WASC Visiting Team

 

Contents

Visiting Team

I. CSUF Background and History

A.   Background
B.   Demographics
C.   Academic Programs and Facilities
D.   Accreditation
E.   Self Study
F.   The Team and the Visit Process

II. WASC Standards

A.     Standard 1: Institutional Integrity
B.     Standard 2: Institutional purposes: Planning and Effectiveness
C.     Standard 3: Governance and Administration
D.     Standard 4: Educational Programs
E.     Standard 5: Faculty and Staff
F.     Standard 6: Library, Computing & Information and Learning Resources
G.    Standard 7: Student Services
H.    Standard 8: Physical Resources
I.     Standard 9: Financial Resources

III. Audits

A.     Academic Programs
B.     Core Processes
C.     General Observations and Synthesis

IV. Open Meetings

A.     Students
B.     Faculty
C.     Staff

V. Team Observations and Recommendations

A.     Alignment
B.     Assessment
C.     General Education
D.     Accountability
E.      Analysis
F.      Program Performance Reviews
G.     Technology
H.     Diversity
I.       Service Learning and Community Involvement
J.       Community
K.     Conclusions

List of Appendices and Attachments


Chapter I: CSUF Background and History

A. Background

            Originally known as Orange County State College, California State University Fullerton  (CSUF) was established by an act of the California Legislature in 1957.  CSUF was the 12th campus of what is now a 23-campus California State University (CSU) system.  As part of CSU system, the campus is subject to the policies of the California Legislature and the CSU Board of Trustees.

            Governance on the campus at Cal State Fullerton is the responsibility of the president and his administrative staff.  A number of faculty and student groups initiate, review and/or recommend various university programs, policies and procedures.  Although the president is vested with the final authority, CSUF has developed a strong tradition of participative decision-making.  The Academic Senate, primarily comprised of teaching faculty, recommends curriculum and personnel policies.  The CSUF Advisory Board, comprised of community leaders interested in the welfare and development of the university, advises the president on community relations and other issues.

            The main campus is situated on 225 acres in Fullerton, 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.  Instruction on this site began in 1960.  There are also off-campus centers in Mission Viejo, Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Irvine.

 

B. Demographics

            With 27,000 students (20,000 FTE), Cal State Fullerton is the fastest growing CSU campus.  Diversity is one of CSUF’s most distinctive characteristics.  Current student demographics suggest that approximately equal numbers of Hispanics, Asians and Caucasians are enrolled.  Other predominant characteristics of the CSUF student body include their synthesis of academics with work and family interests, strong records of achievement, and relative maturity.  CSUF students currently work an average of approximately 27 hours/week.  Seventy-five percent of the students work 20 or more hours.  The great majority of CSUF students transfer to Fullerton after beginning their higher education at Community Colleges or other institutions in the region. 

            In the fall of 1999 there were 660 full-time faculty and administrators and 1,051 part-time faculty members teaching on campus.  Nearly all the full-time faculty had previous college or university teaching prior to coming to CSUF.  Eighty-seven percent of the tenured and tenured track faculty members have earned doctorate degrees.

 

C. Academic Programs

            Academic programs at CSUF are organized into seven colleges: 1) College of the Arts, 2) College of Business and Economics, 3) College of Communications, 4) College of Engineering and Computer Science, 5) College of Human Development and Community Service, 6) College of Humanities and Social Sciences and 7) College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.  During the 1997-1998 academic year, 4,312 undergraduates earned baccalaureate degrees and 798 graduates earned master’s degrees from Cal State Fullerton.         

 

D. Accreditation

            CSUF first received accreditation in 1961 from Western College Association (the precursor of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges).  Recent accreditation visits occurred in 1981, 1986 and 1990.  The full report from the 1990 visit was provided to each member of the site visit team.  Cal State Fullerton was selected by WASC to undertake an alternative and experimental approach to self-study and accreditation.  This offer was made possible because CSUF had demonstrated that meeting the minimum WASC standards was not likely to be a problem. 

 

E. Self Study

            Recently CSUF undertook a serious and sustained effort to enhance its planning and programming.  The central and most significant goal within this process was to transform CSUF into an institution where learning is preeminent.  This focus was reflected in the new mission statement and had shaped strategic planning activities.  CSUF’s self study focused on three themes that were derived from its commitment to make learning preeminent: student learning, faculty and staff learning and the campus environment for learning.  A campus subcommittee was assigned to each of these three themes.  The two-year self study process involved two phases.  During Phase I, the subcommittees conducted reviews of existing relevant data such as those available through the Program Performance Reviews, external accreditation, annual reports and other studies.  During Phase II, the subcommittees collected new data from surveys and studies to “fill the gaps” revealed by their analysis of the information provided in Phase I.  The Final Report, initiated in response to the expanded preliminary visit, contained recommendations and conclusions in ten areas.  The Final Report from the Self Study provides a background of the Self Study and shows how the associated activities have interfaced with extant administrative and executive activities.  It then summarizes the results of both phases of the self study and ends with conclusions and recommendations.  The Self Study Report itself reflects a tremendous and sustained level of effort across the campus.  The willingness of faculty and staff to extend themselves in the interest of learning and enhancing institutional effectiveness is laudable.  The study is also noteworthy for its willingness to reflect on its own process and to continually seek ways to extend the lessons learned to the rest of the campus and include a widening circle of academic constituencies in their processes.

 

F. The Team and the Visit Process

            During an expanded preliminary visit in November, the WASC executive director and four members of the visitation team spent two days interacting with the Self Study Committee and various other members of the CSUF administration.  Team members learned more about the intention of the initial phases of the self study and probed the study’s themes more deeply.  The first two phases of the study had produced a plethora of data as well as many cogent analyses but had not identified areas where significant improvements might be effected.  The question arose of what type of visitation might provide the greatest value to the institution while at the same time satisfying the due diligence responsibilities of a traditional accreditation site visit.  The idea of using an experimental academic audit was suggested by the executive director and discussed by both campus representatives and members of the preliminary visitation team.  WASC is developing a new model of accreditation, one that shifts emphasis from an examination of inputs to a study of systems and processes that produce desired learning outcomes.  This shift requires a new and different kind of visit, one focused primarily on learning and demonstrated performance.  It was agreed that the team would exercise due diligence in reviewing compliance with WASC standards, but that the focus of the team visit would be on identifying and contextualizing the issues of greatest value to the institution’s objective of making learning preeminent.  The visit was to ascertain compliance with the spirit of the traditional standards but would examine the hypothesis that CSUF’s educational infrastructure actively supports the preeminence of learning across the campus.

            The CSUF Accreditation Site Visit Team Roster is attachment 1.  Unfortunately the team chair who led the preliminary visit had to retire from the team for health reasons.  Another team member who had been a part of the extended preliminary visit agreed to fill in.  It should be noted that the total number of team members was much less than the 16 members assigned to the 1990 accreditation visit. Another team member’s illness necessitated adding the final team member the week before the visit.  As it turned out 11 team members were the absolute minimum number required to cover activities and allow the team chair to visit and observe a cross section of the audit interviews. 

As related to the CSUF President during the outbriefing:

We are a diverse, expert, opinionated and committed group of individuals.  Most of us did not know more than one or two other members of the team before we arrived on Monday.  The team contains several individuals, however, that have established national reputations for their work in fields relating to individual and organizational assessment, learning and faculty development.  Many of the individuals on this team have been embroiled on their own campuses with issues similar to the ones being addressed at California State University Fullerton.  About half of the team members are from colleges and universities in California and the other half from across the country.  About half the members had not previously participated in accreditation visits.  Compared to the team that conducted your previous WASC site visit, we hold somewhat less senior positions in our own organizational hierarchies and are more similar to your faculty and staff, especially the members of your self-study team…  All of us are leaving here at least a little wiser than when we arrived.

Attachment 2 contains the final version of the team schedule (it was revised several times each day during the visit).  A review of this schedule shows how intense and complex this visit was.  The coordination required for the team to subdivide and accomplish the fourteen separate audits, three open meetings, and numerous individual consultations involved in this visit placed extraordinary demands on the CSUF visit coordinator and his staff.  However, the extensive use of CSUF faculty and staff escorts helped immensely.  At the end of the visit, all scheduled interviews had been conducted and the team had invested the time necessary to reach consensus on its conclusions.

            Due to the experimental nature of this visit, the team itself participated in some unusual processes.  Prior to the visit, team members were each assigned one of the nine WASC standards to review.  About a week before the actual visit, team members received comments from the self study committee suggesting where they might find information relevant to the particular standards in the materials provided or on the CSUF website.  The visit commenced with dinner Monday evening rather than at noon on Tuesday.  The extra time was devoted primarily to considering the standards and to educating one another about academic audits and developing common protocols for conducting the audit interviews.  As it turned out, none of the team members were comfortable certifying that the intention of any of the WASC standards had been met based solely on the materials provided by the Self Study Committee.  Discussing these standards in some detail familiarized each of the team members with what all the standards involved and sensitized each of us to potential deficiencies we might encounter while conducting the academic audits.  The standards were revisited on Wednesday evening after the program audits and the responsibility for written comments concerning each standard were assigned to separate team members. 

            On Tuesday morning an experiential exercise was used to help team members get to know one another and to acquaint them with some of the anticipated interpersonal and communication issues likely to arise during the visit.  The exercise was “Colour Blind” and after the team’s completion of the task, the executive director provided his observations of individual and team performance and the connection to the upcoming visit.  If nothing else, this exercise served as an inoculation against some of the frustration and ambiguity of participating in a novel and evolving process.

            One of the team members, Prof David Dill of the University of North Carolina, is a national expert in the use of audits for accreditation.  He provided team members with a handout showing how academic audits have been used in Hong Kong and Great Britain (attachment 3) and then led a general discussion of the audit process and how it differed from other types of accreditation visits.  The chair had assigned responsibilities for particular academic program audits to team members prior to their arrival so each team member had already reviewed the departmental responses to the preliminary audit questions.  Two team members were assigned to each of the ten selected programs to conduct interviews together and discuss their observations.  The team decided that it would be best for the two auditors to work as a team and not to divide the groups they were interviewing into smaller discussion groups.  The team also agreed on a general protocol to be used to conduct the audits (e.g., to start with a 5 minute introduction of each audit team member and the purpose of the audit and to then ask each student to write down a few of the most important things s/he was learning in the program). 

            Teams for the core process audits were identified after the academic program audits were underway.  Four individuals formed a team to audit the Program Performance Review process and pairs of individuals were selected for each of the other three core processes to audit. Team members were asked to record, discuss and interpret their observations in light of what all other team members were experiencing and reporting.  Team members were required to listen to the reactions of others before interpreting and concluding the significance of their own observations.  This turned out to be hard work for everyone.

            General conclusions were held in abeyance until Friday morning, several hours before the scheduled briefing with the CSUF President.  After some deliberation, the team agreed with a proposal by the chair that CSUF’s own Self Study conclusions be used to frame the team’s observations.  Each of the ten topics in the CSUF Self Study Committee’s conclusions was raised and the findings or observations were discussed before the team reached consensus on what might be added from the separate audits, interviews and discussions.  After the final topic raised in the Self Study was considered, the team explored the question of what additional issues or observations it might offer beyond the ten covered in the Self-Study.  There were none.  The team chair organized the inputs from the other individual team members and prepared the exit briefing that formed the basis of Chapter 5 of this report.

            The alternative approach to the visit created the need for developing a new report format.  This first chapter of this report is very similar to other reports.  The second chapter, however, is different: it contains all the observations relating to the standards.  Although authored by individual team members, all members of the team were invited to provide inputs based upon their audit experiences during the visit.  The third chapter contains a synthesis of the program audits that were conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The full audit reports are contained in the appendices to this report.  In general, these program audits examined the degree of alignment between the perceptions of students, faculty and administrators involved with each program.  Although they looked primarily at process, variance in the quality of the learning experiences across different programs was apparent.  Chapter 3 uses a general frame that allows comparison and shows contrasts between the programs audited.  It provides general conclusions about the institution’s support for the preeminence of learning.  The second part of this chapter contains a synopsis of the process audits.  These audits addressed processes that spanned across academic programs.  The audit teams conducted interviews with process clients, then process managers and administrators and finally with those who had oversight responsibility for the processes.  The four processes audited were program performance reviews, student learning support, faculty and staff learning and institutional research and assessment.  Once again full audit reports on each of these critical processes are contained in the appendices.  Chapter 4 lists the reports from open meetings with students faculty and staff.  Approximately 10 individuals appeared at the student and faculty meetings but nearly 50 showed up at the open meeting for staff.  Chapter 5 contains the summary of the visit and the team’s conclusions.  The reasons the conclusions of CSUF’s own Self Study were used as a framework were to both recognize the excellent work the self study committee had done and to also organize the visiting team’s observations in a way that would be most accessible to campus leaders.

            Since this was a new and experimental process it is also important to include a few comments about what appeared to work, what didn’t and recommendations to be considered if similar visits are to be undertaken in the future.  The greatest advantage of this approach used in this visit is the level of engagement and interaction of the team members with the campus community.  Although this is partly a result of the excellent work the self-study committee had accomplished prior to the visit, the audit itself brought site visit team members into conversation with nearly 500 students, faculty and administrators over the four-day visit.  The length of the reports in the appendices suggests that team members, once drawn into substantive dialog with the various campus constituencies, freely offered commentary and advice.  This visit did not have the “feel” of an inspection or evaluation.  Nonetheless, the team’s familiarity with all of the standards and the high level of engagement across the campus support the conclusion that if there were significant deviations from the spirit of the WASC standards, they would have been identified.  The programs and processes audited were not randomly selected; they were suggested by the campus coordinator and largely accepted by the team chair.  Therefore, although 10 of 50 programs were audited, generalizations about the quality of processes in programs that were not audited are not possible.  From a regulatory perspective this is clearly a weakness.  However, from the perspective of the campus, the audits of these selected programs should be very useful.  The audit process revealed discontinuities in some of the programs and processes selected and the team was able to provide suggestions for improvement that might be relevant to other programs.  To some extent, the audit reports provide an opportunity for senior administrators to assess their own familiarity with the internal process quality of the various programs they administer.

            The exploratory nature of the audit process and the visit allowed for conclusions to emerge gradually.  However, the lack of structure and precedent coupled with the relative inexperience of the team as a whole, created a moderate level of frustration and anxiety.  The fact that the particular classes and classroom environments selected for audit varied was also a source of concern.  The chair’s insistence on lengthy evening discussions about the findings from each audit team when most members would have preferred to be writing up their assigned reports also increased stress.  Although most team members had significant concerns about audit process and what, if any, conclusions might be reached, on Friday morning, the final meetings seemed to progress very quickly and the consensus that the team had sought in previous meetings seemed to simply emerge.  While this visit, based primarily on academic and core process audits, was very challenging, it was also very rewarding.  In terms of the commission’s immediate needs, this report may appear somewhat excessive.  However, the appendices contain information the team hopes will be of value to the campus and potentially other constituencies interested in education, accreditation and the audit process.  From the team’s perspective, this type of accreditation visit was personally rewarding and shows considerable promise.


 

Chapter II: WASC Standards

A. Standard One: Institutional Integrity

          The Review Team found no evidence of noncompliance with this standard.  The AAUP guidelines on academic freedom are quoted freely in the Faculty Handbook; diversity among students, faculty, and staff is widely considered to be an institutional strength; allegations concerning fiscal integrity have been dealt with openly and constructively; and responsiveness to Commission requests has been exemplary.  The eagerness of the institution to engage in the experimental accreditation process undertaken in this review is especially noteworthy.

 

B. Standard 2: Institutional Purposes: Planning and Effectiveness

         Since the last WASC review in 1990, when concerns were raised about the lack of integrated fiscal, physical, and academic planning, several significant planning activities have been undertaken at CSUF.  In 1993 a broadly representative University Planning Committee (UPC) was named and a consultant was engaged to assist faculty, staff, administrators, and students to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and develop a mission, goals, and strategies document that could be used to inform decisions about campus priorities and resource allocation.  In 1995 funds were provided centrally for a number of initiatives designed to further the newly-identified goals and strategies.  Such initiatives havce continued to be funded in successive years.  Retreats were held to assist deans and department chairs in linking their own unit goals and strategies to those of the institution.  During 1996-97 the UPC developed an annual planning and budgeting process based on unit reports that document progress on these unit goals.  Moreover, Program Performance Reviews, which are scheduled every seven years for academic units, were modified in 1997 to reflect emphases on the institution’s mission, goals, and strategies.  The WASC Self-Study, initiated in 1997, is an extension of the institutional planning initiated in 1993.  In 1994, the new mission statement, with the goal of making learning preeminent across campus was adopted.

         While an inspection of annual reports from academic units reveals some unevenness in the extent to which the unit goals and strategies align with those of the institution, a structure for on-going planning is in place.  In addition, units are instructed to report progress in implementing their stated goals in annual reports and in periodic Program Performance Reviews. 

         Despite the investment of resources in planning at CSUF over the last decade, the campus is still without a true strategic plan that integrates fiscal, physical, and academic matters.  Planning is organized instead around a few broad, enduring themes.  There does not seem to be an overall plan for setting priorities or making strategic investments in particular academic programs over time.  Nevertheless, in the environment in which CSUF exists today, the lack of true strategic planning does not constitute a significant source of stress across the campus nor a decrement to institutional effectiveness.

 

C. Standard 3: Governance and Administration

         CSUF exists within a statewide system with 23 main campuses responsible to a single Chancellor.  Additionally the system is subject to legislative mandate (Title V), the Master Plan as administered by the California Commission on Post-Secondary Education and budget oversight by the California Finance Department and Bureau of State Audits. Locally governance is shared by the president with the Academic Senate.  Statements within the institution’s Mission and Goals reflect its commitment to collegial governance.

         Most employees, including the faculty, of the University are governed by collective bargaining agreements.  Faculty interests are represented by an active and inclusive Academic Senate led by an elected chair.  The Senate operates through an elaborate but accessible committee structure. Multiple web-based links provide information about all the individuals involved in governance as well as Title V and other relevant legislation.  The web site also contains the various collective bargaining agreements and a means of access to the subcommittees of the Academic Senate and individuals within the administrative hierarchy.

         Throughout the visit, team members were impressed by the overall collegiality of faculty and staff.  The obviously high level of mutual respect and cross campus communication reflected a healthy state of governance and administration.

 

D. Standard 4: Educational Programs

         The audit team found strong evidence in written documents and in interviews with faculty, administrators, and students of the commitment of CSUF to high standards of teaching and scholarship.  An environment conducive to study and learning is clearly in place.  Undergraduate and graduate degree programs have coherent designs and are characterized by continuity and sequential progression.  Minimum standards for student competence upon entry to CSUF have been established and courses and programs are offered at times that make them accessible to both traditional and non-traditional students. 

         However, the 1999-2001 CSUF catalog – the primary source of data about academic programs available to the visiting team – was developed prior to adoption of the new emphasis on the preeminence of learning, general education reform, active learning in the classroom, and assessment of learning outcomes.  Thus, the current catalog does not specify the learning outcomes for programs of study, does not describe the purposes and character of general education, does not emphasize the preeminence of learning, and contains almost no mention of the assessment of student competence in general education or the majors.  In general, program descriptions do not indicate that courses are available at locations other than the main CSUF campus or at a distance via technology (this information is found only at the end of the catalog).

          The audit team found oral and written evidence that faculty development experiences are making it possible for faculty to write clear learning objectives for students and to assess student competence in attaining these outcomes.  Moreover, a new General Education Reform Initiative is underway and faculty are also obtaining assistance in incorporating technology, as well as active learning strategies, in their teaching.  The team is confident that faculty will share the newly-developed statements of competence with students so students will understand how general education and major’s courses provide the knowledge and skills essential for successful completion of degrees.  Substantial revision of the CSUF catalog is underway and should include the information missing from the 1999-2001 Edition. 

         Despite the fact that most students fulfill General Education (GE) requirements at other institutions, those who were interviewed in an upper division GE course displayed a remarkable ability to articulate the distinctive goals of general education.  Students’ ability to articulate these outcomes for majors programs varied considerably across the programs we audited.

