Volume 2, No. 3. Spring, 1999
In this issue: Campus-wide Forum
Joint WASC Task Force and UPC efforts
Feedback on Phase I
Plans for Phase II
RFP for Learning Outcomes Assessment Projects
Our Staff, Office and Web site
The WASC Self Study office is located in the office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, MH 135-A. (Enter through MH 133). Our clerical assistant is Jennifer Robinson (Ph: 278-3227). Her hours are 8:00 a.m. to noon. Charlene Carr, our graduate assistant, is located in MH 111A. Our email is WASC@fullerton.edu and our Web site is http://WASC.fullerton.edu.
Lead story: Campus Planning and the WASC Self Study
One hundred or so faculty, staff and students met on Friday afternoon, November 13, in a campus-wide forum, to discuss the relationship between campus planning and the WASC Self Study. Sponsored jointly by the Self-Study Steering Committee and the University Planning Committee (UPC), participants attended a plenary session led by President Milton Gordon and then adjourned into study sessions. The sessions focused on initiatives begun at the campus and system levels and participants were asked to address these questions:
Summarizing such broadly inclusive and wide ranging discussion isn't easy, but some general perceptions can be noted. There is strong interest and support for both local campus efforts--the WASC Self Study and the "Marks"-- to focus planning efforts around student learning. There is deep suspicion about the Cornerstones implementation plan. We conclude that when the process of defining an initiative (read: change) is inclusive, when it reaches deeply into the community to gather feedback, when it is allowed to mature at its own pace, when it includes as much "bottom-up" participation as "top-down" management, and when that initiative is substantially and meaningfully changed as a result of feedback and participation, it is more likely to be supported. We also note that there is great interest on the part of Student and Administrative Affairs in working more closely with Academic Affairs to improve the learning environment through expanding co-curricular endeavors, removing bureaucratic hurdles, facilitating technological training and innovations, and reaching out to the larger community.
Cornerstones. The Cornerstones discussion was facilitated by Tom Klammer and Pat Szeszulski. Consultation concerning how to implement Cornerstones is now underway, with discussion focussed on a draft implementation plan distributed to CSU campus presidents by David S. Spence, Executive Vice Chancellor, on October 16, 1998. The draft implementation plan "is intended as a starting point for campus discussion." Its purpose, according to Spence, is "to spark systemwide discussion," and, indeed, such has occurred. Our Academic Senate debated the topic for two meetings, culminating in passage of several resolutions just the day before the WASC/UPC forum. In putting Cornerstones on the forum agenda, the Self-Study Team and UPC were hoping for comment and input from others on the campus, in addition to the faculty.
Spence's implementation plan concerns seven Cornerstones goals, as follows:
In all three forum discussion sessions, the relationship among the various divisions of the University consumed much of the energy of the participants, and the Cornerstones discussion was no exception. Faculty tended to be very suspicious of the implementation plan. Though the preceding seven goals seem innocent enough, Spence's suggestions for implementation raised many questions. Given the facultys heavy work load, who will develop and implement new forms of assessment, if that is what is envisioned in "A"? How will "C" be implemented and which programs will be discontinued, if, indeed, that is the goal? Does the emphasis in "D" mean more "distance learning" when the concept is still in the developmental stage and largely untested? Does it mean fewer tenure track faculty and more part-timers? Will the emphasis in "F" turn the CSU away from the liberal arts as the basis for a university education and substitute a narrower form of professional and technical training? And how will the attention to high school student preparation be achieved?
Some of the faculty's suspicion was shared by other University divisions, but forum participants from Student and Administrative Affairs and University Advancement also saw opportunities to make Cal State Fullerton's emphasis on student learning more central. These participants saw openings for greater outreach to the community, more occasions for tying the co-curricular experience to academic programs, and validation for efforts to make student support services more accessible and useful.
