Newsletter 1

A New WASC Self Study

Background

WASC's Nine Standards

The Self Study Themes: Student Learning

Faculty and Staff Learning

The Environment for Learning

The WASC Self Study Team

Promoting a Culture of Evidence

 

The WASC Subcommittees

  1. Student Learning
  2. Faculty & Staff Learning
  3. Environment for Learning

WASC Self Study Staff and Office

How You Can Help

 

A little bit of background

The prospect of a new self study for re-accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is enough to send fear and trembling throughout the Cal State Fullerton body. With good reason: every nine or ten years, we are asked to assemble a voluminous (two BIG volumes in 1990, to be precise) compilation of data to prove to WASC that we meet the rigorous standards that govern major universities. It is a daunting task. The report must cover all facets of our operation, from landscaping to finance, from teaching to students' health care. It's a time-consuming and expensive project involving hundreds of hours of tedious data collection.

With WASC's blessing, our current self study is designed to be different. WASC has approved our proposal to assess progress toward our University's Mission and Goals in three specific theme areas: Student Learning, Faculty and Staff Learning, and the Environment for Learning. While some of the "traditional" data collecting to demonstrate our compliance with WASC's Nine Standards (see below) is mandated, the bulk of our self study will be our evaluation of ourselves in areas that represent the essence of what we want to do. We say "learning is preeminent." We're going to find out what that really means.

 

More pertinent background

The self study planning team that designed the theme approach consisted of Judith Anderson (Executive Vice President), Joe Arnold (the director of ITL), Tom Klammer (Associate Vice President for Academic Programs), Mike Parker (our technology guru), Jerry Samuelson (Dean of the School of the Arts) and Dolores Vura (Director of Analytical Studies). The team responded to an invitation by Ralph Wolff, executive director of WASC's Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities, to develop a "thematic, mission-based, planning-directed self study." The reasons for the change in WASC's instructions are many. WASC itself is changing in response to new U.S. Department of Education regulations and preparing a new handbook to guide future accreditations. WASC is also aware that accreditations are expensive, costing as much as $300,000 for a University of California campus and upwards of $150,000 for a CSU campus. Campuses should get some lasting benefit from this costly undertaking.

In their proposal, the planning team stressed the following points:

  • A key goal of such thematic, mission-based, planning-directed self studies is to foster within institutions a "culture of evidence," that is, an expectation among all campus constituencies that decisions will be based on data, that systematic assessment will be part of every program, and that claims about quality will be supported by documentation. The challenge for campuses and for WASC has always been how to validate self studies. The solution proposed is to base the self study on the assessment of evidence.
  • Traditional self studies placed heavy emphasis on documenting the material resources available to the campus, but gave little attention to the outcomes achieved with those resources, frequently ignoring student learning outcomes, perhaps hardest to assess, yet central to the purposes for which colleges and universities exist. Placing student learning at the center of a campus self study raises important questions: What are the right learning outcomes? What are the best forms of assessment? Out of the answers to questions such as these, WASC hopes to develop its new standards for 2000 and beyond.

In addition to identifying the three themes centered around learning, the planning team established goals for the self study as follows:

  1. To assess progress in accomplishing the University's Mission, Goals and Strategies and thereby to document the strengths of the University in key areas related to its mission.
  2. Through reflective self-assessment, to develop a clearer sense of the University's future directions and a campus-wide recognition of the implications of those directions.
  3. To satisfy with distinction the requirements for reaffirmation of the University's WASC accreditation.