         In a recent (1999) administration of a survey from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), the research and scholarly writing of CSUF faculty were compared to national norms.  In all of the categories related to traditional scholarship, CSU Fullerton’s faculty was more “productive” than the national norms.   These measures included:¨       Number of books, manuals, and monographs published

  • ¨       Number of articles published in professional journals

  • ¨       Presentations at two or more professional conferences in the last two years

  • ¨       Number of hours spent on research and writing

         

         In March 2000 the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs published Cal State Fullerton Faculty Research In Review (1998-1999).  This attractive book highlights 80 published or edited books, manuals, monographs, and CD’s, 90 book chapters, 320 refereed articles, and over 70 juried/refereed art exhibits and performances.  The work also describes the awarding of over $19 million in grants and contracts from governmental and private sources.  The VPAA describes a campus culture that supports scholarship and creativity.  The Faculty Development Center appears to have been a major force in promoting such a supportive culture.  

         One of the stated intentions of the mission of the Faculty Development Center is the promotion of faculty research and creative activities.  To achieve this goal, the Center sponsors research design and statistics consultations, faculty writing support groups, workshops on publishing and data analysis, research grants, and recognition of scholarship.  A Faculty Research Coordinator in the Center works closely with the Office of Grants and Contracts to assist junior faculty with their research.  The Center has significantly increased its support for faculty research and scholarship in response to a directive from the VPAA and feedback from members of the Executive Committee of the Senate and faculty across campus.  Faculty and administrators mentioned the accessibility of information on grant and conference presentation opportunities through the Center’s website and the Faculty Development Center News.  “The website made it easy for me to identify audiences for my study” described one faculty member who had just returned from presenting her work at a conference.  

         Faculty mini-grants for research were noted in several conversations with faculty and administrators.  A review of the grants during 1999-2000 illustrated the importance of assessment in both empirical inquiries and action research studies. Within the collection is the potential for both traditional scholarship and the scholarship of teaching.  The mini-grants represent a creative approach to supporting faculty scholarship while addressing a significant campus need for innovative assessment.  

         Additionally, faculty research emerged as a very important criterion for search and recruitment processes across campus, a factor that will continue to support the prominence of research and scholarship on the CSU Fullerton campus.

 

E. Standard 5: Faculty and Staff:

         The institution demonstrates ample evidence in support of compliance with this standard. The central focus of CSU Fullerton is student learning with faculty and staff playing a collaborating role in this endeavor. One of the self-study themes was faculty and staff development and learning.

         The evidence for the development and learning for faculty and staff is particularly noteworthy and the following discussion of faculty and staff development will illuminate this achievement.  This process was evident in the many interviews the team conducted with faculty, staff and administrators as well as in the review of materials and reports provided by the institution.

         The following impressions are organized along four themes: support for faculty/staff learning; types of learning experiences; assessment; and indicators of educational effectiveness. The teams’ commendations and recommendations follow.

Support for faculty/staff learning: The Faculty Development Center (FDC) and the Employee Training and Development Program (ETD) offer comprehensive support for faculty/staff learning with visible resources, obvious budgetary support, backing from upper-level administration and the Academic Senate, and a solid infrastructure in place for both programs. Both programs operate with constant input and feedback from across campus. The collaboration between the two programs opens each set of comprehensive offerings to the entire campus; this process is a worthy initial step to begin to heal the traditional split of faculty and staff, a hope expressed by members of both groups.

Types of learning experiences (pedagogy): Both programs have experimented with a variety of offerings and formats. The most common pedagogy appears to be workshops and classes, and there are several ongoing certification series with multiple classes. In addition, there are celebratory events, showcases of “best practices” and social activities, all of which contribute to the development of a “learning community.” Several forms of evidence speak to the success of the wide variety of learning experiences for both programs: attendance records, participant feedback, and documented changes in faculty and staff performances. An additional form of evidence emerged from interviews throughout the WASC visit---esprit de corps---an enthusiasm, a visible commitment, and a vitality obvious to observers and listeners. It was also evident in the interviews with coordinators of the two programs that their planning is well informed by their knowledge of adult development/learning and “best practices” in professional development.

Assessment of learning: Most professional development efforts suffer from an over-reliance on traditional feedback forms. These two programs are impressive in their insightful approach to assessment. Their feedback forms are also evaluative. That is, they probe the new knowledge and understandings gained from workshops and classes and they prompt participants to explore potential applications. The WASC team members also heard multiple examples of follow-up assessment especially focused on application. The ETD program often queries supervisors for evidence of change or improvement in the practices of staff attendees. The Technology Academy participants are required to produce evidence of technology use in their teaching during the following semester. Plans for next summer’s Technology Academy will require additional evidence of participants—evidence of student learning resulting from technology enhanced teaching.

Indicators of educational effectiveness: A number of expected indicators of effectiveness are the formal and informal reports from participants in the FDC and ETD programs, follow-up assessments conducted by session organizers and demonstrations of new skills and knowledge by participants. Examples of those demonstrations include courses with new technology enhancement, faculty engagement in the PPR process with innovative assessment approaches, and more sophisticated and effective organizational systems in the management of several areas on campus. Administrators point to improved communication across campus as evidence of the impact of ETD. The high level of faculty research and scholarship described under Standard 4 may also be attributed to support of the FDC.

Commendations and recommendations: The coordinators and all involved in the operations of the Faculty Development Center and the Employee Training and Development program are to be commended for their commitment and high standards of quality professional development. From extensive comments by CSUF employees in almost every interview session, the impact of both programs was admired and affirmed. Both programs are models of the campus commitment to faculty/staff learning and ultimately, student learning.

         One recommendation is for FDC and ETD to share their wisdom and “best practices” with other professionals on both state and national levels. A second recommendation is to monitor the forms of pedagogy or more specifically the teaching quality of workshops and classes. As is often the case, those with real expertise in a topic or skill, may not necessarily be competent teachers. An additional suggestion is specifically directed to the FDC: ongoing input to the review surfaced the need for high quality and consistent evaluation of teaching. It is possible that the FDC has the leadership, the visibility, and the credibility to address this need. This suggestion also includes encouragement to blend such an effort with current programs on the scholarship of teaching as a way of truly influencing the quality of teaching. Finally it is recommended that the two programs continue and perhaps increase their efforts to build a seamless community of learners among faculty and staff. United campuses can be much more effective in promoting student learning when all employees feel part of a learning community themselves and are valued for their contributions to in student success.

 

F. Standard 6: Library, Computing and Other Information and Learning Resources

         The team observed excellent resources, programs, and staffing in the areas of information and information technology.  There have been major changes at this institution since the 1990 Accreditation Report, and these changes have profound implications for virtually all students, faculty, and staff.  The primary information technology position (Chief Information/Technology Officer) reports directly to the President, rather than to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and this change is indicative of the President’s commitment to information technology.  The University Librarian continues to report to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and sits on the Deans’ Council.  The two administrators work together closely, and the information technology staff resides in the Library.

         The completion of Library North in 1996, together with the reworking of the original library building, was a critical step in upgrading the quality of the learning environment on campus.  The rich array of computing resources in the labs and in the teaching spaces provides students excellent access to online resources, and the Library takes an appropriately aggressive approach to accumulating electronic resources.  The University and the Library staff have fully absorbed the newer concepts of libraries as active learning environments, and thus there are multi-faceted outreach programs for both faculty and students.  Most notable is the expansion and revamping of the instructional program that is now more strongly integrated with the curriculum.

         Three momentous steps have transformed the information technology infrastructure.  The first is the installation of fiber to each building and room; the second is the placement of identical hardware and software on the desk of every full-time faculty and staff person (with budget for periodic refreshing); and third is the establishment of a help desk to support the new infrastructure.  Each of these elements is critical to the success of teaching and learning, and there is every indication that this is well understood at all levels.

         Importantly for the continued success of information services, the leadership in Information Technology and in the Library is fully cognizant of—and willing to grapple with—an information world that continues to change at an increasing rate. 

         It should be noted that the 1990 Accreditation Report made reference to a university support unit, Television and Media Support Services.  While there is evidence of some improvement, there are some issues still to be resolved.  The institution is aware of this and is taking steps towards further remediation.

         As the institution expands distance learning, it will need to make a budgetary and programmatic commitment to electronic reserves, as a critical adjunct to general electronic resources.  This commitment is being postponed, and perhaps wisely so, until a clearer national model develops.  For the distant learner, though, the online availability of content specific to their course of study would be of great value, hence a more aggressive posture might be considered.

 

G. Standard 7: Student Services

         The Office of Student Affairs represents a wide array of programs and services that are comprehensive, well-organized, and student-centered in their approach.  Several new and innovative services were added in recent years: Fullerton First Year, the Co-Curricular Achievement Record, the Assistant Dean Program, the University Learning Center, and a New Student Orientation Program.

         The 1990 visiting team cited the lack of planning and organization as an overall concern in the student services area.  To address this concern, the Office of Student Affairs developed a comprehensive planning process, including a mission statement that articulates commitment and direction, goals for each service area, assessment activities for program review, and an annual report.  This process has improved services and added accountability.  In addition, Student Affairs has absorbed and stabilized a number of campus services that were once fragmented.  They centralized them under one umbrella and provided them with established budgets and consistent supervision.

         Particularly noteworthy in the visiting team’s review was the on-going collaboration between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.  All of the aforementioned programs, along with Enrollment Management and Retention Services, are good examples of the collective efforts of both divisions.  This is commendable.

         Although Student Affairs does not currently participate in the established process of Program Performance Review, it has developed its own internal process of periodic and systematic self-study.  The process was initiated during the 1997-98 academic year, and is scheduled to continue at five-year intervals.

         The visiting team recommends that attention be given to providing extended hours to enhance services for evening students.  In general, however, we found that the programs and services offered by Student Affairs are of high quality and particularly appropriate to address the needs of students at California State University, Fullerton.

 

H. Standard 8: Physical Resources

         This WASC standard requires that institutions address the sufficiency of instructional facilities and equipment “to achieve institutional purposes” and “to facilitate the educational objectives of the institution.”  CSUF has incorporated these standards specifically in their Mission, Goals and Strategies (III.E and V.).  The Final Report of the Self Study comments on three aspects of the physical environment that received significant emphasis over the past decade.  These are the Pollak Library expansion, technological innovations and their impact on learning, and an assessment of student attitudes concerning classroom space across campus.  Extensive discussion of these three topics appears in both the Phase I and II Reports.

         During the audits, visiting team members had the opportunity to visit classrooms in every school as well as many of the faculty and administrative offices.  The general impression of the physical facilities was very positive.  Team members did receive some complaints from both students and faculty concerning the lack of availability of the newest technology and computerized classrooms.  It is clear that the administration is aware of these desires and working to meet the needs of all its programs.  Based on the experiences of team members from other regions, the state of the facilities and the level of technology available appeared to be quite adequate.

 

I. Standard 9:  Financial Resources

         With regard to Standard 9, the Visiting Team Report from 1990 noted the difficult financial circumstances confronting CSUF at that time and emphasized the need for better long-range financial planning, development of non-state sources of revenue, as well as greater strategic planning in the allocation of resources.

         On the basis of the materials presented to the current Visiting Team and our own investigations, it appears that the University has taken strides in each of these areas.  Additional points were raised in the current self-study about the integrity of financial management, and in private conversations during the visit, about the sufficiency of financial resources for the overall university. Each of these issues is discussed briefly:

Sufficiency of Financial Resources: The financial climate for the overall CSU as well as CSU Fullerton has improved since the last accreditation visit.  However, the faculty and administration continue to feel that the University is under-funded, not only relative to its needs, but also relative to its specific situation and CSU peers.

         Due to historical anomalies, the base of funding for CSUF is not equivalent to other CSU universities of its size, although current funding for new student enrollment appears to be equivalent to peer institutions.  It was reported to the visiting team that the CSU Chancellor’s Office is aware of this problem, but believes the most effective means of addressing it is through incremental funding for new student enrollment over time.  However, because of the size of the problem in base funding, CSUF will not catch up to other institutions in the system for several decades.  The 1990 accreditation team also noted that, because of high housing prices in Orange County, it is much more difficult for CSUF to recruit its faculty and staff than during the early years of the University.  Our discussions with various university officers and departments confirmed this problem and noted that it has become more acute over the last decade.

         Given the anticipated rapid enrollment increases in the CSU system, and for Fullerton specifically, both of these financial issues are cause for concern.  With regard to the issue of the historical base, we would encourage the CSUF administration to continue to explore this issue with the Chancellor of the CSU system.  While corrections for allocation distortions within a university system are politically difficult to implement, there is evidence that this problem is not confined to CSUF.  Independent studies of equity in funding between institutions and possible causes of extant inequities have recently been conducted in other state systems (e.g., University of North Carolina System) and have led to fruitful public discussions of new funding strategies. 

         The problems posed to CSU Fullerton by the increased cost of area housing are likely to be even more burdensome over time as the University expands and must replace a large number of retirees.  The CSU system apparently has statewide salary scales for its personnel.  A number of states, e.g., Georgia, have adopted salary schedules for their university systems that reflect cost of living (COL) differences between urban and rural areas.  Whether cost of living differences across CSU campus locations warrant such a differentiated salary policy is not clear, but a careful and systematic study of the COL differences between CSU campus locations would be helpful.  If differential salaries are not feasible, the University may wish to consider subsidizing low-cost home loans for faculty and staff located in CSU universities with abnormally high housing costs.  Given the rapidly rising housing costs in Orange County, and possibly in other specific campuses of the CSU system, this problem could become much more serious and may lead to shortages and inequities in the quality of faculty and staff across the system.

Financial Planning: The university has developed over the last decade a planning and budgeting process (UPS 100.201) that features financial forecasts, top slicing of new operating funds for university-wide priorities identified by the President (e.g., the “computer rollout project”), a competitive allocation process through the Vice Presidents and Directors for additional new base funding, and a “University Mission and Goals Initiatives” for innovative annual projects proposed through the Vice Presidents and Directors.  The process features consultation with the Senate Planning, Resources and Budget Committees.  Over the last decade, in times of decreasing as well as increasing revenue, the University’s principle priority in financial planning was to protect the quality of its academic programs.  These mechanisms and processes suggest substantial improvement in financial planning since the last accreditation report and have helped make the university more adaptive to changing circumstances.

         While schools and departments may have access to new funds through these resource allocation processes, it is unclear whether the process provides sufficient funding for the improvement of university-wide processes associated with student learning.  For example, improvements in the evaluation of teaching, assessment of students, student advising, experiments with new forms of pedagogy and other activities crucial to maintaining and improving student learning may not be actively supported or pursued by every department, especially if expenditures for such activities must come out of existing budgets.  Identifying the improvement of student learning as a university-wide priority and allocating funds for this purpose to academic departments would provide a greater incentive for improvements in teaching, advising, and student assessment than will exhortation alone.

Financial Management: As noted in the self study, a recent “whistle blowing” incident at CSUF led to a state audit of the University’s financial management in 1999, that aroused controversy both on and off campus.  The Chancellor of the CSU system responded to the State Auditor’s Report by conducting an independent review and investigation and concluded that there was “no serious mismanagement” at the university.  In addition the Chancellor commissioned an external evaluation of the university’s financial management to ensure that appropriate financial controls were in place.  All the foregoing documents were available to the members of the Visiting Team.  It appeared to the visiting team that the University is taking appropriate actions to safeguard the financial integrity of the campus and that the consultant’s report provides a useful plan and set of priorities for improvements in financial management practices. Furthermore, no member of the University community raised this issue as a point of concern during our many discussions or open meetings.

Fundraising and Development: The University has made substantial progress in private fund raising since 1990.  In 1991 The University raised $2.4M from private funds. By 1999 this had increased to nearly $12 million, approximately 11% of the university’s budget.  Given the number and relative prosperity of CSUF graduates, the university appears to have a substantial opportunity for private fund raising (this opportunity is reflected in a recent policy by the CSU Board of Trustees setting 10% private revenue targets for all institutions in the system).  The CSU University Advancement Foundation appears to have developed an effective infrastructure for fund raising, investing substantial effort in identifying and tracking alumni of the institution.


 

Chapter III: Academic Audits

 

          The nature of any audit is to assess process, not to validate outcomes per se.  This is just as true of academic audits as it is of financial ones.  The WASC Team conducted two types of audits as part of this accreditation visit.  Ten of CSUF’s approximately fifty academic programs were recommended to the team by CSUF and selected for examination by the team chair.  Additionally, four processes that cut across academic programs that the CSUF Self-Study Committee identified as being of particular importance to their quest of making learning preeminent were also recommended to and selected for audit by the visiting team.  Both of these audits examined processes from three distinct perspectives.  For the academic program audits, pairs of auditors interviewed students, then faculty and finally administrators.  For the core process audits, teams of auditors interviewed process clients, then process managers and lastly administrators with executive oversight responsibilities.  Together these audits provided many examples and anecdotes illustrating how active and systematic processes of monitoring, feedback, and experimentation, along with collegial cooperation, can  improve student learning.  The engagement provided by participating in the audit process allowed visiting team members to garner many impressions concerning the efficacy of many of CSUF’s educational programs and processes. 

          All academic programs participated in the initial phase of the audit by answering reflective questions about learning provided by the Self-Study Committee prior to the visit and provided to team members as electronic documents.  However, the 10 that were selected for interviews were not a random nor representative sample of all programs.  Indeed, a post hoc review of all the departmental responses to the preliminary questions, suggests that the visiting team was generally exposed to the “upper half” of the distribution of academic programs.  Under the circumstances of this particular visit, however, this approach is not altogether inappropriate.  CSUF has relatively recently undertaken the challenge of making learning preeminent.  Historically, research and occasionally teaching have been preeminent at most institutions of higher education.  CSUF is attempting to shift the culture as well as a prevailing academic paradigm.  Departmental responses to the Self-Study Committee’s questions about learning clearly indicated that for some departments this was a relatively novel and somewhat curious concept.  It is debatable whether or not an actual audit of student learning within departments that are not yet supporting the transition would have yielded much additional information for the team or for the institution.  However, it must be recognized that the generally positive impressions of the programs reported by the auditors cannot be assumed to be indicative of all processes and programs at CSUF.  Nonetheless, it should be noted that through this process the team engaged nearly 500 students, faculty and staff in substantive conversations about learning.

 

A. Audits of Academic Programs

          Despite the positive bias in the selection of programs to be audited, variance across these programs was readily apparent to the team.  It would be inappropriate, however, to assume that actual variance in the quality of the processes in these programs was the sole or even principal cause of the observed variation.  Although the team requested the opportunity to discuss learning with students who had substantial experience with the program being audited, this was not always the case.  Several of the student interviews occurred in courses in which students had little experience with other courses in the program.  Other interviews occurred in classes where there were as many students from other programs than from the program being audited (i.e., the Abnormal Psychology Class). 

          It is also unclear what various instructors had told students about the purpose and potential consequences of the interview prior to the team’s arrival.  In some cases, auditors found the students to be very forthcoming and in others they seemed rather reticent to converse.  The physical settings in which the interviews took place also may have been a source of some apparent variation.  Interviews conducted in computer classrooms where students remained behind consoles were more problematic than those that were conducted in more traditional classrooms or discussion circles.  However, there was a clear sense that the intact group selection strategy (i.e., using a whole class rather than designated student representatives) provided auditors with the opportunity to hear from students with a variety of experiences and attitudes.  There was somewhat less variance in the environmental conditions or apparent preconceptions of faculty members or administrators the team interviewed. 

          It appeared as though not all departments had effective quality assurance processes and not all departments were equally committed to using academic program planning to enhance student learning.  Exploring how highly effective practices in quality assurance were developed and maintained in some departments is not within the purview of this audit.  By and large, validation of the team’s impressions and the development of explanations for the apparent differences is an important challenge for CSUF to explore.  Faculty members in all departments can help in this effort by continuing to take collegial responsibility not only for the improvement of quality in their own department, but also for the improvement of quality assurance processes across their College and the University as a whole.