Marks of a Fullerton Graduate. Beginning in fall 1996, as part of an Academic Priorities project in Academic Affairs, the Council of Deans and academic departments took up the question, "What are, or should be, the marks of a Cal State Fullerton graduate?" The project was a beginning attempt to identify learning outcomes from a programmatic and school-wide perspective. These "Marks" were discussed, and individualized, at the department and school level. After the Vice President for Academic Affairs presented the "Marks" to the President's Advisory Board, President Gordon asked the UPC to broaden the "Marks" into a statement that might represent a definition of the goals of student learning at the University level. Following the pattern it had established in drafting the University's mission statement, the UPC sought consensus among other Divisions in addition to Academic Affairs. Finally, the UPC distributed the statement to the university community and asked for feedback.
The most recent set of Marks is as follows:
∑ Our students develop the habit of intellectual inquiry and are able to communicate effectively
∑ Our students use state-of-the-art technology
∑ Our students work effectively in multicultural environments
∑ Our students work effectively in collaborative settings
Kandy Mink, who, with Judith Anderson, served as co-facilitator for the "Marks" session, reports that there was lively debate over whether or not the "Marks" were sufficient to define CSUF students as "unique" and whether they defined completely what the CSUF academic experience contains. Suggestions for expanding the "Marks" included adding components that made our multicultural environment more prominent, stressed preparation for life-long learning, and adapting to the changing global environment. Other suggestions included expanding opportunities for working closely with faculty, for studying abroad, for service learning, and for reflecting "transcending values" such as citizenship, ethics, and spiritual development.
Participants also suggested numerous ways in which the "Marks" might change the campus learning experience. They thought that a wider discussion about the marks should take place among students and alumni. "Marks" could help guide the curriculum by being included as course objectives and in end of semester assessments. "Marks" could be used in recruiting new students, in obtaining grants, and in public affairs publications such as Compendium. Kandy suggested that there was also agreement that individual programs would need to adapt the "Marks" to suit the needs of each specialty, and that the generality of the "Marks" served only as a guide.
Phase I of the WASC Self Study. Phase I of the Self Study was completed in October, 1998, and states, unsurprisingly, that there are positive and negative findings throughout the campus for the three Self-Study themes.
With respect to "student learning," the study found that there are many programs containing "best practices" examples and that individual examples of student learning outcomes are plentiful. On the other hand, the study found that there is no universal focus on learning outcomes or assessment at the program and department level. Though "traditional" measures of faculty learning, such as publications, grants, and other scholarly and creative efforts are widespread and useful, the whole area of staff learning has been significantly neglected until recently. Problems were found in the campus environment for learning where budget cuts have affected support services and building conditions. There is evidence that many share a general feeling that a sense of community on the campus is weak. However, the Self Study team also found that the campus involvement with the external community is broad and strong. The team cited the Student Affairs Division which completed a self study to improve responsiveness as the first piece of evidence for "Phase II" of the study that will document campus efforts to provide an environment that enhances learning.
Dave DeVries, Sandra Sutphen, and Ray Young co-facilitated the sessions. Student Affairs professionals, themselves quite comfortable with assessment techniques used in counseling and testing, were nonplussed over the apprehension expressed by some faculty about documenting student learning outcomes. However, there was great agreement on what would need to change to bring about a student-centered learning environment. Students would not be timid, and they would not be passive learners. They would be collaborating with faculty and other students and actively engaged in their own learning. (Where that is, we believe, now taking place, we agreed that more documentation is needed.)
"In a truly student-centered environment, students' best interests would drive the decision-making process," said one faculty sage. "The implication for faculty is that they will spend more time thinking about their students and how to teach better." Several offices on campus were mentioned for their reputation as lacking friendliness to students. Part of what would change would include giving more support to staff during technical upgrades. And everyone agreed that in a learning centered environment there would be more places for students, faculty and staff to gather together in informal settings (MJ's Espresso was universally praised).
Conclusion: A formal "wrap up" session never materialized as, the late hour prevailing, 40 or so of the participants shared their thoughts informally over delicious food and agreed that we'd done enough "thinking" for the day. As always, the opportunity to share thoughts among both new and familiar colleagues was the best part of the experience.
Working Together: WASC and UPC
On October 9, the WASC Self Study Task Force met with the University Planning Committee (UPC) to "think about" what we wanted to accomplish at the University wide Forum we were planning for November 13. We had a general idea. Judith Anderson, Executive Vice President, had been meeting with the WASC Steering Committee, and membership in the UPC overlapped somewhat with WASC. Among the members of both committees, we also have representation from the major "interest groups" on campus: the Academic Senate, all of the University's Divisions (Academic, Student and Administrative Affairs, and Advancement, plus the President's Office), alumni, the Orange County "community" and Associated Students--though the latter three are less well represented than all of us wish, particularly the students.
