropriately, linked to mission and goal achievement, reflect conclusions drawn from assessment results, and are used for planning and resource allocation;" 2. "clearly documented and communicated planning and improvement processes that provide for constituent participation, and incorporate the use of assessment results;" and 9. "periodic assessment of the effectiveness of planning, resource allocation, institutional renewal processes, and availability of resources."

Again, not only are you assessing and planning in line with the goals and desired outcomes, but are you putting your money where your mouth is? 

To remind you, we recently wrote a new mission statement: "The Robert H. Parker Library at Wesley College supports the academic and research success of our students, faculty, and staff, in the true liberal arts tradition." It's that last phrase, "true liberal arts tradition," that I keep in mind when I create purchase orders for things like board games and write check requests for vendors like the therapy dog organization. "Liberal arts" is more than job training. It's about the joy of learning, and about learning for learning's sake. Further, "success" takes more than just hitting the books again and again. I can even tie my argument for getting a graduate assistant in my department's budget to our mission statement, too. And that's what Middle States wants to see.

This standard also made me feel like a bit of a slacker since I haven't gotten the library committee together in over a year, but that's a horse/post of a different color.

Standard VII: Governance, Leadership, and Administration

While it's clear that this is mostly about the board of trustees (although some schools have a board of regents) and upper administration, part of the standard and one of the criteria still jumped out at me as relevant to the library. From the standard, "The institution is governed and administered in a manner that allows it to realize its stated mission and goals in a way that effectively benefits the institution, its students, and the other constituencies it serves." And the first criteria: "a clearly articulated and transparent governance structure that outlines roles, responsibilities, and accountability for decision making by each constituency, including governing body, administration, faculty, staff and students."

As an administrator, even if I am middle management at this school, I need to keep our mission and goals in mind in an obvious way. I also need to articulate how I am doing this to our constituencies. Further, I (and the rest of my staff) need to be part of the decision making process on a campus-wide basis. We are working to get librarians and library staff better integrated into committees beyond our walls, and have had some success. There's still a way to go, but that I can document our progress is important.


And that's the whole point of accreditation/reaccreditation. Yes, do the things, but also be able to prove that you do the things. We met last week to talk about this draft document. Talk revolved more around how to tie this document to our existing assessment plan than anything else, but we also spent a bit of time discussing how to have this inform our strategic planning process. Our vision statement is next up, but as we articulate our vision of the future for this library, we will keep this draft document in mind. Our vision will be of an institution that proudly lives up to both internal and external expectations of what a college library should be.

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