          The table below was constructed from a review of the Program Audit Reports that appear in full as appendices 4-A(1) to 4-A(10) of this report.  The programs that were audited appear down the left hand column.  Although there was some variation in the particular protocols across audits, evidence of educational effectiveness seemed to cluster around four general topic areas.  “ Curriculum ” is the heading used to identify issues dealing with what was taught in the program while “ Pedagogy ” deals with the process of teaching itself (i.e., how the material was to be taught and learned).  “ Systems ” contain issues considered to be outside the departmental or program boundaries.  Issues that were raised by faculty or students dealing with financial needs (primarily for technology, facilities, or faculty) are indicated under the “ Resources ” heading.  Given the numerous caveats presented above the table is much more a program guide to the observations and comments contained in the appendices than an objective scorecard of relative program performance.

          Again it should be stressed that audits seek to reveal information about processes not evaluate products per se. The symbols that appear in the table reflect the team’s impressions based on what they were saw and heard.  The “+” symbol is used to denote a process strength and a “++” indicates a great strength.  A “+/-“ indicates that there were issues in this area expressed to the team but the impression was that there was a balance between strengths and concerns.  The symbol “N” was used to indicate that issues in the area were not raised during the audit process.  The “-“s indicate areas where there appeared to the team to be discontinuities or general concerns were expressed. 

Areas of Evidence of Effectiveness
Programs 
Curriculum
Pedagogy
Systems   
Resources

General Education 

American Studies

Biology

Chemistry 

Child and Adolescent Studies

Communications

Computer Science

Management/Information Systems

Music

Psychology

+/- 

+/-

++ 

+

+

++

N

-

++   

++

+

-

+

+/-

+

+/-

-   

+

-   

+  

-

-

-

+/- 

+/-

-

N

N

-

-

-

N  

-

-

N

-

 

          In general, the auditors found that the processes used to determine what was to be taught were a notable strength across CSUF programs.  Faculty and administrators have actively sought inputs from many internal and external constituencies to develop programs that are both responsive to students’ needs and consistent with high standards of academic integrity.  Across programs, most students seemed to be fairly clear about what they were expected to do and what they needed to learn.  The few students who voiced dissenting opinions that the “real” purpose of the university was for them to make professional contacts or simply get a piece of paper were clearly the exception.  The expression of these dissenting views, however, reassured the team that the audit process was yielding an adequate sample of diverse opinions.  The Computer Science Department in particular seems to have aggressively pursued proactive curricular changes to allow their program to keep pace with rapidly changing advancements in the field.  Similarly the Biology Department appears to have invested considerable time and effort in emulating the learning outcomes and curriculum of the most prestigious biology programs in the nation.  Similar efforts in Chemistry and American Studies promise to yield similar benefits. 

          One of the curricular concerns is General Education.  There is clear evidence in the Self-Study that the process of identifying and articulating learning outcomes from this large and complex program are underway but progress has been slow.  One team visited students enrolled in an upper level general education course.  The ability of these students to articulate the value of general education was impressive.  However, across programs, the most common complaint expressed by students and faculty was the apparently unfathomable complexity of CSUF’s General Education requirements.  Greater clarity about what needs to be included (and what does not) would be very valuable.  Somewhat cynically, one student suggested that the complexity was an intentional plot on the part of CSUF to trick students into taking unnecessary courses.  This was not a majority opinion but the level of frustration was relatively high across students and shared by many faculty members and staff as well.

          Pedagogy, or the methods by which learning is to occur, appeared to be an area where there was more variability across programs.  There is a considerable literature on pedagogies considered to have merit in higher education.  Some members of the team were disappointed not to find a wider or more apparent awareness of generally accepted principles of good pedagogy either in the Self Study or in the audits.  For example, in one faculty interview, the issue of collaborative learning surfaced; most faculty agreed that this was a potentially powerful pedagogy but three successive faculty members indicated that their methods were considerably different and apparently based on distinctly different interpretations of the underlying theory.  There appeared to have been little previous discussion of collaborative learning among the faculty of this program.

          In the upper division General Education course visited by the Team, students were effusive about the rich variety of learning experiences that were provided by the course in which they were currently enrolled (the History of Jazz).  However, when asked if any of their other General Education courses had used a similar variety of learning activities, few could identify even a single example.  Pedagogy in General Education courses appears to provide an opportunity for enrichment and improvement.  Ironically, the faculty of Communications, a discipline to which pedagogy would seem to be closely related, seemed to be somewhat less enthusiastic about applying their disciplinary knowledge to improving the effectiveness of student learning than in some other programs.  The Psychology faculty, another program where there would appear to be a strong link between the content of the discipline and the process of student learning, seemed somewhat hesitant to share their expertise or support campus-wide efforts to enhance pedagogy.  In contrast, the Chemistry faculty had developed a rigorous experimental protocol to ascertain the effectiveness of alternative pedagogies for teaching introductory chemistry and was actively building bridges to other programs and departments to enhance student learning.  The American Studies faculty’s pursuit of excellence provides another example of pedagogy’s potential benefits to organizational health and student learning.  Not only did the faculty in this department claim to be committed to enhancing student learning, the endorsement of their students for the effectiveness of their efforts was unequivocal and resounding.

          Systems issues were most commonly raised as concerns and impediments.  (The team recognizes that it is much easier to identify what is not being provided than it is to express appreciation for support that has already been provided.)  As mentioned earlier, General Education advising is a significant problem across the campus.  The extraordinarily high number of students who accomplish most of their General Education requirements at other institutions prior to arrival at CSUF greatly exacerbates the complexity of this problem. 

          Several students and faculty identified the recently-implemented peer-tutoring system as being helpful to both tutors and clients.  Some departments have developed effective in-house programs to extend the availability of tutorial support to their courses in their respective majors.  There were broader issues raised as well.  Some faculty members voiced concerns about the high cost of living in the local area, the ability to recruit well-qualified faculty in some departments, the impending retirement of many of CSUF’s most distinguished and accomplished faculty members, and the consequences of the newly-imposed merit pay system.

          Not too surprisingly, no one told visiting team members that they had been provided with too many resources.  However, attitudes about the urgency of the need for additional resources did seem to vary across programs.  In general, more scientific and technological departments were most strident about their need for more and better technology, primarily in the form of access to computerized classrooms and current software.  Somewhat less common was the expression of the desire for resources to hire more and better faculty.  The Child and Adolescent Studies Program had achieved considerable success but in the process many of their most effective and engaged faculty members have been recruited and promoted to important institutional positions.  Additional adjunct faculty members do not adequately compensate the department for their contribution to the institutional welfare.  The Psychology faculty expressed concern that resources now being committed to campus-wide learning initiatives might be better spent within departments.  Achieving a satisfactory balance between parochial interests and the development or programs and processes that enhance student learning across the institution will continue to be a challenge.

 

B.  Audits of Core Processes

            In addition to auditing programs, the team also conducted audits of four core processes.  These particular processes were among several that had been identified in CSUF’s Self-Study as being of particular importance to their stated goal of making learning preeminent at CSUF.  The visiting team audited the particular processes CSUF had recommended to the team chair.  As with the audits of the individual programs, these process audits began with preliminary questions sent to process “owners” several weeks prior to the team’s visit.  Team members studied the responses to these questions in preparation for the series of interviews that comprised each process audit.  The objective of these audits was to better understand process not evaluate product.  The interviews were all conducted in a single afternoon by designated subgroups of the visiting team.  Impressions of all the audits were then presented and discussed with the entire team prior to the preparation of the separate reports found in the appendices.  As with the Program Audits of individual departments, the Process Audits are appendices 4-B(1) through 4-B(4) to this report.  The four processes audited were the Program Performance Review Process, CSUF Support for Faculty and Staff Learning, University Learning Center, and Institutional Research and Assessment.  What follows are brief synopses of the individual reports followed by a consideration of themes and connections among the individual reports.  The reader is encouraged to refer to the individual reports to appreciate the quantity and quality of information the audit process provided.

Program Performance Review Process:  Program Performance Reviews were identified in the CSUF Self Study as the principal processes through which learning was to become preeminent across the campus.  Undertaken by most academic programs every seven years, this organizational self-reflection allows the department to examine its current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  Although the Academic Senate has the oversight responsibility for the program, the Vice President for Academic Affairs bears primary responsibility for its implementation.  The crucial component in the current system, however, is the conversation that should take place between the department chair and her/his respective dean after the study has been completed.

            Visiting Team members interviewed four department chairs who had recently completed PPRs, two deans who had extensive experience with the PPR process and finally the Acting Associate Vice President for Academic Programs.  There was considerable agreement among these three groups.  The current Program Performance Reviews allow departments to do an honest self-appraisal without fear of retaliation or retribution; the process itself is likely to yield considerable benefits and lead to an improvement in overall academic quality and organizational effectiveness within the departments.  Department chairs raised two significant issues concerning PPRs, however: the lack of resources generally available to support the conduct of PPRs and the lack of consequences (or in some cases even the acknowledgement) of the results of these studies.  The Deans’ also recognized the general internal value of the PPRs and also saw the need for closer ties between the results of PPRs and planning and budgeting decisions. The Acting Associate Vice President for Academic Programs reiterated the internal value of the PPR process but acknowledged the need for stronger connections between this process and other institutional decisions.

            After a thorough discussion of their observations, the team offered the following substantive recommendations for improving the PPR process and helping to extend its positive effects on learning across CSUF:- Retain flexibility at the departmental level and focus on departmental self-reflection. 

  • - Clarify responsibilities of deans and central administration, especially with regard to feedback and negotiation of action plans.

  • - Consider reducing the interval between reviews. 

  • - Expand PPR to all units, including support units. 

  • - Continue to develop stronger connections between PPRs and annual reports; between

  •    PPRs and resource allocation; and between PPRs and University planning processes. 

  • - Re-examine the policy of substituting accreditation reports for PPRs. 

  • - Provide resources centrally for departmental self studies. 

  • - Establish an oversight group. 

 

CSUF Support for Faculty and Staff Learning: Another team examined a group of processes designed to provide support for faculty and staff learning at CSUF.  Faculty and Staff Learning was the second of three major themes of the CSUF Self Study.  The institution’s efforts to enhance faculty and staff learning are reflected by three distinct programs: the Faculty Development Center (FDC), Employee Training and Development Program (ETD), and Staff Development and Training (“Sabbatical”) Program (SDT).  Audit interviews concerning support provided by these programs were conducted collectively.  The extremely close and positive working relations between these three programs facilitated the interview process.  The collaboration between these programs is itself a noteworthy model of how cooperation can lead to communal excellence.

          An abundance of learning activities is offered including technology training sessions, educational presentations and workshops, classes and certificates, and celebrations of campus “best practices”.  Although most of these activities are for either faculty or staff, there are a growing number of activities that are attended by faculty and staff together.  The team noted that the programs themselves appeared to be informed by the literature on adult learning and highly effective overall.  Advisory groups, administrative boards and occasional focus groups are used to identify staff and faculty needs and develop responsive programs.  The approach to assessment across these programs is exemplary.  Not only is session satisfaction data collected, there is a bona fide attempt to evaluate learning and to follow up participation with subsequent questionnaires and feedback from supervisors in the case of staff and requests for evidence of the impact on student learning for faculty programs. Just recently these programs have begun to contribute to the need for faculty and staff education and training in the area of assessment and program evaluation.

University Learning Center (ULC): Another important theme of the CSUF Self Study was student learning and a visitation team was requested to conduct an audit of the support provided by the University Learning Center.  Not so coincidentally perhaps the University had re-commissioned the University Learning Center in 1998 after having abandoned it during the budget crisis earlier in the decade to preserve as much of the remaining academic infrastructure as possible.  The primary goal of the Center is to maximize student retention and success.  The team interviewed students, faculty and staff as well as those with oversight responsibility (viz., The Director of Student Services, the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for Student Affairs).  There was considerable convergence between the observations and opinions expressed by all those associated with the Center.

          Despite its relatively brief existence, effective leadership and adequate resources have allowed the University Learning Center to make rapid progress in developing a variety of programs to support student learning.  The new, dedicated facilities, although somewhat difficult for students to find, are spacious, well-equipped and provide a superb atmosphere for learning.  The most important programs the Center offers are peer-tutoring, technological assistance, and academic skills classes.  The Center has taken an aggressive approach to collecting data and using it to refine and improve the effectiveness of all its programs.  Although still a new organization, students who “discover” the ULC usually become return customers, and word of the services offered is reflected by steadily increasing utilization.  The need for expanded programs and hours of operation has already become apparent.  

Institutional Research and Assessment: The third theme of the CSUF Self Study was the development of an environment conducive to learning across the campus.  The team conducted an audit of the institutional research and assessment processes.  The Office of Analytic Studies and newly-established Student Affairs Research Center were the foci of the audit.  One member of the team also made a supplementary visit to a meeting of the committee responsible for enrollment management and conducted additional interviews with individuals involved in this process.

          This report will use enrollment management to illustrate the effectiveness of the use of data in guiding institutional decision making.  The integration and coordination in this critical policy and decision process was impressive.  It both reflects credit and adds value to CSUF’s quest to make learning preeminent.  It also provides an example of how CSUF is closing the loop between assessment and planning.

          The Office of Analytic Studies (OAS) performs four principle functions: research, service, interpretation, and communication.  The team members were impressed with the Office’s ability to effectively juggle the diverse demands.  However, service was the one area where the OAS warrants special recognition.  Clients absolutely raved about the outstanding services the Office provided.  This extraordinary success was not without cost though.  Their extreme commitment to customer service left little time for reflection or extended proactive analysis.  Many of the Office’s most enthusiastic supporters referred to it as a “hidden gem”.  This raised questions as to whether those programs that might most benefit from the Office’s services knew they were available.

          Established in 1998, the charter of the Student Affairs Research Center (SARC) was to gather and disseminate new knowledge about students.  Having already published and distributed 20 insightful reports, the Center has demonstrated the value of its contributions to CSUF goal of making learning preeminent.  It has encouraged the development of “embedded assessments” and been a catalyst for cross-campus conversations about student learning.  Both the OAS and the SARC serve a not-so-obvious function by providing a secondary channel of administrative and academic communication, often providing the facts, figures, and rationale to support policy and resource allocation decisions.

          Despite the achievement of great success in both these programs, the team audit report recommends consideration of alternative organizational formats.  These include establishing a separate office to provide support for departmental and agency assessment efforts and further clarifying and prioritizing the functions of each of the existing centers.  It may well be the case that resources invested in these vital functions will serve as levers to further enhance and extend the preeminence of learning across the CSUF campus.

 

C. General Observations and Synthesis

          Several final comments seem to be appropriate before concluding this section on process audits.  First it should be noted that the processes selected for audit were very consistent with CSUF’s Self Study and critical to the institution’s intention to make learning preeminent.  The student support system is making a clear contribution to student retention and success.  The faculty and staff education and training programs are very effective and a distinct institutional asset.  Both of them contribute directly to faculty and staff learning.  The institutional research and assessment activities are critical to helping create a culture conducive to learning but their contributions might be extended by reorganization and further investment.  The Program Performance Review process appears to have the potential to become a primary mechanism for effecting the paradigm shift CSUF seeks.  The excellence of all these programs is noteworthy; however, the audit reports all suggest opportunities to expand and extend these programs to broaden and deepen their positive effects.

          While the audit report concerning the Program Performance Review recommended that consideration be given to making the results of the review more consequential, caution is warranted.  The lack of consequences has encouraged candid reflection and allowed departments to learn from their mistakes.  If the stakes were to become too high, the candor and authenticity that have made the process so effective might be jeopardized.  And yet it seems that there is a great deal more that the institution could learn by reviewing and reflecting upon the information contained in these program self-studies.  Providing the assets and expertise to insure that these studies are done well might be an essential precursor of using the data for subsequent analysis.  It is also important to spend the time and energy necessary to gain faculty acceptance and appreciation of the common benefit of making learning preeminent at CSUF.  In this regard contributions to the academic community might become an expected aspect of each department’s objectives.

          In exploring ways in which the PPR results might become more consequential attention should be given to the review process itself.  Departmental contributions to the common good might be one way to justify a department’s request for additional resources.  On the other hand, it seems plausible that the departments that can demonstrate the greatest need (perhaps by evidence of their own poor performance) might claim that they are the ones who should receive additional resources.  Figuring out how the results of the PPR might influence resource allocation decisions is a thorny problem.  Perhaps one alternative lies in the conduct of the Self Studies themselves.  By shifting the emphasis from the evaluative aspects of these Self Studies to the more diagnostic aspects, both the institution and the department might gain something.  If the goal of each department is to maximize its potential as a member of a learning community, the question of how it contributes is just as important as the question of how much it contributes.  Each department’s capability to realize its potential might be limited by several things.  Curricula that are not attuned to student needs, occupational opportunities, and academic realities are unlikely to promote learning.  Over-reliance on traditional or seemingly efficient pedagogies (i.e., large classes and reliance on multiple choice testing) can also inhibit learning and impede organizational effectiveness.  There are also a variety of ways that system issues can inhibit learning and many of them require relatively few if any resources to fix.  Finally there are some impediments that only the provision of additional resources can ameliorate.  Departments that can clearly demonstrate that their curriculum and courses are appropriate, their pedagogies effective and their organization healthy, would be the ones in the best position to assure decision makers that resources targeted to specific needs would yield benefits.  For departments not yet able to demonstrate efficacy in these other areas, additional resources are less likely to contribute directly to student learning

          Learning is most likely to become preeminent if CSUF itself becomes a learning organization.  A great deal of evidence was collected during these audits that this transition is already well underway in many departments and administrative units.  However, the tensions between organizational integration and differentiation are likely to persist.  Learning organizations tend to be pluralistic; they balance an acceptance of responsibility for everyone to contribute to the common good with a healthy respect for the unique attributes and operational autonomy of its various departments and offices.  There is much to be gained by continuing to pursue such an organizational culture and structure.   


 

Chapter IV: Open Meeting Reports

 

A. Students

            Ten students met with the team members.  The students were 4 females; 6 males; 8 undergraduate students; 2 graduate students.  The students majored in human services, kinesiology, political science, business, child development, computer science, and counseling psychology (graduate).  Four were part of the “re-entry” program, 2 were entering freshmen; and 6 were transfers (undergraduatets).  There were 4 staff observers present at the meeting also. They were from various offices including the Fullerton First Year program, Dean of Students office, Student Life Office and the WASC Self Study research assistant. The latter is a graduate of both undergraduate and graduate programs at CSUF. These 4 individuals did not participate in the discussions. Students were asked whether the observers should remain and they all stated it was not a problem. The presence of the observers did not appear to negatively affect the nature and contents of the ensuing discussions.

Student Theme 1: Students generally felt CSUF was a place conducive to learning. They noted that despite the large size of the total student population, it was rare for them to take classes larger than 50. More often than not, their classes ranged between 30-40 students especially in their major, upper division classes. Those who were completing their lower division courses (general education) reported a few courses greater than 75. They noted that professors were generally accessible, particularly the full-time faculty. Sample comments:

  • --I am a commuter student. I found a home at the re-entry center. I have made connections and feel a part of this place.

  • --Although this is a big school, we have small classes especially in our upper division major classes. The professors here are accessible.

  • --We can communicate with our professors either during their office hours or by email.

  • --The professors are accessible but the part-timers are not to the same extent because they are here just for their classes.

 

When asked whether they would still choose to come to CSUF, given what they now know about the place, ALL said they would make the same decision!

Student Theme 2: Several of the students (who tended to be older and working full time during the day) expressed strong concern about the lack of availability of student support services (tutoring, writing lab, health and counseling centers) after 5pm. Sample comments:

  • --This place is mostly centered on daytime students. The services available for day students are just not available for evening students. I work full time and by the time I get here many of the services I need are closed, by 5pm. Writing and tutoring labs close so early, I can’t use them.

  • --The counseling center and health center close at 5. By the time I get here they are closed.

  • --The food court closes at 7.

  • --In the Kinesiology Department, tutors are available for us after hours.