President Gordon got us started and after that we heard Judith Anderson, Tom Klammer and Sandra Sutphen in another of what must be for most an increasingly redundant rehash of where we've been, what we're doing, and where we hope to go. (I should exempt Judith from this, but there are no excuses for Tom and me.) The Steering Committee collaborated on a set of questions that really interested us, questions that--as it turns out--would "inform" (to use, I'm sure, passť deconstructionist jargon) not only this "conversation" (to use a Boyumism) but the forum, too.
Here are the three questions we asked:
In one form or another, these familiar questions represent the core of our Self Study (and we invite you to respond to them, if you haven't had the chance before, or even if you have!).
Unlike our usual "let the balloons just float" (I made that up), our organization was very structured that day. We had five minutes to "think" about these questions, five more to write down our thoughts, 20 minutes to share them, then on to the next question!
Who was it who said that dealing with academicians is the same as trying to herd cats? The faculty, staff, students, alumni and community representatives at our meeting resisted my totalitarian commands--why did they persist in getting so interested in the subject?--but, in the end, the stringent rules produced, for me, some surprising results
We numbered 40 persons, and most of us wrote several comments to each question. The content analysis of the couple hundred individual comments we received isn't yet complete but I've looked at them all (they're anonymous, of course: Jennifer [our staff] typed them without identifying those who signed theirs, and we didn't ask for names), and I know that we had as many faculty as staff and administrators and too few students, and I'm struck by this:
Among some --among, well, at least a third--there is an underlying skepticism, maybe cynicism, certainly distrust of administrators/faculty/unions/staff, and students.
As a public administrator, I'd say we have a lot of community building to do. And, after a full year in this job of "executive director of the WASC Self Study," this session with our Task Force and the UPC showed me--and I'm sure everyone involved--that while the basis we have is pretty solid, we have a ways to go.
Feedback on Phase I of the Self Study.
We ran into some technical problems, as they [always] say, with our Web site, which limited everyone's ability to see Phase I, much less provide feedback. We were very embarrassed, but those problems are now fixed, and we encourage everyone to take a look at our site and let us know what you think. We're at http://wasc.fullerton.edu.
While we were circulating parts of our draft, however, we did receive some comments, a few of which have been incorporated into our "final" version, and some of which will be added to the site and can be found by clicking on our "NEW" button. When we sent our "WASC horror story" case study to Melinda White of Physical Plant, Melinda responded with information we didn't have. We'd complained about the long wait we experienced in getting an office painted. Melinda told us about the enormous cuts experienced during the 1992 budget shortfall and how maintenance suffered as a result. Her comments helped us see that the priorities of the University went to protecting the academic program to the detriment of the other Divisions in the University. We were forced to moderate our petulant criticism, and we encourage you to read Melinda's comments in the case study.
We were also very critical of the long time it took for some of us to get travel reimbursements. Linda Osburn and Cheryl Perreira responded with an explanation that mirrored much of what Melinda told us. Their response will be posted under "NEW" on the Web site "soon." (Okay, we confess: we're not positive that all the problems have been fixed on the site!)
David Falconer filled in our gap about assessment in Engineering and Computer Science, and that, too, will be listed shortly in the "NEW" sub-directory.
Jack Bedell in Sociology had written to us about the pitiful upkeep of our landscaping and grounds, certainly a major contributor to our campus appearance. Through Melinda, we learned that Vice President Willie Hagan had used part of his budget restoration to accomplish a major landscaping improvement on the east side of campus, an improvement now almost complete, with new palm trees, pretty flowers, and improved lighting.
Please send us your comments. We've now realized that "Phase I" will never be really finished, or final, and we look forward to your corrections and updates!
Plans for Phase II
Each of the WASC Task Force's Subcommittees has set part of its Phase II data analysis into motion. Some of the data have already been gathered, and we are anticipating the analysis of more.