 

Deep background

The new approach contrasts greatly with existing WASC guidelines. The current nine standards that guide accreditation invariably produce a cumbersome, data-laden multi-volume product that lacks integrating themes. In the past, WASC has wanted data, and in response, campuses produced just that. WASC will want some of these data again from us, but in a much abbreviated fashion. The nine standards are:

  1. Institutional integrity: To quote WASC: "There is no norm of greater value for educational institutions than academic freedom. Political, social, religious, or philosophical beliefs may inform the curriculum, but most not restrict scholarly research, teaching and discussion."
  2. Institutional purposes, planning and effectiveness. WASC wants to know that the mission is tied into planning and have developed mechanisms for evaluating progress towards its mission.
  3. Governance and administration. A diverse and representative board advises the president, the role of faculty is substantial and the role of students is clearly defined.
  4. Educational programs. The institution supports quality programs, obviously, but the standard also calls for integrated research, scholarship and instruction for faculty and students, emphasizes academic planning, and careful records of assessment.
  5. Faculty and staff. The faculty must have central responsibility for the academic program, and opportunities for development of faculty and staff must be present.
  6. Library, computing and other information and learning resources. In addition to currency and quantity, WASC looks at accessibility and availability.
  7. Student services and the co-curricular learning environment. Does the University support activities that assist students of diverse backgrounds, and does it make clear the rights and responsibilities of students?
  8. Physical resources. The offices that leak in every rainstorm in University Hall would not make WASC happy.
  9. Financial resources. WASC looks at budgeting and planning as well as financial management and organization. External fundraising is covered here as well.

Each standard is accompanied by "sub-standards" that relate to it (athletics is part of the co-curricular environment, for example), and WASC gives both explicit and general guidelines for the kind of documentation it expects.

 

The self study themes

The overall theme is our effort to determine what it means to say that "learning is preeminent" at CSUF. Our theme is divided into three components with specific objectives for each.

 

Focus on Student Learning

Using information derived from surveys, tests, focus groups, and other sources, the self study should document the University's contribution to

  1. student academic development, performance and achievement
  2. student career development
  3. student personal development; and
  4. student satisfaction with their learning.

Our aim is to integrate these four perspectives by striving to answer the questions, "What are the 'marks' of the Fullerton student?" and "What are the 'marks' of the Fullerton graduate?" Current student and alumni voices, as well as their performance and achievement, will be sources of evidence in connection with this theme.

 

Focus on Faculty and Staff Learning

Using information derived from surveys, focus groups, and other sources, the self study should document the University's contribution to

  1. the professional accomplishments and achievements of faculty band staff;
  2. the professional development of faculty and staff and institutional support for it; and
  3. faculty and staff satisfaction with support for learning on the campus.

The assumptions underlying this second focus are that student learning is linked inextricably with faculty and staff learning and that campus conditions fostering faculty and staff learning are an important part of what is required for the creation and support of powerful student learning communities.

 

Focus on the Environment for Learning

Using information derived from surveys and focus groups, the self study should explore the quality of the university's environment for learning, both internal to the campus and in the external community, for students, faculty, and staff. We will assess the quality and effectiveness of

  1. multicultural communication and interaction on campus;
  2. our evolving sense of community; and
  3. our facilities, technology, and other infrastructure for the support of learning.

By focusing on these three areas, the self study will enable us to assess our campus climate, the adaptation of the campus to and for the diversity of its students and employees, the contributions of campus governance, and the interrelations of the social and physical contexts that provide the setting for learning at the University.

 

Composition of the Task Force

The task force consists of 30 members drawn from all major divisions of the University (Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Administrative Affairs and University Advancement), including nine faculty members nominated by the CSUF Academic Senate. Representation also includes students, alumni and a representative from the community.

The task force has been subdivided into three subcommittees, each assigned to one of the three theme areas. Chairs of these subcommittees constitute a Steering Committee together with the Associate Vice-President for Academic Programs (who is also the WASC liaison), the Director of Analytical Studies and the Executive Director of the Task Force. Each of these three has been assigned to a subcommittee to serve as a "technical" advisor and recorder.

 

Promoting the Culture of Evidence

Existing data are being identified and are being collected to serve as resources for the theme subcommittees. These include large and small scale studies, such as the SNAPS survey, the annual statistical summary compiled by our Office of Analytical Studies, various focus group reports conducted for other projects as well as the "standard" measurements used in any number of reports generated by the institution.