  • --The university is between a rock and a hard place. With budget cutbacks it has to restrict the services it provides.

Student Theme 3: Students were concerned about student evaluation of courses/instructors. Many wondered what was done with them, if anything. Some expressed the desire to receive feedback of the overall results of these evaluations. Sample comments:

  • --I want some feedback about these evaluations we fill out.

  • --What is done with student course evaluations? Why do we not have access to them? We  want to know the results.

  • --I had a professor that everyone liked a lot. He was very easy and lax about things and got great evaluations. But I learned nothing from him.

  • --There is a professor (tenured) who is awful. I have had her for two courses. She keeps on getting her teaching assignments shifted because no one wants her. But she has tenure.

  • --I happened to also take that same professor. If I had known about how awful she was, I would have dropped her. She did not give out a syllabus until the third week of classes! It was too late to drop her in the fourth week when I finally discovered how bad she was.

 

Student Theme 4: Students in the open forum expressed concerns about the over-reliance on adjuncts in particular departments (graduate division, counseling, psychology) where professional and teaching experience might be more critical. In another department (computer science) the use of part timer faculty was seen as a very big advantage.  Sample comments:

  • --My department (graduate counseling) must have 60% part timers. I have been here 2 years and have taken 4-5 classes per semester and I have had only one full time professor.

  • --Sometimes these instructors are so new and inexperienced that they only have one more year of experience than I do. How can I respect them?

  • --The department is trying. They are trying to hire 3 full time slots currently but it is a problem.

  • --In computer science part timers are great. They are an advantage because it means they have a full time job in the industry. We learn directly from their experience.

 

B. Faculty

            About 12 faculty members, most of whom were members of the Senate Executive Committee, attended all or part of this session.  The session began with comments from a department chair about the nature of the experimental accreditation process.  In his view the focus on "process" to the exclusion of "content" was a mistake: more useful, he said, would be to ask each department two basic questions:  "What are your strengths?" and "How do you know?"  He suggested that SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analyses would have been more useful to his department than the requirement to address the audit questions.  The remainder of the meeting addressed the following issues:  management of growth and attendant budget concerns, faculty compensation, faculty attrition and replacement issues, and academic quality.  Views expressed below are those of the faculty, not necessarily those of the visitors.

Growth management:   Demands on the University are enormous to manage growth and still maintain excellence.  The message is "do more with less."  The campus is "chronically under-funded," with growth dollars going to high-growth areas.  Thus, there is a sense that the campus is "demand-driven," with penalties to those programs growing more slowly, or not at all.

Faculty compensation:  The system-wide merit pay policy is poorly-designed.  Merit pay is not a "functional" way of rewarding professionals, and it was imposed without first making up pre-existing salary inequities.  Further, it promotes an unhealthy competition among department members and encourages an over-reliance on quantitative measures of excellence, which in turn favors research over teaching and service.  A policy that allows the president to reserve 10% of merit dollars poses a potential conflict with academic freedom in the view of some individuals.

Faculty attrition:   CSUF faces large numbers of faculty retirements in the next few years.  One department has only four faculty younger than 55 and 18 older than 60.  While this department is an extreme case, it's not unusual for some departments to be facing up to 60% turnover. Recruitment is hampered by heavy teaching loads, relatively low salaries, and a high cost of living locally.  Many faculty worry that the large cohort dedicated to liberal learning who work to serve the university will leave with few junior faculty able or willing to take their place.

Academic quality:   Cal State Fullerton has always been a campus with large numbers of transfer students from community colleges.  Maintaining quality control is difficult under these circumstances, and no firm data are available on learning needs peculiar to these students.  Heavy teaching loads and few "buy out" opportunities make it difficult for faculty to remain current in their disciplines.  The chief conflict is in responding to two conflicting mandates: to make CSUF a campus where learning is "pre-eminent" while responding to demands to process an increasing numbers of students.  Enrollment is not always the dominant goal, however, as demonstrated by the University's willingness to protect the engineering program when the job market for engineers collapsed in the 90's.  The visitors were struck by the loyalty and affection faculty members expressed for CSUF, despite the complaints expressed above.  As one person put it, "this place has always been about good learning."

 

C. Staff

            The impressions gleaned from an open meeting with staff are presented within the themes of strengths, satisfactions, and issues.  Those impressions are followed by commendations and brief recommendations. It should be noted that 49 staff members attended, that they represented a broad array of offices and units, and that the session lasted nearly 90 minutes.  The attendees appeared anxious and eager to share their perceptions and did so with great candor.  It should also be noted that about half of the session was spent in directed inquiry with the WASC team member facilitating a discussion focused on specific questions.  The second half was an open discussion with participants addressing topics of importance to them. 

Strengths: The institution’s major strength is the astute understanding and broad insights that staff have about students.  They were able to describe the student population with typical but comprehensive demographics as well as a depth of insight and sensitivity for the diversity of CSU Fullerton’s student population.  Beyond their knowledge of students, staff could describe their accommodations and practices to meet the wide range of needs, interests, and capacity of students.  Examples of scholarship considerations, flexible hours of service, offers of more efficient processing of student forms were provided to demonstrate these accommodations.  Staff spoke with visible empathy for the difficulties faced by students who work 25-40 hours per week, have extensive family responsibilities, or speak English as a second language.  They also described many of those same factors as assets students bring to the university.  One staff member described students’ experiences in working outside of class, studying in several courses, and caring for a family member as evidence of their capacity to “juggle” multiple responsibilities and their perseverance.  Those qualities serve students well in the employment market and the staff member attested to CSUF students being more attractive candidates for many positions.  International students were seen as a source of learning for CSUF student peers as well as for staff.  Other staff described a personal sense of urgency and caring for meeting students’ needs efficiently in the context of understanding students’ complicated and demanding lives.   Her colleagues affirmed similar sentiments and concerns.

            Another strength was the staff’s obvious commitment to serving the university and its students.  There was a strong articulation about the staff role in “enhancing learning” and the “student journey” at the university.  There was an intense conversation about student retention and the staff role in that process.  Some described their contributions to student retention, and others asked for information on how to contribute more to the retention issue.

            Staff also described their own high level of involvement with the community outside of the university.  The participants acknowledged an increase in community outreach among staff that is consistent with a campus move to form more partnerships with the community.   At the same time, staff expressed real satisfaction with their new involvements as with many aspects of their role at CSU Fullerton.

Satisfactions: A major source of satisfaction came from students.  Staff described notes, letters, and comments from students with a joyful acknowledgement of their importance to the satisfaction of their work lives.  They also reported input from peers and supervisors as important.  Many talked about a strong awareness of self-satisfaction and enjoyment of their work.  Staff also attested to the success of the Employee Training and Development Program and its many programs as a source of satisfaction and especially as a significant benefit in their work.  They described being occasionally “overwhelmed” by the abundant offerings but also described many examples of how the program assisted their work. 

Issues: Not surprisingly, several issues emerged around the Performance Salary Increase (PSI) process and mostly contained frustration with the “mystery” of the process and decisions.  Staff needed and requested more information.  They also expressed strong concerns about the impact of the process on the growing sense of community and considered PSI as recently conducted detrimental to community.  There was also frustration with the limited means of recognizing and rewarding staff for their contributions, and for the frequent lack of mention of staff when describing the university’s aspirations.  Staff consider themselves partners with faculty and important contributors to the university’s prestige.  Expectations for greater productivity and the predicted increase in enrollment create concerns as to whether resources will support the growing demands.  A final issue is a feeling of being “boxed” in a separate category from faculty and in “boxes” within the staff community.  Participants want to work toward a more inclusive community on the campus.

Commendations: CSU Fullerton staff is a commendable group of contributors – knowledgeable and focused on student success.   They are dedicated and involved in both student learning and their own learning.  They actively seek new knowledge and skills to serve the university community and enhance the quality of students’ learning experiences.  


 

Chapter V: Team Summary and Recommendations

 

            CSUF’s hospitality and consideration throughout this visit was superb.  The team appreciated the consistent willingness of CSUF faculty and staff to accommodate the team’s individual and collective needs and desires.  This support helped make this intense visit not only tolerable but often enjoyable.

            In a meeting on Friday morning the entire team was able to reach consensus regarding several observations and impressions.  This visit differed from traditional visits in several ways and the team also differed from traditional visitation teams.  On the other hand, the visit was similar to others in that the team was expected to perform two important but somewhat antagonistic functions.  The team had a responsibility to evaluate CSUF to assure WASC that the institution was complying with the spirit of the nine accreditation standards.  On the other hand, the team sought to provide consultation and encouragement for the organizational transformation CSUF has undertaken in recent years.  Site visits have traditionally placed greater emphasis on the compliance function.  This team tipped the scale to place greater relative emphasis on the consultative role.  The team did not ignore issues of compliance and in fact spent considerable time discussing and then revisiting the standards.  However, the focus was on ensuring conformity with the spirit rather than the letter of the standards and the team presumed that CSUF was in compliance rather than in violation of the standards.  This allowed the team to devote the preponderance of its time to performing academic and process audits and reflecting upon their results.  This was an experimental visit; the team developed its own processes and techniques as the visit  progressed.  Setting the schedule became a daily and occasionally an hourly endeavor.

            Audits provide a rich source of data; they also provide contexts for interpreting these data.  In both types of audits the team performed, it followed functional threads through the organization.  For the academic program audits, five pairs of consultants held sequential interviews within 10 different programs including general education.  Each team talked to students in a class in the program, faculty members in the department and the deans and other senior administrators with oversight responsibility for the program.  Departments from all seven colleges voluntarily participated in these program audits.  Through this process over 200 students and nearly as many faculty members engaged in conversations with WASC team members.  Audit partners discussed their personal observations between themselves and then with the whole visitation team.  This process allowed the team members to better understand and interpret their individual interactions with students, faculty, staff and administrators.  Immediately following the completion of the academic program audits, new teams engaged in core process audits.  Participants in the audits were not randomly selected.  The team audited four of the seven core processes that had been identified in the self-study as being of particular importance to CSUF’s quest to become an institution where “learning is preeminent.”  These core processes were Program Performance Reviews, Faculty and Staff Development, Student Learning Support, and Institutional Research and Analysis.  In these audits, functional continuity was attained by interviewing clients, then directors/staff and finally administrators charged with process oversight responsibility.  On the day after the audits, visiting team members also conducted open meetings with students, faculty and staff.  In addition, some team members arranged special visits to inquire about particular functional areas based on observations from the audits or previous materials provided.

            All programs and core processes had prepared for audits by responding to audit questions sent to them by the self-study committee.  However, the committee suggested particular programs and processes to be audited and by and large the team chair concurred.  Some other audit models are based upon the random selection of programs and processes.  However, the team decided that the self-selection approach would be more appropriate for an institution such as CSUF that has already made such a strong commitment to transformation and at which re-accreditation was not expected to be an issue.  In this context, our audits sought to validate that progress can and is being made toward the University’s institutional goal.  However, such a purposeful selection process obviates generalizing the results of these audits to other programs and processes.  The team reviewed and discussed their observations extensively with one another before drafting their individual reports.  As a result of these discussions, we reached general consensus on a series of impressions about CSUF and the progress it is making toward its goal of ensuring that learning is preeminent across the campus.

            One of the first things the team reached consensus about was the general high quality of the self-study and the relatively high level of engagement of CSUF’s faculty and staff.  In fact, after reaching its own tentative conclusions, the team decided that the ten conclusions and recommendations in the final report of the self-study provided a viable framework for organizing and conveying its reactions.  The team also agreed that this would be an excellent way to express our support for the institutional initiatives that are already underway.

 

A. Alignment 

The campus culture must be aligned with the goal of becoming an institution where “learning is preeminent”.  This is an active process; such alignment is not likely to just happen.  The team saw clear evidence of individuals shifting from teaching-oriented paradigms to ones focused on students and learning.  There was a general sense of enthusiasm and positive support for the transition.  The few pockets of cynicism we encountered were also reassuring; they reassured the team that its sample had not been too highly selected and also that healthy skepticism is accepted and appreciated at CSUF.  Team members heard some serious concerns about the future alignment of the campus culture with the institution’s lofty goal.  In particular, new policies dealing with personnel (viz., hiring, promotion, tenure, and merit pay) must be carefully considered in the context of the institution’s commitment to the preeminence of learning.  This will be necessary at all levels of the institution (university, school and department).  Because teaching and learning are so difficult to measure, they may not exert much influence on objective decisional processes. The team also formed the impression that a great deal more could be done to collect and share data that reflect variation in relative strengths and weaknesses of programs (e.g., a survey of students’ educational experiences across programs and years).  Such data would likely yield indications of opportunities for significant learning and institutional improvement.

 

B. Assessment  

            The fact that students are occupying seats is not an adequate (or perhaps even particularly relevant) measure of their learning.  Yet the perception of many students, faculty, and junior staff is that Full Time Equivalent Students (FTES) is the primary determinant of program support and funding.  A true commitment to a learning paradigm will involve a more precise definition of terms, more systematic measurement of indicators and greater use of the results of rigorous assessment in the disposition of organizational issues and the allocation of resources.  The team had the sense that senior administrators across the institution were aware of this challenge and making serious efforts to develop and use more and better measures of student learning.  However, the team also found that some faculty and junior staff were largely unaware of these efforts and also unaware of how data were used in making important decisions.  As effective assessment illuminates critical processes within and across organizations, it will be essential for decision makers at all levels to engender greater trust by acting with increased candor and a continued high level of integrity.  In the team’s opinion, true preeminence of learning will require the development of an outstanding program of assessment.  Our impression is that the current assessment process, while adequate overall, is less than outstanding.  Benchmarking assessment programs in other regional institutions would be one way to increase CSUF’s capacity of this vital area.

 

C. General Education (GE)

            This complex issue appears to be foundational to effecting the transition CSUF desires.  It is the one academic component that could tie the experiences of all undergraduate students together.  Several members of the team were told that over 500 different courses (on-campus) might be used to fulfill General Education requirements.  The high proportion of transfer students who satisfy many of their GE requirements at community colleges greatly exacerbates the difficulty and complexity of this problem.  By far the most common complaint we heard from students in all programs was the lack of clarity and coherence in the GE requirements (and the inadequacy of GE counseling to provide the support they needed).  The initiatives already underway are definitely a step in the right direction but further progress will require more funding and resources.  Partnerships and articulation agreements with other institutions (especially local community colleges) will also be very important.  On the other hand, the ability of many students enrolled in an upper level GE course at CSUF to articulate and appreciate the goals and value of general education was truly impressive.

 

D. Accountability (the ninth cornerstone)

            The team realizes that Cornerstones and Merit Pay are not CSUF initiatives or even volitional activities.  However, CSUF does have latitude in determining the way these programs are to be implemented.  Looking for ways to integrate these imposed requirements with existing functional processes may alleviate the requirement for additional resources.  Careful consideration of ways in which these programs might be implemented so as to minimize harm will help maintain institutional momentum toward becoming an institution where learning is preeminent.  At a minimum, a rigorous assessment program is likely to provide evidence to document the effects these programs are having on faculty performance and morale as well as student learning. 

 

E. Analysis – Institutional Research/Analytic Studies

            The value of these activities has been amply demonstrated at CSUF.  Clients of these services rave about their accessibility, accuracy, and responsiveness.  These services are clearly providing the catalyst that is turning many separate “piles of evidence” into “a culture of evidence”.  However, clients of these services also readily conceded that this support is “one of the best kept secrets on campus”.  CSUF’s commitment to the preeminence of learning may require consideration of ways to expand the availability of these services much more widely through reorganization and extension.  In the experience of several team members, those who would benefit the most from the analytic services provided by institutional research may be the least likely to spontaneously seek them out.  Although CSUF has developed an exemplary faculty and staff development program, more workshops explicitly dealing with program assessment might provide another means of developing greater analytic capacity within schools and departments themselves.

 

F. Program Performance Reviews (PPRs)

            Existing procedures do not need further refinement and improvement as much as they need to be followed more closely and consistently.  The team also felt that it would be useful to extend this process to other, non-academic functions.  The team also noted that the current process relies heavily on the relationship between the department chair and the dean; the current academic structure creates great variation in the number of departments for which each academic dean is responsible. Organizational changes to make the span of control more similar across deans might not only enhance the overall effectiveness of PPRs but other aspects of administration as well.  Alternatively consideration might be given to providing institution-wide support for the preparation and evaluation of departmental PPRs.  Several members of the team felt that the current “low-threat” approach to PPRs contributed to the internal utility of these reviews for the departments involved.  However, slightly more emphasis on the external consequences of program performance might be of considerable benefit to the whole institution.

 

G. Technology

            CSUF has made a clear commitment to using technology to enhance learning.  Of particular note is the equal commitment to provide education and training to both faculty and staff to fully use the increased capacity technology provides.  Continued efforts to exploit technology in the interest of learning (rather than vice versa) and a commitment to objectively assess its impact are likely to remain critical.  One of the team members indicated that technology might be particularly effective as a means to enhance communication skills of CSUF’s many students for whom English is a second language.

 

H. Diversity

            Diversity has long been a source of pride for CSUF.  The institution’s current balance of approximately equal enrollment of Hispanic, Caucasian, and Asian students is unique.  This balance could be a substantial asset to the university’s quest to create an environment of perpetual learning.  CSUF has developed many successful co-curricular programs to promote an appreciation and celebration of diversity.  In this context, it was somewhat disappointing that many faculty and staff members seemed to still view diversity as a challenge to be met or threat to be avoided rather than as an opportunity or asset.  There was a sense that CSUF would create a culture of learning despite the high level of diversity.  Many of the goals under the diversity rubric simply involved the matriculation or graduation of an increased portion of students from particular ethnic minorities.  Relatively little attention seemed to have been given to using the diversity of the student population to enhance pedagogy or enrich curriculum.  It was also noted that different academic programs seemed to attract disproportionate numbers of certain minorities.  In addition to reducing de facto segregation on campus, a more balanced distribution of students among programs might benefit all programs.  Perhaps an initial step in the process would be to measure and better understand the demographic characteristics of students by program rather than just at the institutional level.  Once identified, imbalances might be examined to understand their causes and consequences.

 

I. Service Learning and Community Involvement

            These activities are being recognized more widely as important aspects of many educational programs across the nation.  Such interactions and engagements with “the real world” enhance learning and benefit students and faculty.  The initial reactions of the team to these observations by the self-study committee were: “Amen!” and “here, here!”  We also thought that there might be opportunities to enhance learning by bringing the real world “in” rather than sending students “out”.  The very high proportion of CSUF students working a substantial number of hours while attending school is a potentially rich source of experience about the world outside the walls of academe’.  Discovering pedagogies that incorporate student work experiences would be one way to access this repository of knowledge and experience.  Another way that the world of application might be used to enrich educational programs is through the selection and development of part time or adjunct faculty.  Similar to our comments about diversity, many of the faculty and staff we interviewed seemed to perceive student employment and the use of adjunct faculty as impediments rather than assets to learning.  Shifting the paradigm and seriously considering ways that these factors might become learning assets may reveal valuable opportunities across the institution.  At the very least, actively listening to these constituencies would be likely to provide insights as to how to expand and enrich the existing CSUF learning community.

 

J. Community

            It was very interesting to the team that the self-study committee’s conclusions and recommendations began with culture and concluded with community.  There was clearly an appreciation among the members of the self-study committee that learning occurs in a community context.  However, those directly involved in the self-study were a relative small proportion of the total campus community.  Members of the WASC team formed the impression that some faculty members might be developing a garrison-mentality, and would choose to preserve the CSUF community by building walls and “protecting” the academic excellence that has already been established through tradition.  There are many aspects of the campus culture in which CSUF is justified in taking great pride.  However, the visiting team felt that building bridges rather than walls would be a more effective way to both sustain and extend the academic and collegial values CSUF has worked so hard to create.  Three populations in particular appear to be ready for greater participation in the CSUF community.  Nearly all CSUF students work some but those who work the most attend evening classes.  The relatively few faculty and staff services available in the evening make it more difficult for these students to fully participate in the CSUF community.  Likewise some departments have had considerable success inviting adjunct faculty to participate more fully in departmental educational decisions and also providing them with dedicated support for the courses they are teaching.  The staff is a third constituency that seems to be ready, willing, and able to become more active participants of the CSUF learning community.  From everything the team observed, this group is an invaluable institutional asset that often does not receive the recognition or appreciation their contributions warrant. 