Subcommittee on Student Learning. As part of a nation-wide survey, we participated in UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute's (HERI) survey of entering freshmen. Data from Cal State Fullerton students will be compared with data collected nation-wide, and we are awaiting the responses from HERI's subcontractor for the computer-scored portion of the survey. We were also allowed to ask one open-ended question of our own students. We wanted to know how our students defined "learning," so we asked them what "one thing they expected to learn" in their first semester of college. Those data have been subjected to a content analysis by our graduate assistant, Charlene Carr, and we're in the process of finding out what it all means.
Subcommittee on Faculty and Staff Learning. Again, we had the opportunity to participate in a nation-wide comparison survey through HERI which queried full-time faculty across the country. And, again, we were allowed to add some of our own questions to the survey. The open-ended questions that have been returned are being analyzed by Charlene Carr and Katrina Streeter, our student assistant. To encourage participation, we offered a prize of $100 to those on-campus folk who returned their surveys by December 4, 1998. David Pagni from Mathematics won it, just in time for holiday spending! (Those who haven't yet returned their surveys will receive a follow-up reminder from HERI in January.) We expect the final results of the computer-scored surveys sometime in mid-Spring.
In the meantime, we have adapted the faculty survey for staff, and that survey will be distributed to all full-time staff in early Spring. While we will not have a nation-wide sample for comparison, we will have our faculty cohort that has answered many of the same questions.
Campus Environment for Learning. The subcommittee distributed a classroom survey in November, sampling 66 different classrooms on campus, asking student users and faculty to comment on the classroom condition. A representative sample of classes was collected, including every teaching building on campus with rooms ranging from large lecture halls to small seminars. With the help of department chairs and secretaries, we received a 95% response rate! The thorough questionnaire assesses many different aspects of our campus environment and we hope to show what kinds of facilities are most conducive to sustaining a learning environment.
Other plans. We hope many of you will respond to our request to share your experience in classroom assessment so that we may incorporate your findings in Phase II. See the announcement elsewhere in this newsletter that offers a "reward" to document for us what you are already doing!
A Reward for Work You're Already Doing!
How are you assessing the learning that is taking place in your classes? Have you introduced a new teaching strategy and plan to document its effect? Are you using technology in some way that allows you to assess its impact? Are you experimenting with collaborative learning? Or service learning? Are you willing to share your findings with your colleagues?
When the WASC Self Study was given its budget, some funds were set aside in case we decided to hire external consultants for our initial work. It turned out that we didn't use those funds.
We'd much rather give them to you, if you will provide us with documentation of your learning assessment strategies that we can incorporate into Phase II of the Self Study. In other words, we'd like to reward you for work you are already doing!
The rules are simple. Tell us, in 500 words, or less (preferably less) how you are planning on documenting an assessment of student learning outcomes in your class(es). Submit this to us by 5:00 p.m. on February 19. Your final report--maximum of 2,000 words--must be in our hands by June 21. Then, we'll give you $500 for your single effort, or $1,000 for a collaborative effort involving two or more classes. See the application form in this newsletter for all the details. We anticipate awarding between 15 and 20 grants and your documentation will become part of our final Phase II report.
Thanks for thinking about doing this. Not only will you help our reaccreditation Self Study, but your experiences will become part of an archive that will assist your colleagues in the future. And you get a small reward--much less than you deserve, but at least something--for making our campus an environment that supports learning: yours, your students, and us all.
Application for Learning Outcomes Assessment Grants
Deadline: February 19 at 5:00 p.m. in the WASC Self Study Office (MH 135-A)
Co-Proposer (if applicable): Name:_________________________________________
Description of project: 500 words, or less. Proposals will be selected by the WASC Self Study Steering Committee. They will be judged on the basis of feasibility (30 points), organization (30 points) and potential for replicability (40 points).
Attach a separate sheet with the project description, if necessary.
Send us your comments and suggestions!
What suggestions do you have for the WASC team? What do you think of Phase I? What do you think belongs in Phase II? If you are involved in research or studies that look at questions of assessment, of student outcomes, of learning goals, please share your findings with the team? We are eager to hear what you have to say. Please contact us!
Please return to WASC Self Study, MH 133.
Address (if off-campus):