The "job" of the subcommittees is to think about these data. Members are asked to record their thoughts and share them with one another, think about these discussions and record their thoughts again. This iterative process will be shared with a larger audience--the other subcommittees, specifically--to generate new, or refine old, ideas. From this process we expect that subcommittees will determine if new data need to be generated.

The larger community will be informed and invited to become involved through a bi-monthly newsletter to be distributed campus wide, and a Web site incorporating a discussion forum. We know that assessment of learning is taking place in many locations around the campus and we hope our colleagues will share their experiences.

 

 

The Task Force

The Task Force is divided into three subcommittees dealing with the themes of the Self Study.

 

Subcommittee on Student Learning

Pat Szeszulski is Chair of the subcommittee and is Associate Professor in Child and Adolescent Studies. Joe Arnold Is Professor of Theater and Dance and Associate Dean in the School of the Arts. Joe also headed our Institute for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. Kristine Buse is one of our student representatives and is a sophomore majoring in political science. David Fromson is Professor of Biology and Associate Dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics. Richard Pollard is the University Librarian. Judy Ramirez is Professor in Child and Adolescent Studies and Chair of the Division of Child, Family and Community Studies in the School of Human Development and Community Services. Ramona Schneider represents our alumni. Darlene Stevenson is Director of Housing and Residential Life. Mary Kay Tetreault is Vice President for Academic Affairs. Dolores Vura is Director of Analytical Studies and serves on the subcommittee as a member of the Self Study Steering Committee.

 

Subcommittee on Faculty and Staff Learning

Dave DeVries is Chair of the subcommittee and Professor of Communications. Rhonda Allen is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Division of Political Science and Criminal Justice. Friedhild Brainard is the office manager of Financial Aid. Don Castro is Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. David Falconer is Associate Professor of Computer Science and Associate Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Harry Gianneschi is Vice President of University Advancement. Willie Hagan is Vice President of Administrative Affairs. Jessica Medina is a student representative and she is a sophomore double majoring in human services and criminal justice. Larry Zucker is Associate Vice President in University Advancement. Sandra Sutphen is Professor of Political Science and serves on the subcommittee as a member of the Self Study Steering Committee.

 

Subcommittee on the Campus Environment for Learning

Ray Young is Professor of Geography and Chair of the subcommittee. Judith Anderson is Executive Vice President of the University. Dorothy Edwards is Director of Human Resources Operations. John Lawrence is Professor of Management Science and Information Systems in the School of Business Administration and Economics. Jeff Newell is our third student representative and is a senior majoring in Human Services. Bob Palmer is Vice President for Student Affairs. Melinda White is Supervisor of the Work Control Center in Physical Plant. Co Wilkins is an Environmental Health and Safety Officer. Tom Klammer is Associate Vice President for Academic Programs and serves on the subcommittee as a member of the Self Study Steering Committee.

 

The Self Study Steering Committee consists of the three chairs of the subcommittees plus Tom Klammer, Dolores Vura, and Sandra Sutphen, Executive Director of the Self Study.

 

 

Our Staff, Office and Web site

Temporarily, the WASC Self Study office is located in the office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, MH 135-A. (Enter through MH 133). Jennifer Robinson began work on March 9 as our clerical assistant (Ph: 278-3227). Her hours are 8:00 a.m. to noon. Before coming to work for WASC, Jennifer worked at the Chancellor's Office and Cal State Long Beach. Our site on the World Wide Web is WASC.fullerton.edu, and our e-mail address is WASC@fullerton.edu.


 

Send us your comments and suggestions!

What suggestions do you have for the WASC team? Are you involved in research or studies that look at questions of assessment, of student outcomes, of learning goals? Will you share your findings with the team? We are eager to hear what you have to say. Please contact us!