            One final point about the use of the term community:  The WASC team feels that due consideration should be given to cultural pluralism or learning organizations as models of community rather than those emphasizing homogeneity, assimilation, or conformity.  Indeed many of the programs that were most impressive were those that had acted independently to define themselves as unique and distinct learning communities.  They developed strong allegiances among their students, faculty and staff members and showed a rate of innovation and experimentation somewhat greater than the institution as a whole.  This level of organizational diversity is also a great potential asset.

 

K. Conclusion

            California State University, Fullerton is blessed with many assets but will face many challenges in the years ahead.  Problems created by the imminent retirement of many of the faculty members who have painstakingly created highly effective CSUF programs and the increasing difficulty in hiring new faculty to replace them will require careful consideration and decisive action. Continued strong and consistent leadership will be needed to sustain the impressive strides that the institution has already made toward becoming an institution where learning truly is preeminent.  The visitation team found no areas or issues where the institution fell short of the general spirit of the current WASC standards.  Many of the team’s impressions reflected above were the result of the candid communication and collaborative attitude that would have been unlikely under a traditional compliance-oriented visit.  Many of the people the team spoke with were self-selected but we spoke with so many, the impressions we formed were very strong.  By talking with one another, the team was able to compare and contrast their individual impressions as they were forming.  As a group, the team was comfortable offering the observations and impressions listed in this chapter in the hope that they too might contribute to CSUF’ continued transformation and the future success.


 

Appendix 2: Audit Information:

 

I.  Excerpts from Notes for the Guidance of Auditor

David D. Dill

17 August 2000
Examples of Questions and Protocols Used by Academic Audit Teams

s, Higher Education Quality Council, UK, September 1993

QUALITY AUDIT:  CONTEXT, DEFINITIONS AND PROCESS

     The language of quality audit is kept as simple as possible.  It avoids reliance on, and does not assume acquaintance with, any of the specialist terms and vocabulary from the professional literature on quality.  Audit teams seek from institutions responses and information on the following general questions about their approaches to safeguarding and enhancing the quality of their academic activity.

     What are you trying to do?

     Why are you trying to do it?

     How are you doing it?

     Why are you doing it that way?

     Why do you think that is the best way of doing it?

     How do you know it works?

     How do you improve it?

II.  Framework for the Teaching and Learning Quality Process Review, Hong Kong

            Teaching and learning processes can be described in terms of the following five sub-processes, which form one dimension of the Panel’s inquiry. Each sub-process is illustrated by questions that might be asked of an institution, a faculty, a department, or an individual staff member. However, the questions are presented by way of example only. The Panel does not presume that all the questions, or indeed any of them, are applicable in any particular situation. However, we do ask the institutions to organize their documentation in terms of the five sub-processes and we refer frequently to the five in our deliberations.

A.  Curriculum design: by what processes are programme curricula designed, reviewed, and improved? Some useful process elements follow:

(a)   Design inputs from the academic discipline, mainly staff-based

(b)   Design inputs from employers, feedback from current outcomes assessments, past students, professional bodies (where applicable), and other inputs dealing with “fitness for use”

(c)    Integration mechanisms: how are these two kinds of inputs brought together? How are controversies resolved?

(d)    Faculty and institutional review mechanisms; what are they and how do they work?

(e)    External review mechanisms; e.g., visiting committees

 

B.  Pedagogical design: by what process are the methods of teaching and learning decided and improved?

(a)  To what extent are pedagogical methods the subject of active consideration by staff, departments, faculties, etc.? Do staff spend sufficient time working together on these matters?

(b)  How broad is the definition of “pedagogical method”? For example, does it focus on learning as well as teaching? Does it integrate feedback about learning attainment with the delivery of academic content?

(c)  Degree of innovation in pedagogical method? Have the methods been changing over time? For example, have they been trending toward active as opposed to passive learning? Have they been taking sufficient advantage of information technology?

 

C.  Implementation quality: processes related to how well the staff perform their teaching duties

(a)  How broad is the definition of “teaching”? Does it include out-of-class student contact (including advising) and student assessment (including feedback about the assessments) as well as class contact?

(b) What are the incentives for good teaching? What are the disincentives? (It is important to consider staff perceptions as well as the programmes themselves.)

(c) How is teaching performance evaluated? (Possible mechanisms include self-evaluation, student evaluation, and peer evaluation.)

(d) How are teaching evaluations utilized? For example, are they used in staff evaluation reviews? Are they shared among staff as part of a mutual-improvement process? Do they result in specific self-improvement efforts, such as utilization of teaching improvement centres?

 

D.  Outcomes assessment: how do staff, departments, faculties, and the institution monitor student outcomes and link outcomes assessments to teaching and learning process improvement?”

(a) Academic performance: for example, normed examinations and the use of external examiners

(b) Other performance; for example, satisfaction as expressed in exit conferences, success in the job market

(c) Feedback from past students, employers, etc.?

(d)  Are processes for working with students to help them achieve the desired teaching and learning outcomes in place and fully functioning?

 

E.  Resource provision: are the human, technical, and financial resources needed for quality made available when and where needed?

(a)  Are the activities needed to achieve and assure teaching and learning quality given an appropriately high priority in the institution’s resource allocation process?

(b) How do staff recruitment processes promote and safeguard the quality of teaching and learning?

(c)  How does the institution’s incentive and reward environment further the teaching and learning quality agenda?

(d)  To what extent does the institution offer technical assistance and training to staff who wish to improve their teaching and learning quality performance? To what extent are these resources utilized by staff?

 

III.  Accreditation Principles and Associated Questions of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)

 

A.  Quality Principle One: Student Learning

As the first quality principle, the institution establishes clear program goals and sets high expectations for student learning. Questions to be addressed through the on-going processes of inquiry ….include the following:

What evidence is there that the students acquired and understood the subject matter …?

What evidence is there that the students have acquired the habits of mind associated with a liberal arts education?

 

B.  Quality Principle Two: Assessment of Student Learning

            The institution plans and conducts systematic assessments of student learning using multiple, diverse, and converging methods. Typically, institutions rely upon letter or numerical grades in courses, and schemes for averaging these, as the sole measures of student learning. This near universal practice, not known until the late 1830’s in American higher education5, is only one of several defensible measures of student academic accomplishment. As all the available methods of assessing student learning and accomplishment are flawed in one way or another, multiple measures and assessment methods that converge on a more dependable conclusion about the student’s academic accomplishments are expected and desired. Questions to be addressed through the institution’s on-going processes of inquiry for the second quality principle include the following:

What is the rationale for the institution’s assessment method and plan?

What evidence addresses the reliability and validity of the assessment method, or methods, the institution employs? How does the institution satisfy itself that its assessments are reliable and valid?

What is the evidence that assessment method also promotes high levels of student achievement?

 

C.  Quality Principle Three:  Institutional Learning

This principle requires the institution to use information from its inquiry to improve program quality. Questions to be addressed through the on-going processes of inquiry include the following:

How does the institution use its educational philosophy or mission, along with its assessment of student learning, to modify educational goals, curriculum and course requirements, pedagogical approaches, and its expectations for student and faculty performance?

How does the institution use assessments of student learning to improve its assessment system?

How does the institution decide to modify its programs, assessment systems, pedagogical styles, faculty composition, student body and so forth? What evidence and other information are used as a basis for decisions of this sort?

How does the institution use the findings from the assessment of student learning to allocate human, material, and financial resources?

 

 

Attachment 4-A (1):  General Education

These impressions emerged from group interviews of students, faculty and administrators as well as from reviews of documents (the WASC audit report, the 1999-2001 university catalog, and the University Policy Statement on General Education: Goals for Student Learning).  Our impressions are organized under the headings of learning outcomes, assessment, pedagogy and environments, review processes, and recommendations.

Learning Outcomes (Goals)

          As stated in the General Education Goals document, the learning outcomes are an ambitious blend of content oriented outcomes (Ex. “understand the contributions of ethnic and gender groups to past and present societies in contexts of accommodation and resistance”) and skill-oriented outcomes (Ex. “to express and advocate ideas clearly and effectively in writing”).  They are both competencies and knowledge representing a balanced and broad spectrum of disciplinary foundations in four categories and special attention to Lifelong Learning and Cultural Diversity.  In some cases, students have choices of courses to fulfill requirements and in others, there are required courses that every student must complete.     

          Students interviewed (48 students of whom only 4 were not transfer students) described some generic outcomes for general education and ascribed positive qualities to those outcomes.  They saw the general education requirements helping them become “well rounded individuals” who would not be narrowly focused on only their major studies and who could “persevere and do well in a variety of subjects.”  Students mentioned writing and critical thinking skills.   One student said that general education assured that his baccalaureate degree meant that he was knowledgeable and ready for the world ”beyond the skills of his major.”  The source of these students’ insights about general education came primarily from course syllabi and their faculty instructors.

          It should be noted here that this group of students were quite articulate about the outcomes of their course, History of Jazz.  They described a broad knowledge of forms, styles, outstanding musicians, and events in jazz and music in general, an appreciation of jazz, and an awareness of the implications of jazz on society. 

          The faculty group (5 faculty and 1 administrator) addressed the learning outcomes of general education specifically in the context of reviewing courses to assure that the learning outcomes are being met.  The outcomes were also an issue in discussing the status of assessment.  These faculty acknowledged the lack of common understanding of the goals and recommended that development as a first step in the process of designing assessment.  The general education outcomes were obviously the product of intensive and thoughtful deliberation; there is a real sense of accomplish-ment in their articulation.  From the administrative perspective, the major emphasis of work must now move from the learning goals or outcomes to assessment of those outcomes.  Faculty expressed a similar priority. 

 

Assessment

When asked about “how they knew that they had achieved learning outcomes or how they demonstrated their learning, students identified exams, grades, and papers.  Some described “personal satisfaction” in realizing their own learning.  Faculty agreed that traditional evaluative approaches were prevalent but expressed a concern and commitment to assessment being better matched to the learning outcomes.  They were clear in their need for assistance and expert consultation in the development of assessment for the general education goals.  As stated previously, they acknowledged a need for common understandings of the goals before attempting to develop assessment approaches or any criteria for assessment.  They did describe preparation (faculty development workshops) and efforts in the area of writing assessment that were valuable in relation to the general education learning outcomes.  They saw great potential for writing assessment use in their program.   

          The administrative interview yielded a similar concern for the development of assessment. Along with faculty, they recommended that a faculty group be formed to focus on assessment, that resources be provided to support the work, and that Pat Szeszulski be involved in a key support role.  The administrators acknowledged a significant “push” for assessment from multiple sources: the CSU system, WASC, the legislature, the general public, and others.

 

Pedagogy and Environment

The pedagogy of the particular course in which students were interviewed, “History of Jazz”, was quite varied and appropriate to the course content.  Their teacher blended mini-lectures with experiential learning approaches—concert attendance, videos, recordings, displays, and actual musical performance (by the faculty member herself).  The course had also offered a very dynamic tutoring program with former outstanding students as tutors.  Approximately 15 percent of students in the class reported having used and been very satisfied with this source of support.

          Faculty interviews were candid about pedagogy, and revealed the prominence of fairly traditional teaching and learning.  In view of many of the general education outcomes, there is an acknowledged need for alternative pedagogy designed to promote process and skill learning along with content learning.  Faculty expressed their intent to work closely with the Faculty Development Center (FDC) on both pedagogy and assessment. 

          The one aspect of pedagogy that has received attention in terms of faculty interest and pursuits as well as FDC support and offerings is technology use in courses.  Faculty interviews reported a high level of skill among general education instructors accompanied by a great deal of dissatisfaction with classroom environments for using technology.  There seems to be a paucity of well-equipped classrooms for teaching with technology.  There was an expressed hope that the numbers of “wired” classrooms would be expanded soon.  A survey reported elsewhere in the institutional self-study described a similar dissatisfaction with the campus learning spaces for teaching with technology.

 

Review Processes

          In lieu of the campus-wide PPR process, the general education program uses its own intensive course review process.  Each year approximately 150 courses are reviewed by various academic committees.  There is much attention to alignment between general education outcomes (learning goals) and course components.  When asked about alignment between learning goals and assessment, responses were vague with the exception of descriptions of writing as a focus for assessment.  Faculty had worked with consultants from the Faculty Development Center.

 

Recommendations

First and foremost, there needs to be attention and resources directed to the alignment of pedagogy, environments, and assessment with the general education learning goals.  At this time the program looks like a giant traditional distribution model of general education with a loosely attached comprehensive set of learning goals.  For both start-up freshmen on campus and transfer students in their third year, advising related to general education looks quite complex and difficult.  In the view of the visitation team, simplifying the general education program would enhance overall educational efficacy considerably.

 

 

Attachment 4-A(2): American Studies

 

In keeping with the university’s mission statement, clearly “learning is preeminent” in the American Studies program.  After visiting with an American Studies Theory and Methods (AM ST 350) class of eighteen students (sixteen females and two males: fourteen finishing their major and four half way through the program), it became apparent that students were cognizant of the four learning goals of their program... not in the sense that they could quote them verbatim, but they were able to articulate the goals either in our discussion or in their written responses to our questions. 

In fact, when students were asked to answer the question “What are you learning in the American Studies major?” their answers clearly reflected an alignment with the learning goals of the program: For example, one student emphasized that “American Studies is not about cold, hard facts but about using theories and social principles to discuss and analyze history and culture.  All American Studies courses encourage students to think critically and analyze all information given.”   Other excerpts from students’ comments were “I am learning an interdisciplinary approach to American cultural factors” and “ this major has taught me good research skills and writing for research purposes”; further, “I have taken several AMST classes at Fullerton.  They generally discuss cultural diversity in the context of the class i.e. gender orientation, humor in America, etc...” and “I have learned about regional differences experienced by Americans as well as how those differences vary among diverse ethnic groups.”  While these are comments from only a few of the papers we collected, they reflect the tone of comments from the whole class and show clear alignment with CSUF’s goals.

Students were quick to point out that the goals are in the syllabi for all their courses and that these goals are usually emphasized by faculty on the first day of classes, in addition to being posted on the department’s website and viewsheets.  These reports were consistent with the self-study and what AMST faculty related in our interview with them.

Students were animated and glowed with pride as they enthusiastically praised their major and the faculty.   In fact, one student changed her major after taking an American Studies class because she said the class  “turned me on...I was able to flourish.”   It was obvious that these students were “turned on” as they related experiences of how their learning was affecting their personal lives; for example, one student related the personal satisfaction of being able to “hold [her] own in conversations...and be a more interesting person.” There was consensus among the class that the faculty members were very accessible; in fact, one student said there’s “not one who is not approachable.”  Another student said “American Studies’ faculty are here to help you learn.”  Clearly, these students felt the faculty were collaborators in the learning process...facilitators of learning and not “sages on the stage.”

Students were eager to share their enthusiasm about the curriculum and the learning centered interactive pedagogies embraced by the faculty.  Classes are small with lots of interaction, group work and multi-media presentations.  Off campus learning consists of field trips to museums and neighborhoods—Los Angeles, for example; in addition, students said they were encouraged to watch PBS specials on TV; and papers were connected to these experiences as well.  In fact, students related that the courses in the major were writing intensive and tests were essay, not multiple choice or true/false.

One student waited after class to talk with us about her frustration at not knowing what career path to take with an American Studies major. Among the materials shared with us was an opinionnaire that corroborated this student’s concern:  “In the Performance Review Questionnaire of Majors and Minors” (Fall 1993, page 5), the question “To what degree has your American Studies undergraduate program at CSUF contributed to the following areas?”  Number 30—“ Career preparation and/or general professional orientation.” Students’ responses were as follows:  42—to a great extent; 47—somewhat; and 11—very little.  American Studies faculty were asked if they informed students of career options for their majors.  Faculty responded that they have that information on their website, and each semester they produce a pamphlet of offerings and their relationship to the major; in addition, this is a topic discussed in individual faculty/student advisement.  Students are told this is a good major “ if you’re interested in teaching... law... history... here is a sequence of courses...”  Therefore, the impression conveyed by the faculty was that they were not only aware of the need to address this issue but also felt they were addressing the issue and felt compelled to strengthen outcome articulation as a result of a common lack of understanding of what American Studies is.

When American Studies faculty were asked how they determined whether or not goals of the program were met, they were quick to mention that students take a capstone course—AMST 401T—where they write a research paper of twenty-thirty pages “on some aspect of the common topic drawing on the substantive and methodological knowledge gained during the ‘middle’ portion of their progression through the major.”   M.A. students also have a  “capstone experience” which allows them to demonstrate the knowledge and skills acquired throughout their program.  Their two options are “They can either write a monograph-length thesis, or they can take a four day long comprehensive exam that is based on course work and a reading list of twenty-five books and ten articles that reflect cutting edge American Studies scholarship.”

Being “aware” of the importance of multiple measures of assessment and as a result of their Program Performance Review (PPR) the faculty developed an alumni survey that they send out every five years.  As a result of feedback from alumni as well as course evaluations from undergraduate and graduate students, some courses have been redesigned and textbooks changed to improve teaching and learning.  In addition, “sitting beside” assessment occurs during “social and cultural” functions sponsored by the American Studies Student Association as well as individual conferences with students; further, the “dynamic interplay” that occurs between student and faculty in class discussions  “allows for effective monitoring of the progress of student learning on a daily basis.”  The department is to be commended for its extensive use of course evaluations: In addition to being read, faculty reflect on their course evaluations and use them in the narratives in their own teaching portfolios; the personnel committee reads and reflects on them in their narratives and so does the chair of the department; they use this information to “shape” curricular goals, revise reading lists, and redesign courses.

In addition to opinionnaires, the success of the American Studies Program is “measured” by the “degree of success” of their majors and M.A. students in graduate schools and in the work force.  Further evidence is in the number of student papers selected for awards or presentations by peer-reviewed panels.  In the Masters program, the primary success measure is students gaining admission and being successful in PhD programs in American Studies and related disciplines.

In our short interview with administrators, we asked if the American Studies program was representative of other departments on campus.  One response was “American Studies is not unique; I would find similar qualities in Geography, Physics, Geology...”  If that’s the case, it might be in the best interest of the department, college, and university to have administrators observe classes and involve faculty in developing a common course evaluation  instrument to help determine best practices in classes such as these... for faculty development across campus.   Currently, course evaluations are being used for faculty evaluations and for making personnel decisions... all the more reason to consider a common instrument and class observations.

It might be beneficial for American Studies faculty to do some research on problem based learning and consider incorporating that approach in a more systematic way into some of their courses to prepare and enhance the powerful pedagogies already in place.

It was a pleasure visiting with students and faculty in what is clearly an exemplary department with dedicated, enthusiastic, and collegial faculty and students.  The perspectives of students and faculty were so well aligned and so complimentary, we are convinced that in this program learning has become preeminent.  In this department, the Academy has lowered its drawbridge and created a new path... a partnership of students and faculty with the real world. 

 

 

Attachment 4-A(3): Biological Science

 

Student Session

The audit team designed a series of questions adapted from the seven questions about student learning to which faculty responded in preparing for the WASC review.  Two team members posed these questions to a group of “volunteer” students that included seven seniors in biology, one senior in chemistry, and one graduate student in biology.

1. What are the most important things you are learning in this program? 

Students were invited to write for a few minutes on this topic, then to share their responses orally.  They expressed a broad range of knowledge and skills:  learning the biological specialties and how they tie together, laboratory techniques and technologies, analysis of scientific papers, critical thinking skills, foundational concepts of scientific thinking, methodology and scientific epistemology, understanding and approaching scientific problems, teamwork, time management, and communication skills.  Many of the items on this list are liberal learning outcomes, which the students appropriately emphasized having the greatest long-term importance.

2. How do you know what is important to learn?

 Rather than giving stock answers referring to tests and projects, students instead spoke of opportunities they had to sharpen their thinking, through "problem-based classes" and preparation for scientific meetings and poster sessions.  They also listed activities such as discussions, "self-exploration," "hot trends," and the presence of reinforcing themes throughout their classes.

3. What activities help you learn?  

Building on the point above, students spoke of the relatively "smooth transitions" across core and specialty courses in the major, focusing on common themes without hindering the students' freedom to explore.  Other factors included a strong student community, laboratories (and “experimental mistakes”), seminars and conferences, group activities in the classroom, "professional questioning," field experiences, tutoring and career counseling, and computer simulations.  This is a strong and impressive list of activities.

4. How do you know you've learned? 

Students' responses were almost entirely application-oriented, rather than examination-oriented:  work in the laboratory, work with peers, seminars in which “we read papers and then discuss them,” making mistakes in the laboratory and then correcting them, discussing points in class, professors’ use of the Socratic method, field trips, communicating with scientific professionals, interviews for graduate programs at research universities, writing scientific papers for peer review, applying knowledge to other contexts, and teaching or tutoring someone else.  (Students are encouraged to be teaching assistants in lower-level courses.) Other opportunities included a web-based information center with links related to class lectures, the Opportunity Center for Science and Mathematics Students, and computer analyses. 

5. Your faculty have indicated that learning is pre-eminent here.  What evidence, if any, do you see of this?

 Students were quick to respond that their professors do in fact act in ways consistent with an emphasis on learning.  They spoke of how "approachable" their professors were, how they kept convenient office hours, took course evaluations seriously and conducted mid-term course assessments.  They also observed how their instructors had been making significant changes in the curriculum to focus more strongly on active learning strategies. Students feel that their feedback makes a difference because they have evidence that a new text has been chosen in accordance with their recommendations and that teaching methods have been altered in response to their suggestions.

          In general we were impressed with the high regard with which these students held the program and its faculty.  All seemed confident that they were receiving a first-rate education at CSUF; they exhibited a strong sense of loyalty and community, and those preparing for graduate or professional school (nearly all) felt competitive with students from other more well known programs. 

 

Faculty Session

          Ten faculty members participated in the discussion.  The Biological Sciences faculty has completely overhauled their curriculum.  Students begin their study in the major with four courses, each one covering a different content emphasis.  Each is considered to be both a “core” course and a “gateway” course for those students electing to specialize there.  Students finish their undergraduate study with a capstone course in their selected area, plus at least one other “crossover” course from one of the other three tracks.

The faculty is monitoring the implementation of this new curriculum in several ways.  First, they have designed detailed matrices, indicating: a) key questions to address (example: “Are students using information and skills in progressively more sophisticated or advanced ways?”), how these will be assessed, by whom, and when.  Further, faculty are developing a “planning matrix” for each course, containing learning objectives, activities, and assessment strategies.  Finally, Biology faculty have established four “teaching collaboratives,” designed to knit the core courses together and to integrate these with upper-level specialty courses.  The faculty have met (with the assistance of an external facilitator) to define terminal learning objectives for all majors and to develop the learning matrices.  The faculty are scheduled to have a departmental retreat in May of this year to compare these objectives with courses in the major to determine how each course “fits into the global picture.”

          Faculty identified assessment as a “gap” in their work, suggesting that they need skills in locating and/or adapting quantitative assessment tools for the measurement of core learning objectives.  As one faculty member said, “We’re looking to develop scientific rubrics.”  For example, they have administered a pre-post critical thinking inventory for biology majors, but because the test is generic, any sensitivity to learning outcomes specific to biology is likely to be limited.  The use of student portfolios is under consideration, but the faculty would like to identify methods that are less expensive and time consuming.

Approximately 75% of the students in the program desire to attend a graduate or professional program, but the program lacks good information on where they go or how successful they are.  Work is also underway to coordinate courses across departments (calculus, for example).  Faculty noted the leadership of Chemistry in this area.

                     The faculty expressed several concerns about program quality, however.  Concern was expressed about consistent commitment to curricular change across all departmental faculty and staff, and the shape of the department after retirement of ten senior faculty members in the next five years.  Some worry about finding “appropriate” faculty for needed roles.

                    Research facilities are widely seen as inadequate.  Funds are lacking to renovate old space in ways needed to attract quality new faculty.  Faculty worry further about their ability to maintain a productive research program given all the competing demands.  Strong sentiment exists for a permanent budget line item for the replacement of equipment.

The visitors came away from meetings with students and faculty in Biological Sciences very impressed with the amount of effort and thoughtful planning that has been invested in the new curriculum.  Its effects are already being seen and felt by students, and the students appreciate it.  It was clear to us why Biological Sciences is viewed as a leader on campus in operationalizing the “learning is pre-eminent” slogan.  We sympathize with the faculty’s discomfort with assessment; we would encourage them, however, not to spin their wheels in a search for the ideal assessment tool, because that search is likely to be fruitless.  Instead, we encourage the faculty to explore ways of assessing student learning -- both within courses and across the curriculum -- in ways that are built into the courses themselves.  The best assessments -- ones that will be taken most seriously by students -- are those that are, by design, part of the normal cycle of teaching and learning.  The capstone courses are an ideal place to “embed” curricular assessments, by evaluating the degree to which students are able to integrate and apply their knowledge in a variety of real-world contexts. 

 

 

Attachment 4-A(4): Chemistry

 

After conversing with a group of 12 faculty (including the department chair), with approximately fifteen students in a chemistry laboratory setting, and with the Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, the energy and innovation in this department has become obvious. Team members note a clear commitment both to the student learning experience and to the students’ long-term career success.

This faculty chose, in their answers to the seven questions, to attach a list of quantitative indicators of their success.  Of these indicators, several are related to the student experience.  In terms of tracking their students’ careers, the department is just now making a commitment to handling this systematically, and to backtracking to gather more data about past graduates. 

Currently the department is considering two possible new course offerings for the fall 2000 semester in biotechnology and environmental chemistry. The chemistry faculty use various means to keep their curriculum in tune with the changing environment.  They interact with industry on a regular basis; they converse with other institutions and with industry at national conferences; and the faculty collaborate on an ongoing basis about the possibilities for new courses to meet the changing needs of their students.

The Department of Chemistry successfully pursues funding from government agencies for education initiatives.  Their NSF funding through the Research Experience for Undergraduates program allows them to support students for summer research projects carried out in campus laboratories, and has been funded for the last nine years.  Special funding from NHI is available for minorities through several different campus programs.  The faculty is experimenting with a new approach to teaching the entry-level chemistry course.  Half of the students in this course participate in a “guided inquiry” section, where the emphasis is on group learning and active inquiry.  The other students attend traditional lectures and traditional laboratory sessions.  The means of evaluating the students are the same for both sections, and they take the same final examination.  Meaningful results are not available yet, but will eventually be used to revamp the course and to influence the nature of instruction in other courses.  The exploration of course revisions for foundation courses in molecular science receives funding from NSF as part of NSF’s initiatives to transform the teaching of the undergraduate science curriculum nationally.

Conversations with chemistry students confirmed the faculty’s statements about commitment to student success in learning.  Students are required to meet with their faculty advisor a minimum of once each semester, and the student cannot register until this initial meeting has occurred.  More importantly, by his/her junior year, each student has chosen a research professor with whom s/he will work for the remaining two years on a research project. At the end of this close collaboration, the student prepares a poster and a research paper both of which are collectively graded by members of the faculty.  Students are actively encouraged to submit their work to conferences.  Evidence of student/faculty collaboration is seen in the statistic that 33 students (graduate and undergraduate) were co-authors on peer-reviewed publications submitted, in the press, or published in 1998-99.  The process of involving students with the research faculty for the final two undergraduate years ensures that these publication activities with students will continue.  The faculty clearly recognize the role of research in enhancing student learning.

Students in the laboratory session that we attended (CHEM 422) reported that they have had good experiences with support services like computing and information services on campus.  One student had used the tutoring services at the University Learning Center with good results.  The theme for the students was that they feel that the faculty cares about them as individuals.  These students were all seniors, and most of them had transferred to this institution as juniors, so the preponderance of their Fullerton experience has been their research work with their major professor.  This provides a framework that naturally leads to a feeling of close working relationships.  The department has recently initiated one-hour workshops for students in entry-level courses, which are designed to improve the learning skills of at-risk students.  These workshops, which have a strong tutorial component, were set up at the request of students and have been understandably popular. 

A required course in career options, “Careers in Chemistry,” is also well received by students.  Normally taken at the sophomore level, the course helps students to focus their studies on their primary interests with their career goal firmly in mind.  They also are able to form contacts with industry in this course, because Fullerton graduates now working in industry are invited to speak to the students.  Further help for students is supplied for entry courses, which traditionally have high student failure rates, through one-unit, credit/no credit workshops for improving learning skills.  The at-risk student who combined these resources with the tutoring resources of the University Learning Center should have an effective safety net.

 

Observations:

The Chemistry Department has invested much energy and creative effort in attempting to improve student learning.  The faculty’s views and behavior suggest an active and collegial approach to teaching and maintaining academic standards.  This is strongly supported by their collective efforts to assess students, coordinate the curriculum, provide effective advising, and experiment with new teaching methods.  This commitment and energy is also reflected in the observable esprit and enthusiasm of the departments’ majors and by clear indicators of student success.

           From the standpoint of quality assurance processes, there is good evidence of continual efforts to use feedback from students, from external stakeholders and from student assessments to improve the structure and content of the curriculum as well as the methods of teaching employed by the department.  While committed to high academic standards, the faculty has also sought means for improving the performance of marginal students and increasing student success in both major and general education courses.  The department remains self-critical and open to new ideas.  For example, there is recognition that surveys of graduates may be an additional source of information for improving the program.

 

 

Attachment 4-A(5): Child and Adolescent Studies

 

          This report on the Department of Child and Adolescent Studies (CAS) is based on a review of the department’s academic audit and other related documents, group interviews with students and faculty of the department as well as an interview with the Dean of the College of Human Development and Community Service.  It includes a description of department’s processes in support of “making learning preeminent” and student perceptions of their own learning.   It concludes with commendations and recommendations.

          The Department of CAS offers students an interdisciplinary approach to the study of development from conception through adolescence.   Students may follow the course of study for the Bachelor of Science degree or the minor in Child and Adolescent Development.  Marks of program graduates have been developed, and the department currently is identifying student learning outcomes for each of its course offerings.

 

Department Processes in Support of Student Learning

          The Department of CAS has taken seriously the university’s commitment to the “preeminence of learning.”   In 1996, the department applied for and received an “Increasing Student Learning” grant.  Since that time, it has developed learning goals and objectives for its graduates and put in place a process for reviewing and revising its curriculum in light of these goals.  Currently, faculty subcommittees are working on learning objectives for specific courses.  Their work will be reviewed by the department faculty and student representatives prior to adoption.   The faculty continues to take advantage of university grant programs to support their work.

          During the WASC team interview with 10 department faculty, it was evident that the department is deeply committed to the improvement of student learning and is working collaboratively to do so.  Faculty described the shift in focus -- from pedagogy to student learning -- that has taken place within the past 10 years and is informing their work.  They spoke with one voice about their efforts to align their own course offerings with the marks of graduates that have been developed. 

          Given the interdisciplinary nature of the program, students take a large number of courses in other departments.  The faculty recognizes that if students in CAS are to achieve the marks of a graduate, there will need to be greater articulation between department goals and learning goals and objectives in these other departments’ offerings.  Accordingly, efforts are currently underway to begin dialogue about learning outcomes with faculty in these departments.

          The department of CAS relies heavily on adjunct faculty to teach its courses.  The WASC team was told the percentage of adjunct faculty teaching in the program has been as high as 70%.  Consequently, the department has organized ways to familiarize these faculty with student learning goals, including department retreats and an adjunct faculty mentoring system.

 

Student Perceptions of Learning

          Two members of the WASC team visited with approximately 20 students enrolled in one section of CAS 301, Developmental Inquiry and Methodology.  This course is one of the first to be taken in the program.  All of the students participating in the group interview were CAS majors.  Over half were in their first year in the program and their first year at CSUF.  Most had taken no more than 2 - 3 courses in the program, including the course(s) being taking during the current semester.  

During the interview, the WASC visiting team asked several questions of the students, probing both their learning goals and the processes by which they believe they are achieving those goals.  When asked "What things are important for you to learn?" the students clearly articulated their desire to be successful in their chosen professions (primarily teachers but also social workers and counselors.)  For example, one student stated a desire to learn the basic techniques and methods to use as a teacher, acknowledging that this was not yet being taught but expecting that it would be.  Others expressed the desire to understand the different psychological and physical developmental levels of children and ways to appropriately identify those levels.  Additional goals mentioned included learning how to interact with parents; developing effective classroom disciplinary techniques; and learning the fundamentals of teaching. 

          The students identified a number of sources both on and off campus they found very helpful in learning about the program and what is expected.  These include the university catalogue and other written materials provided by the department, counseling received by department advisors as well as the Career Center for Teaching, and knowledge gained through their experiences working directly with children.    Students specifically praised the department advising process.  One student who was farther along in the program also noted that it was important to be assertive and ask questions about options that might not be represented in written materials, saying “when you’re been here for a long time, you learn the ropes.”

          Students also identified a number of learning activities they believe are enabling them to achieve their goals.  These include attending class regularly, observations of children (either as a requirement in a specific course or as part of the program requirements), and holding jobs that allow them to work directly with children.  When asked how they know they are learning, how they know they are getting closer to their goals, the most common initial responses were “when you’re done with GE” and  “graduation day.”  But as the discussion progressed, they began to recognize that the answer may not be so simple.  Students specifically mentioned that having a degree may show someone else that you’ve learned something, but grades don’t reflect all that has been learned.

          And finally, when asked about the ways they can give feedback about their learning, students mentioned the student evaluation process, but most questioned whether this feedback was ever used.  On a more individual level, many students noted that program faculty were responsive to their individual needs.  They described instructors in the department as being very helpful in offering extra assistance to enable them to achieve their goals. 

          Students are clear about their goals.  Yet, none of them made reference to specific learning goals and objectives of the program or its courses, instead focusing on their professional goals.   Given that these students are just beginning their studies in the program, it is not at all surprising that they would be relatively unaware of the learning outcomes -- marks -- for the program.  Indeed, it seems to the WASC team members that students' responses to the questions might best be thought of as a reflection of the values and beliefs they enter the program with rather than ones that may be shaped and transformed as a function of studies in the department.  Interviews with students closer to completion of the program would be very beneficial in helping to assess potential changes in this regard.

 

Commendations and Recommendations

                    The faculty of the Department of CAS is to be commended for their strong commitment to improving student learning.   In recognizing the excellence of the faculty in this department, the WASC team also recognizes that it has discovered what others on the campus have known for a long while.   The team heard often and with great enthusiasm about this “model department.”  The College Dean spoke very positively about the faculty’s contributions to the university’s mission of making learning preeminent.

          Further confirmation came from the fact that so many of the key faculty in this program have been tapped for campus-wide positions of leadership, including Director of the Faculty Development Center, Coordinator of Assessment, and Coordinator of the Freshman Year Experience.  While this is indeed good news for the campus, there is a potential down side for the department.   The very success of the faculty may be putting additional strain on a department that is already relying heavily on adjunct faculty to do most of the teaching. 

          The WASC team learned that due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, it has been difficult for the department to garner the resources it believes it needs to further enhance its mission of improving student learning.  The faculty describes this perennial shortfall as a source of  “creative tension”.  

The WASC team was impressed with the planning process recently enacted by the College Dean in consultation with the faculty.  This thoughtful and intentional approach to planning and resource allocation shows great promise as a way to further align the college with the mission of the university.  In the specific case of the Department of CAS, the WASC team sees the new approach as a way for the faculty to receive ongoing support as they continue their work to improve student learning.

 

 

Attachment 4-A(6) Communications

 

Student Session

The audit team designed a series of questions for studentsthat relate to the seven questions about student learning to which faculty responded in preparing for the WASC review.  Two team members posed these questions to a class of 24 seniors who are majoring in Communications. 

First the students were asked to write for a few minutes on the topic, “What are some of the most important things you are learning as a communications major?”  Then volunteers were invited to share their responses orally.  These responses included the following: verbal and writing skills; writing at a level expected for graduation; teamwork; knowledge about writing for different audiences; becoming more involved in the community; making presentations; doing research such as collecting information through surveys; learning one’s own strengths and weaknesses and matching these with options in the field; preparing for a professional job in this field; doing an internship; networking skills; evaluating current events as presented in the media.

We asked, “How do you know what is important to learn in this program?”  Students responded:  from syllabi, course titles and descriptions, information given by professors (one student called this “shaping”), the catalog, and working with clients from the field.  Students agreed that the last item was especially important.  Students also noted that faculty  stressed and reinforced the “RACE” (research, action, communication, evaluation) model in all major courses.

In response to the question, “How do you learn the things that are most important?”  Students offered the following: through repetition in several courses, especially through the RACE process; by listening to what clients want and to their criticisms; by using technology; through critiques of their professional work; from guest speakers (Communication Week was mentioned in particular); through teamwork with other class members; and by receiving feedback on their resumes.

When asked “How do you know if you have learned?  How do you demonstrate your learning to yourself and to others?”  students said they demonstrate their learning best by having professionals provide critiques of their work, at least once every semester; by practicing until they get things right and having a professor give them feedback on their trials; by reflecting on their learning in journals; by following the steps of a model and checking one’s work against those steps; by providing and receiving feedback from peers in teams and in class; and by talking about their work with an internship supervisor.

One of the questions related to opportunities that students have to make suggestions about their courses and their learning.  The students mentioned course evaluations first, but several also said that they could talk with professors outside of class to identify problems they were having.  They observed that professors often reviewed in class concepts with which students said they were having difficulty. 

When asked if faculty had made changes in response to students’ suggestions, the students mentioned improvements in technology most often.  They said that there is now an Internet port in every class, PowerPoint is used in many of their courses, and PhotoShop is upgraded every year.  The students also expressed appreciation that classes are being offered at a variety of times, including evenings, to accommodate their schedules.

When asked what the phrase “learning is preeminent” meant to them, the students responded that they have the responsibility to get things done, but professors will help; that students are proactive and interactive; that they are actively engaged (that professors “don’t just give lectures”), and have considerable face-to-face interaction; that professors (“know who you are”); that classes are taught by “real professors” rather than teaching assistants; that professors are available outside class, particularly via e-mail; and that “we are learning something we can take away with us.”

Finally, students were asked “what else we [the review team] should know.”  In response they mentioned problems with advising prior to entering the program and with the process for applying for graduation.  They felt there were too many stops to make at entry and too many forms to complete at exit.

 

Faculty Session

In a meeting with 16 faculty (nearly all the full-time faculty in the department) we were told that their principal sources of information about what students should learn are their accreditation body, colleagues at other institutions whose work they encounter at national meetings, contacts with industry and their own graduates who are employed, a College Advisory Board, and internship supervisors.  An annual faculty retreat has provided a time for discussing significant curricular issues.  From these sources they have learned in recent years that everyone in the profession -- not just faculty -- believes that good writing is an essential skill for communication graduates.  In addition, new media need to become an important part of the curriculum in the future. 

Communications faculty also listen to the comments of current students, and at least two courses related to magazine production have been added to the curriculum as a result. Feedback from students also has led to a redesign of the online internship Website.  But a question about the usefulness of evaluations of instructors was greeted with a chorus of, “We ignore them.”

There is little evidence that faculty in Communications have constructed student learning outcomes for the curriculum, identified where related learning will take place, or determined how this learning will be assessed.  While assessment of individual student learning for the purpose of giving feedback and assigning grades is in place, the process of taking a second look at student work -- across students in a course or across courses in the curriculum -- for the purpose of determining direction for improving instruction and the curriculum is not yet evident.  Within-course assessment for formative purposes -- asking about the effectiveness of assignments, the text, recent tests, group work -- is not yet commonplace.  And even the traditional end-of-course student evaluations of instruction are not viewed as a significant source of information to guide course improvements.

Nevertheless, faculty in the Department of Communications expressed interest in and concern about assessing student learning in better ways.  One of them is currently on sabbatical leave, studying the curriculum.  They have identified a particular need to assess student writing more effectively.  They discontinued a writing competence exam several years ago because it was not sufficiently valid and was too labor intensive to administer efficiently.  Now they feel they need to find another better measure of writing competence.  Further work with campus writing consultants is recommended.  Once Communications faculty decide on comprehensive learning outcomes for the curriculum, they can apply scoring rubrics to assignments in connection with each, and perhaps use portfolios of student work as an alternative assessment methodology. 

Most of the departmental faculty have taken advantage of faculty development opportunities offered by the University.  All faculty members are reviewed annually by the department’s personnel committee; pre-tenure faculty are reviewed in depth every two years; and tenured faculty are reviewed in depth every five years.  Results of end-of-course evaluations are made available to the department’s personnel committee, and faculty members receiving low ratings are assigned mentors.  Faculty cited cases of colleagues being terminated due to low teaching evaluations.

Communications faculty recognize the need to put in place systematic methods, such as surveys, for gathering information about course and program effectiveness from current students and alumni.  In addition, it probably makes sense to look carefully at end-of-course evaluations for the purpose of enhancing their effectiveness as a feedback mechanism in the process of improving instruction.

 

 

Attachment 4-A(7) Computer Science

 

The following discussion will use the departmental answers to the seven pre-audit questions as a framework to examine the overarching goal at CSUF -- the preeminence of learning.

Process/Procedures:

Three populations were interviewed to conduct this Academic Audit for the Computer Science department: the students in a required, upper division class (CPSC 331), the faculty in the department and the administrator (dean of the college) responsible for the program. Each meeting was approximately one hour.  For the student interviews, the team met with 13 students in CPSC 331—“Data Structures and Algorithm Analysis” class (see summary transcript below). For the faculty interviews, the team met with seven members of the department of Computer Science. For the administrator interview, the team met with the Acting Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

General Impressions :

1.       How do you decide what you want your students to learn in your program?

The collaboration with the department’s Industrial Advisory Board appears to be a fruitful one, along with the biannual meeting of the CSU chairs of computer science and information systems. The department continually reexamines and updates its curriculum in the face of the changing technology and emergent needs and opportunities. The administrator responsible for the department is supportive of the department’s efforts.

2.     What do you expect your students to know and be able to do as a result of completing your program?

The department’s expectation is very clearly spelled out in the departmental brochure. The goal of teaching fundamentals balanced with emerging technology appears to be met. This is clearly evidenced in students’ experiences in the computer labs, which provide hands-on opportunities. The department embraces its primary responsibility to keep abreast of the dynamic field of computing science. It also welcomes input from students who themselves try to keep up with the latest trends via the Internet and popular publications. Members of the faculty are committed to a philosophy of learning to learn. The faculty strives to do so by challenging students to come up with their own answers while still providing a conceptual floor of support.

3.     How do you communicate these expectations to students?

The department communicates its expectations concerning learning via brochures, periodic newsletter and academic/career advising. This appears to be effective.

4.     How is the curriculum of your program structured to reflect your program’s goals for student learning and to facilitate student progress toward achieving them?

The curriculum appears to reflect the program’s goals for student learning. The department is commended for examining the relevance of its curriculum to emerging industry needs and technological advances. Additionally, the department requires faculty to conduct program advising. The administrator responsible for this department fully appreciates the challenge of keeping up with constantly changing computer technology.

5.     How do you know that students are learning what you expect them to learn at various points in the curriculum?

The assessment of student learning is carried out via exams, prolonged projects and homework that measures the particular learning objectives of the course and the broad objectives of the program. The students interviewed clearly endorsed the effectiveness of this process. The administrator recognizes the department’s collegiality and commitment to support student learning. Feedback from student internships provides the department with an additional assessment of the knowledge and skills of students; the department uses this feedback to adjust its curriculum goals and objectives regularly.

A noteworthy learning activity is the department’s tutoring program, which is funded with a university grant. The department is able to ensure internal quality control by determining the qualifications of the tutors and by hiring and supervising the tutors. The tutors are instructed in helping students to find the solutions to problems by themselves.

6.     How do you know that your graduates have accomplished the goals of your programs?

The department receives feedback from its alumni and the companies that hire its graduates; this feedback appears to confirm the learning outcomes of the department. Data from the student interviews is also consistent with the notion that students generally perceive themselves to be learning relevant and marketable skills and necessary concepts.

7.     How do you use this information (the answers to questions 5 and 6) to improve your program?

The department has made a concerted effort to meet the constantly changing needs of its students and the market place. The faculty is aware of the reciprocal nature of learning (professor to student; student to professor) and as a result has established an excellent environment for learning.  As with most disciplines that are dependent on technology, the faculty of the Computer Science Department expressed frustration with the limited availability of equipment that was up to industry or commercial standards.  Overall this Academic Audit of the Computer Science department appears to support the institution’s mission of creating a community of learning eminence.

 

 

Attachment 4-A(8) Management Science/Information Systems

 

          We met with approximately 12 faculty members as well as the department chairperson from the department of Management Science and Information Systems within the College of Business and Economics.  The department offers undergraduate degrees in information systems, statistics and operations research as well as a masters program.  We also met with an undergraduate class of about 30 students in the Management Information Systems major within the department.  The course was required for majors, but was early in the required sequence.  The majority of the students in this particular course did not participate in the discussion, possibly because of a sense of deference and/or because they may have been somewhat uncomfortable speaking in English.  For both of these reasons, the students’ comments may not be as representative of majors in the department as those in other program audits in this report.  We also met with the Dean of Business and Economics to discuss quality assurance processes.

          The following observations were made about the departments’ quality assurance processes for undergraduate programs based on their responses to the audit questions and our discussions:

          The department systematically reviews new course proposals.  In addition, the Dean of Business and Economics indicated the College reviewed course outlines, and course competencies. 

          While the department necessarily focuses on analytical processes in computer language and statistics, a number of the faculty members emphasized the importance of educating their undergraduate majors in communication skills, particularly the ability to work in project teams, to make oral presentations using appropriate graphical programs, and to write memos and business reports.  The “capstone” course in the MIS major also includes a substantial writing component.  The students with whom we spoke noted that the MIS program emphasized the basics of computer languages, MIS, new computer technologies, and skills necessary to be employable in the current market.  They did not mention communication skills. 

          The department appeared to make good use of information and contacts with external stakeholders in the development of its program.  One of the core faculty spoke of his recent transition from industry to full-time teaching.  The department makes use of adjuncts from the professional field to add relevance and up-to-date content in certain courses.  The department has also instituted a “professor for a day” program, which supports one guest lecturer a semester in relevant courses to help better connect undergraduate courses with the professional field.  The department has an advisory board of alumni that gives input into proposed revisions of the curriculum.  Occasional surveys of graduates have been conducted, and feedback on student competencies is sought from businesses where undergraduates serve as interns. 

          The department made extensive use of computers in its teaching.  The class we visited met in a computer lab and the students spoke of the use of computer labs and assignments in their courses, which they found helpful for learning and obviously appropriate to the subject matter.  The faculty noted that a significant problem in their efforts to improve the program was access to computers and to computer labs.

          The department utilizes “course coordinators.”  These faculty members are given responsibility for a particular course, select the text to be used in all sections of the course, develop a master outline of the concepts and material to be covered, and on occasion monitor the exams and handouts used in the course (course exams are not yet standardized across sections).  This appeared to be a valuable means of assuring the content quality of individual courses especially given the necessary linkages between required sequences of courses.  One of the newer faculty members also noted that the course coordinator had provided needed mentoring to him in his initial attempt to teach a course.

          Undergraduate advising is mandatory, but is carried out centrally by the College of Business and Economics.  Faculty members in the department asserted that there was active communication between faculty members and students outside of class, for example, during office hours, through the internship program, and via an active undergraduate student club.  When we discussed communication between faculty members and students with the students, they spoke only of in-class interactions, which they reported varied from class to class.

          The MIS program requires a “capstone” course for its student majors, that provides an integrative curricular experience and includes a rigorous writing component.  Capstone experiences were not provided in the other academic majors within the department, because of small enrollments in these majors.  The College of Business and Economics also provides a capstone course for all majors in the College, although the Dean indicated that the course does not yet effectively test students’ competencies at the level of their major.

          The departments’ response to the audit question about facilitating student progress toward student learning emphasized that the curriculum was structured so that the knowledge a student gains in one course is used in subsequent courses.  The undergraduate management information systems concentration, for example, has a set ordering of courses and course prerequisites are strictly enforced.  However, when we asked the faculty for data on student progress through the curriculum -– e.g., success or drop-out rates by concentrations -- such information was apparently not readily available.

            Teaching was evaluated primarily through student surveys of instruction within individual courses.  The department chair gathered these data and looked at them, but there was no evidence that this information was systematically used to improve teaching in the department.  A university mentoring program for teachers was also mentioned, as was the requirement that each faculty member submit a self- assessment of her/his teaching to a departmental committee as part of the recently implemented merit pay system.  One student with whom we spoke reported that Deans’ List students received a special survey asking for their comments on their academic program, but the majority of the students noted that their feedback was solicited principally through the student surveys of teaching within individual courses.  The students were not confident that their feedback was leading to improvements in teaching or the program.  

Observations

          The department is doing a number of interesting things to assure the quality of its students’ learning, including its contacts with business and industry, and the use of “course coordinators” -- a quality assurance process that might be considered by other departments with multiple course sections.  The faculty is also to be complimented for their emphasis on “communication” in their courses.  If the group of students we met is at all representative (and it may not be), ability to communicate, to work in teams effectively, etc. may be even more important for the eventual success of current and future undergraduates in this department than it has been in the past. 

For this reason the department might wish to consider a more carefully planned and coordinated effort at teaching communication skills.  The current effort appeared highly dependent upon the commitments of certain individuals or courses, and the faculty apparently did not share a common approach to group work, communication skills, etc.  Designing a set of appropriate exercises and experiences across the curriculum, assuring they are effectively taught, and assessing student competence on these skills throughout as well as at the conclusion of the program could make a substantial contribution to student learning and the success of graduates.

While course content was coordinated, faculty members seemed to be quite independent in their teaching.  The principal means for monitoring teaching performance was -- typical of many research-oriented institutions – student surveys, and it was not clear that the department had a systematic process in place for improving its teaching, or for experimenting with alternative forms of teaching.  Given the nature of the content in this field, a greater effort to assure the quality of individual teaching, as well as coordinated experiments with new forms of teaching might be particularly beneficial for student learning. 

More generally, while the department reported that student feedback and information on student performance were used to monitor and improve the program, there was less concrete evidence of this linkage in this department than some others we visited.  The development of capstone courses in the College of Business and Economics and in the MIS concentration were positive signs.  Even if capstone courses may not be financially feasible in operations research and statistics, it is to be hoped that some type of summative assessment of student learning is in place in these concentrations as well, and that all such assessments are regularly analyzed as a means of improving teaching, course design, and student learning. 

 

 

Attachment 4-A(9) Music

 

Students

          The team visited Music 419, Advanced Form and Analysis.  This was a class of 13 students, half of which were graduate students, while the others were all upperclassmen.  Given that these students were so far along in their academic careers, they were very definite about their perceptions of what the learning process meant to them and their assessments of goals, achievements, the learning environment, and the entire Music program.  Many of the students were accomplished musicians in their own right, and performed professionally.  Others were planning to teach and were seeking to enhance their intellectual and technical knowledge of the profession. 

          The students expressed a high level of satisfaction with the teaching/learning they received and talked about the mutual respect they enjoyed with the faculty.  They felt, as one student put it, “stretched to expand their knowledge and provoked to learn.”  As a group, they seemed to feel that their input and feedback was considered seriously, and they appreciated the fact that faculty were accessible and listened to them.  In the same vein, they were generally satisfied with the advising in the major, but felt that general education advising was not very helpful or timely.

          In addition to concerns about G.E. advising, students expressed some dismay with classes needed for graduation not being offered every semester or, in some cases, not even every year.  The students also talked about the difficulty of scheduling courses around the Music major because of the numerous one and two unit Music courses needed to fulfill requirements.  They acknowledged, however, that that is the nature of the curriculum.  Having expressed these concerns, the students also mentioned that being able to work closely with the Music faculty helped to lessen the impact of scheduling difficulties. In general, the students were pleased with the learning environment, the faculty and their achievements.

 

Faculty

          The perceptions of the Music faculty and administration mirrored closely those of the students.  There seemed to be a genuine caring attitude toward student achievement and skill enhancement.  Faculty went to great lengths to ensure that prospective music majors were prepared for the rigors of the programs and, once admitted, provided mandatory advisement, constant feedback, and periodic assessment of performances to monitor student progress.

          The Music Department offers two different degree programs, Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts, to accommodate students planning careers as professional performers as well as those who are planning to teach.  They also developed a series of student handbooks related to the various programs within the major, as well as the Music Student Survival Guide for new music majors.

          The Music Department has a cadre of accomplished full-time faculty, but also employs a number of part-time instructors who are practicing musicians.  These real-world artists seemed to enhance the program and connect very well with the students.  Guest artists are also used as a component of the learning process, along with alumni guest teachers and summer music festivals, to enrich the learning experience.  Articulation with local high schools and participation in national competitions also add to the well-rounded curriculum.

          There is compelling evidence that indicates that there is a high level of synchronization between faculty expectations, student goals, and the overall learning process in the Music Department at California State University, Fullerton.

 

 

Attachment 4-A(10) Psychology

          This report is based on a review of several documents, including the department's 40th anniversary edition of the "Student Handbook" and its written responses to the seven academic audit questions posed by the Self Study Committee.  Further information was garnered from direct conversations with students and faculty during group interviews, as well as a brief interview with the Acting Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences.

          The Department of Psychology manages one of the largest discipline-centered undergraduate programs at CSUF, with over 1,000 majors, or about 20% of the undergraduates affiliated with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  There is a small graduate-level program within the department, with fewer than 50 students.  This program was noted by the department faculty but was not a principal focus of the academic audit process.  While the program is discipline-centered, i.e. not formally organized as an interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary program, it is very broad in its scope and coverage.  It offers a rich variety of elective concentrations for majors.  The Handbook lists seven sample concentration plans, but stresses the commitment of faculty advisors to work out individualized concentration plans for each student.  These plans often allow students to include a variety of courses in related fields.   In this way, the theoretically discipline-centered program becomes more like an interdisciplinary program for many students.  This approach is very consistent with the stated aim of providing students with "an excellent foundation for careers in a wide variety of fields".  Students are advised about opportunities to prepare for careers, by obtaining, for example, teaching credentials, and to connect with minor programs in other units, such as gerontology.  The department offers a minor of its own for students in other majors.

          The department presents itself to students in catalog text and in the Handbook in a welcoming, encouraging, and direct manner.  The department promotes its accessibility.  For example it stresses the importance of advising, the availability of alternative specializations and well planned academic programs, finding a suitable balance between work and school, scheduling required courses for evening students, and the value of research and experiential learning.  The department supports these priorities in several ways, including annual student awards presented since 1982 and memorialized in the Handbook.  The department also promotes the disciplinary content which is described in terms of both a core interest in how people think and act and a set of curricular scenarios showing how this core interest can be developed through study in a career domain.  The Handbook and related resources, such as the departmental website, provide students a well-developed set of basic tools for managing their learning experience at CSUF.  These items also provided the visiting team with evidence of the ways in which commitment to furthering student learning is part of the self-understanding of the department and the overall organization of its undergraduate program.

          The department made a strong effort to articulate its approach to student learning in its written response to the seven Academic Audit questions.  The responses document the substance of this approach, which grows out of a departmental tradition years in the making, but which has also been subjected to recent review and partial revision.  The department uses multiple methods to decide what students should learn in the program.  A full undergraduate curriculum review was completed in 1999, involving comparative and research components.  Learning goals for students were approved by the faculty, corresponding curriculum revisions were made, and an internship requirement was added.  Regular course reviews are conducted on a five-year cycle.  The nine learning goals for undergraduates (a tenth goal, to assess undergraduate outcomes, is actually a departmental goal for learning about undergraduate learning) reflect the importance the department places on giving students some contact with skill-sets associated with all aspects of the discipline covered by the department, while at the same time leaving room for students to develop differentiated competencies according to individual concentrations.

          Departmental expectations about student learning are communicated through the handbook and other publications, through advisement, and through organized public events such as the annual Psychology Day.  The curriculum reflects program learning goals both in its overall structure, especially the introductory/elective structure, and in the design of instruction in specific content areas to include development of specific skills, such as writing, laboratory work, and fieldwork/experiential learning.

          In describing methods of verifying student learning the department cites rigorous grading standards and policies, indicating that responsibility in this area is mainly vested in the faculty in the performance of their core pedagogical activities.  The department uses self-reported information from a graduating senior exit survey to assess overall student accomplishment of learning goals, and is actively weighing the option of introducing a more formal outcomes assessment process.  The incorporation of information from self-evaluation processes is ongoing and embedded in many different activities.  No separate, differentiated process for disseminating this sort of information has as yet been developed.

 

Academic Audit -- Student and Faculty Views on Learning

          Two members of the visiting team spent 45 minutes in a group interview with a class of about 40 undergraduates in Psychology 341:

          Abnormal Psychology.  About half the students were Psychology majors, almost all of whom had already completed introductory courses in the major.

          Others, pursuing majors in allied fields such as Communications, Criminology, and Human Services, were enrolled for General Education credit in a subject with special relevance for their major interest.  More than half of the students were women and there seemed to be considerable ethnic diversity, with no particular ethnic group in the majority.

          We began by explaining the purpose of the class visit and our intention to ask a series of questions about learning.  We asked the students to jot down notes about their individual learning goals in connection with their major program at CSUF and then to turn to the person seated to the right or left to briefly discuss what they had written.  After a few moments we opened the general discussion by asking individuals to share their ideas with the class as a whole.

          The class was fully engaged and attentive throughout.  Participation was fairly high, with perhaps 8-10 individuals speaking repeatedly or at length and a few others contributing occasional remarks.  Noticing that one student who entered the discussion only hesitantly and only toward the end was not a native speaker of English, we wondered whether concerns about speaking effectively in English to the whole class might not have kept some students from participating fully in this phase of the Academic Audit.  In the end, however, it appeared to us that the discussion had evoked comment from a representative cross-section of the class.  There were no real disagreement among students about the views expressed and no sense that important themes had been somehow excluded.

          Answers to the opening questions revealed a variety of individual learning goals, expressed for the most part in terms of an instrumental or pragmatic orientation to learning.  Students spoke of "getting ready for a job and life", of "making connections with other people for my career", of "becoming competent -- learning how to do my job well", or in the case of one policeman-to-be, in learning "to manage stress in myself and others".  In addition to commonly-voiced views identifying some form of know-how as the main object of learning, however, we also heard from students pursuing more open-ended educational goals such as "becoming a well-rounded person" and, from one student, systematically sampling the specializations in the department with a view to selecting a graduate psychology specialization.  Some students expressed interest in basic ideas that unify the discipline, others in particular areas, such as developmental psychology, and one student reported satisfaction and success in building an individualized major program within the department.

          There is a clear consistency between the observed variety of individual goals, most of them clearly congruent with various career aims, and the readiness of the department to accommodate and support differentiated programs of study.

          We noticed that the students tended to express their learning goals by relating them to career-objectives or life-objectives, rather than primarily academic objectives, and to discuss learning in terms of overall life objectives rather than accomplishments of the specific learning objectives embodied in a course of a major program.  Asking questions directly about program-specific learning objectives and how they are communicated to students did not bring out new material regarding goals, but did show that students rely heavily for guidance upon written documentation provided by the campus and the department and also rely heavily upon the departmental advisement process.

          A question about the learning activities that help students realize their goals failed to produce much response at first.  Beyond the obvious answer "attending class" and a surprising response from one student who considered "networking" with other students at the fitness center as a learning activity, we found several students who agreed that joining student clubs was helpful, especially as a way to link up with faculty advisors, and we found general agreement with the assertions of one or two students who said that a general desire and investment in learning is the most important ingredient in success at CSUF.  In this part of the discussion some students mentioned, and others agreed, that advisement services are generally not easily available to students who attend evening classes.

          The students had not much to say in response to a question about how they knew they are making academic progress, other than to refer to course grades and, ultimately, to graduation.  When asked if this meant that they had confidence in the feedback received from the department and in the value of the CSUF degree as a mark of accomplishment there was general assent.  Finally, the students mentioned only course evaluation forms when asked whether there were ways that their views were taken into account and their input sought for improving the academic program.  Having no way to know what becomes of these forms after they are filled out, the students were skeptical as to whether their feedback really mattered.

          Our overall impression was that members of the class felt positive and confident about their pursuit of learning at CSUF, but they also understood clearly that the responsibility and initiative for successful learning at CSUF lay with the individual student.

          There are 20 Psychology faculty listed in the Catalog and all or very nearly all of these individuals were present for a group interview with the team.  Somewhat more than half of the faculty spoke up during the meeting.  The Chair and former Chair were very helpful in clarifying many points of discussion, but the engagement of the entire faculty in the interview was evident and appreciated by the visiting team.

          The question used by the team to lead off discussion had to do with views of the department about how well the theme "preeminence of learning" served the department as a framework for pursuing its activities in the areas of student learning and faculty development and research.  The answer was clear:  The department feels that the theme fits its activity very well.  One new faculty member stated that she had always simply assumed that she had been hired into the department precisely because of her strong commitment to supporting student learning.  Support for learning as a process is clearly understood by members of the department to spill over well beyond the basic responsibility to deliver high quality coursework.  Faculty are conversant with concepts of active learning, with notions of building-up student self-reliance and student-faculty partnerships in learning, with convictions about the value of internships, experiential learning, experience with research and with the presentation of research results.

          The discussion showed that there is strong congruence between departmental priorities and the campus theme of "preeminence of learning," but it also disclosed something of what we would characterize as "healthy skepticism" about linking departmental efforts too closely to campus-wide themes of any sort.  There is a definite sense of pride among members of the department concerning their individual commitments and efforts to support student learning, and there is also a collective sense of pride about the performance of the department in this regard, both traditionally and through the recent undergraduate Program Performance Review process.  Without questioning the significance of stimulation received from campus-wide sources, the very idea that the campus-wide thematic framework might somehow have been needed to cause the department to discover its responsibilities to foster student learning probably strikes many members as absurd.  The department's own commitments, practices, and culture would perhaps be understood by most as the more fundamental cause or source, prior to all setting of institutional themes.

          Departmental confidence and pride in its efforts were also evident in discussion about difficulties in grasping the rationale behind relative levels of resource allocation among academic departments, or between departments on one hand and cross-campus activities and centers on the other.  The common view of this faculty is that they are well-positioned and well-prepared to make good use of any additional resources that may come their way to support student learning -- and faculty development – through the department itself.

          The visiting team had time for only a very brief discussion of specific Psychology Department themes with the Acting Dean of H&SS.  He stated that the current funding level of the Psychology Department is by far the highest in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  However, he recognized the reasons any department with confidence in its programs might call for more resources, and he confessed that from the perspective of the Dean's office it can difficult to untangle and get to the bottom of the various rationales underlying resource allocation and relative funding levels.  He also acknowledged that differences between campus orientation and disciplinary orientation might be particularly acute in the case of a strong discipline-centered department like Psychology, and that part of the role of a Dean in a school like Humanities and Social Sciences is precisely to keep the school from "coming apart" into its disciplinary subunits.  Finally, he noted that in some respects, given the introduction of a merit pay system for faculty, it may be more important than ever to support the common work of faculty in departments, where there is fear that habits of solidarity linked to the old pay system may be eroding, and the pressures on individual faculty to focus more on disciplinary research achievement as a vehicle for merit advancement may be mounting.

          In conclusion, the WASC team wishes to express thanks to the students and faculty of the Department of Psychology for their willingness to engage in the Academic Audit, for their generosity, openness, and for the quality of their contribution to the process, and also to commend the Department for the very positive work that it is performing in support of student learning at CSUF.

 

 

Attachment 4-B(1): Program Performance Review

 

          The University policy on program performance reviews (PPRs) contains the following principles:

          “The Program Performance Review [is] the periodic, systematic analysis of the objectives and performance of an academic unit.  Undertaken seriously, it can improve the general health of the University and strengthen its teaching and curricula.”

          “The vitality of the institution is dependent on the commitment of its faculty.  One form of commitment is a willingness to evaluate candidly the programs and activities the faculty directs...”

          “Program Performance Review...  examines the total operation of [program] units...”

          “...The initiation of this important process is the responsibility of the dean of each school.  The review process shall be considered interactive between the program chair and the dean.”

          Academic programs are reviewed every seven years.  The PPR policy was revised in 1998, in response to widespread dissatisfaction with the process, especially the lack of consequential feedback to the unit under review.  Henceforth the PPR was to be considered a long-range “planning tool” (as contrasted with annual departmental reports as short-term planning tools), and as an “action document,” so that the program might connect its goals with the University mission, goals, and strategies.  Other changes included requirements that specific “budget and expenditure components” and a Strengths/ Weaknesses/ Opportunities/ Threats (“SWOT”) analysis be included in the self study, a mandate that the process involve review teams containing both internal and external members, and a provision that both the dean and the VPAA meet with the unit to discuss the outcomes of the review.  Programs subject to external accreditation may request that accreditation reports be substituted for a PPR.

          The remainder of the report is divided into three sections.  First, we describe how the PPR process works, from the perspective of three stakeholder groups: department chairs, deans, and central academic administration.  Next, we focus on the six questions on PPR posed as part of the audit review.  Finally, we offer several recommendations for the University’s consideration on how the process might be made more effective.

 

How the Process Works

From the perspective of department chairs.  We spoke with the chairs of four departments that had recently undergone PPR: Physics, Speech Communication, Liberal Studies, and Child and Adolescent Studies.  There was clear consensus among these chairs that PPR provided an important opportunity for departments to “look critically at themselves.”  PPR is the “cornerstone of improvement,” said one chair. “So many things are externally driven that PPR gives us a reason to pause and take stock.”  They appreciated the “latitude” offered by the process and the “permission” they had to perform an honest appraisal.  In the main these chairs also found the PPR an “affirming” process and a “valuable experience” in the way it “got faculty around the table to talk about important issues...  PPR identifies problems that faculty want to solve.”  One chair spoke specifically of an alumni survey that was instrumental to curricular reform.

University services, especially the institutional research office, were praised for their responsiveness and helpfulness.  In reference to the use of an external reviewer, one chair noted how PPR “made us see ourselves in the way we are being seen.”  The chairs listed two major problems with PPR.  First, few resources are made available to the department for the self-study, thus imposing serious restrictions on the amount and quality of the information they are able to collect.  Second, the chairs were unhappy about the lack of tangible consequences of the review.  Comments included these:  “We got no administrative feedback on the report.”  “We heard a lot of arguments by Academic Affairs discounting the results.”  “Resources are driven by formulas, no matter what the PPRs say.”  Chairs suggested that the process could be improved by ensuring that administrators spend more time with faculty and with the review panel; by shortening the interval between reviews; by providing more resources for the self study; and by expanding PPR to non-academic units.

From the perspective of deans .  We spoke with two College deans.  Like the chairs, they saw PPR principally as an opportunity for departments to come together and reflect, and to reassess their priorities.  “The departments usually find [PPR] affirming,” said one, “even though there are usually few surprises for us.”  Said the other, “[PPR] helps the departments and their deans determine how well they are responding to changing needs.”  While they agreed that the PPR reports were useful as avenues for reflection and as a way for departments to “look ahead” and to plan for future faculty recruitments, they were unclear about the integration of PPR with wider University planning activities, and both expressed a desire for a closer connection.  In particular, the University Planning Committee was seen less as a strategic planning group, charged with defining priorities, and more as a body responsible for identifying certain unifying themes, such as the Student Learning Initiative.  Even these “soft” connections, however, were seen by the deans as having the potential for more targeted departmental reports.  The deans suggested that PPR would be improved if central administration “took them more seriously” (namely by connecting them more closely to the budget process), by reducing the interval between reviews, and by making PPRs more of a formal mechanism for rewarding departments as units.

From the perspective of central academic administration.  We spoke with the Acting Associate Vice President for Academic Programs, who oversees PPR.  As with the chairs and the deans, the AVPAP sees the central function of PPR to “get departments to reflect about what they do and to be clearer about what they need.”  He also sees PPRs as having a catalytic role, by “providing an opportunity to engage in conversations with deans.”  He spoke of the “wide range of attitudes” regarding PPR among departments and of the mixed signals some departments might receive about institutional expectations.  Like the deans, the AVPAP does not see a clear connection between PPRs and institutional policymaking in general, or planning and budgeting in particular.  He did note that the greater stress on institutional accountability by the CSU system, and the promulgation of such accountability measures as graduation rates and student persistence will likely force a stronger connection between PPRs and larger University goals.

 

Comments on the Six “Core Process” Audit Questions

“How is this process structured to reflect and implement the University’s mission and its goals for student learning, faculty and staff learning, and the environment for learning?” 

          PPR provides an opportunity for departments to clarify their own mission and performance with respect to each of these three learning themes.  However, despite the mandate in the 1998 policy revision that the self-study specifically address University mission and goals, the connection of departmental goals with those beyond the department, and the consequences for making or not making such a connection, is unclear.  Increased emphasis on assessment at the institutional level may lead to greater emphasis on student learning in the PPRs.

“How do you decide what this core process and the program in which it is embedded should achieve?” 

          While PPR is under the control of the Academic Senate for overarching policy and of the Vice President for Academic Affairs for policy implementation, the decisions about what PPR should accomplish are largely a matter of individual negotiation between departments under review and their deans.  No coordinating committee exists with the authority to monitor the process.  Still, the PPRs represent the only long-term planning avenue available for departments, and departments find this worthwhile. 

“What do you expect students, faculty, staff, and/or administrators to know and be able to do as a result of engaging in this core process?” 

          As part of the departmental self studies, faculty members conduct a SWOT analysis, which most (but not all) departments find useful.  Such an analysis does not necessarily focus on ways of improving quality assurance processes for teaching and learning, nor does it necessarily indicate how the unit is addressing institutional goals or how it is adding value to the College and the University.  Administrators gain a clearer sense of departmental functioning and unit needs, but not necessarily goodness-of-fit with larger goals.

“How do you communicate these expectations to relevant constituencies within the academic community?” 

          Communication of expectations is not addressed in the University’s response to the audit questions, which may itself be indicative of the confusion of the PPR’s purpose beyond departmental reflection.  Perhaps a more public process for communication of expectations is needed.

“How do you know that this core process is accomplishing what you expect it to achieve?”

           A formal evaluation of the PPR process is absent.   The only assessment consists of “ad hoc” evaluations by central administration.

“How do you use this information to improve the University and the core process itself?” 

          Given the lack of formal assessment the question is moot, although the 1998 revision of PPR procedures resulted from a set of well-articulated problems, and broad consensus exists that the revisions are a marked improvement over prior practice.

 

Recommendations

The visit team offers the following recommendations for consideration by the University; many of these recommendations coincide with those contained in the Self Study.

          Retain flexibility at the departmental level and focus on departmental self-reflection.  The ability of a department to define its own concerns and issues and to address these in an honest way without fear of reprisal by administrators is a strength that must not be compromised.  The Self Study states that “our goal should be to identify other common measures, or practices, that departments will find... useful so that future reports may provide more comparable data” (p. 28).  While the visiting team agrees that some consideration of common measures may be helpful to units desiring a broader range of criteria, it is important that departments remain free to tell their “stories” in a way that best leads to faculty and administrative engagement in the process.

           Clarify responsibilities of deans and central administration, especially with regard to feedback and negotiation of action plans.  While the PPR guidelines as revised in 1998 specify that deans and central academic administration engage in discussions with departments about the implications of their evaluation, these conversations may not always take place, or if they do, they may not result in mutually agreed-upon courses of action.

 Consider reducing the interval between reviews.  Respondents agreed that a seven-year hiatus between reviews is too long to provide a sense of planning continuity, especially given the encouraged connection between PPRs and annual reports.

           Expand PPR to all units, including support units.  As the Self Study indicates, “the latest PPR guidelines were written to apply to support units in addition to academic units, but the process has not yet begun for support units” (p. 72).  The visit team endorses the need to “begin this process for all units engaged in learning efforts” (p. 72); we suggest care be taken to ensure that the issues and concerns indigenous to these units are recognized as PPR guidelines are expanded to include them.

           Continue to develop stronger connections between PPRs and annual reports; between PPRs and resource allocation; and between PPRs and University planning processes.  As the Self Study states, “We need to acknowledge that while we are quite good at collecting data, we are less skilled at analyzing it and USING it for planning” (p. 71).  The visit team agrees with this assessment.  One of the strongest themes emerging from the conversations about PPR was a sense of confusion about how the data provided by the PPRs might inform decision making most usefully.  Reference is made in the Self Study about developing a “culture of evidence,” an almost matter-of-fact acceptance of the need for data to inform wise judgment.  CSUF is poised to establish a culture of evidence, but this will happen only when units and their administrators hold themselves accountable, not for producing particular results, but for evaluating wisely and using information thoughtfully.

          Re-examine the policy of substituting accreditation reports for PPRs.  The visiting team recognizes the need to control “burgeoning bureaucratic paperwork”; however we would suggest that accreditation and program review have different purposes.  The latter serves to reflect program quality within the context of institutional values and goals, and sole reliance on accreditation reports may not do this. 

           Provide resources centrally for departmental self studies.  One way for PPR to be taken more seriously is for the University to signal the community that assessment worth doing is worth doing well.  While Analytical Studies was seen as responsive and helpful, additional resources, both in dollars and expertise, are often needed by departments as they collect information (such as alumni surveys) that would be useful to address departmental questions and concerns.

           Establish an oversight group.  At present no faculty-centered oversight body exists to monitor the fairness and usefulness of PPR across the campus, other than the Senate as a committee of the whole.  Responsibility for the quality and integrity of PPR is diffuse.  Further, other campuses that have used program review successfully have found that faculty involvement on oversight committees leads to a much richer understanding of diverse institutional strengths, a clearer sense of common values, and, almost incidentally, the strengths and weaknesses of their own programs.

 

 

Attachment 4-B(2) Faculty/Staff Development

 

This report on faculty and staff development includes a description of the Faculty Development Center, the Employee Training and Development Program, and related professional development efforts, and the self-study theme of faculty and staff learning as a preface to impressions gleaned from group interviews and documents.  Those impressions are presented in the categories of supports for faculty/staff learning, types of learning experiences (pedagogy), assessment of learning, and indicators of educational effectiveness (faculty/staff learning).  Those impressions are followed by commendations and a brief set of recommendations.

 

Introductory Descriptions

The Faculty Development Center offers a comprehensive program of support for all instructional faculty across a broad spectrum of professional activities (Self Study, Phase II, Oct. 1999).  The Center is guided by a set of principles focused on learning and represents a collaborative effort with an Administrative Director and a team of Faculty Coordinators.  The Center’s planning is guided by a 19 member Advisory Board with representation from faculty, administration, and students and by the Academic Senate.

The Employee Training and Development Program is also a comprehensive program with core offerings, certificate programs, and a “task based” model for computer training.  Workshops and other events are coordinated by a combination of ETD staff, vendors, and on-campus personnel.  The beginnings of ETD were well-informed by a series of focus groups and today’s agenda is informally shaped by needs, interests, and requests of CSU Fullerton employees.

 Other professional development efforts include the Staff Development and Training Grants, the fee waiver program for staff, and university sponsored faculty grants.  The self-study theme of faculty and staff learning explores the University’s contributions to the professional accomplishments and achievements of faculty and staff as evidence of their learning.  This theme also prompts a consideration of the level of satisfaction faculty and staff have for institutional support for their learning.

 

Support for Faculty/Staff Learning

The Faculty Development Center (FDC) and the Employee Training and Development Program (ETD) offer effective support for faculty/staff learning with visible resources, obvious budgetary support, backing from upper level administration and the Academic Senate, and a solid infrastructure in place for both programs.  Both programs operate with constant input and feedback from across the campus. The collaboration between the two programs opens each set of comprehensive offerings to the entire campus and may begin to heal the traditional split of faculty and staff, an aspiration expressed by members of both groups.

 

Types of Learning Experiences (Pedagogy)

Both programs have experimented with a wide variety of offerings and formats.  The most common pedagogy appears to be workshops and classes, and there are several ongoing certificate series with multiple classes.  In addition, there are celebratory events, showcases of “best practices” and some social activities, all of which contribute to the development of community.  Several forms of evidence speak to the success of the wide variety of learning experiences for both programs: attendance records, feedback from participants, and documented changes in faculty and staff performances.  An additional form of evidence emerged from interviews of all employees throughout the WASC visit—esprit de corps—an enthusiasm, a visible commitment, and a vitality obvious to observers and listeners.  It was also evident in the interviews with coordinators of the two programs that their planning is well informed by the knowledge base of adult development and learning and “best practices” in professional development. 

Assessment of Learning

Most professional development efforts suffer from a reliance on traditional end of session satisfaction feedback forms as the only form of assessment.  CSUF programs are again impressive in their insightful approach to assessment.  Their feedback forms are also evaluative, that is, they probe the new knowledge and understandings gained from workshops and classes, and they prompt participants to explore potential application.  The WASC team members also heard multiple examples of follow-up assessment especially focused on application.  The ETD program often queries supervisors for evidence of change or improvement in the practices of staff attendees.  The Technology Academy participants are required to produce evidence of technology use in their teaching during the following semester.  Plans for next summer Academy will require additional evidence of participants—evidence of student learning resulting from technology enhanced teaching.  The FDC and ETD are conscientious and commendable in their attention to the assessment of learning.

Indicators of Educational Effectiveness

A number of expected indicators of effectiveness are the formal and informal reports from participants in the FDC and ETD programs, follow-up assessments conducted by session organizers, and demonstration of new skills and knowledge by participants.  Examples of those demonstrations include courses with new technology enhancement, faculty engagement in the PPR process with innovative assessment approaches, and more sophisticated and effective organizational systems in the management of several areas on campus.  Administrators point to improved communication across campus as evidence of the impact of ETD.  The high levels of faculty research and scholarship described under Standard 4 in Chapter 3 may also be attributed to the support provided by the FDC.

Commendations and Recommendations

The coordinators and all involved in the operations of the Faculty Development Center and the Employee Training and Development program are to be commended for their obvious commitment and high standards of quality professional development.  From extensive comments by CSU Fullerton employees in almost every interview session, the impact of both programs is to be admired and affirmed.  The enormity of those programs and the required effort, coordination, and insight caused WASC team members to wonder if the coordinators and staff ever sleep.  Both programs are models of the campus commitment to faculty/staff learning and ultimately student learning.

 Our few recommendations begin with an urging to FDC and ETD to share their wisdom and “best practices” with other professionals on both state and national levels.  A number of their programs and approaches are truly innovative and will inspire similar efforts on other campuses.

A second recommendation is related to the assumption that there will be an increased demand for the types of programs offered by both FDC and ETD, a demand that might not be easily met with the current staff.  In particular, the focus on learning will likely be accompanied by greater efforts to assess that learning.  Staff trained through ETD have been bringing their new knowledge and skills to their colleagues.  Those gaining expertise through FDC programs have begun to share their insights with colleagues but could expand their ways of enhancing and expanding their own repertoire of teaching and learning approaches and those of their colleagues.

A third recommendation is to monitor the forms of pedagogy or more specifically the teaching quality of workshops and classes themselves.  As is often the case, those with real expertise in a topic or skill, may not be the most competent teachers.

  In the team’s opinion, there is a need for high quality and consistent evaluation of teaching across the institution.  The FDC appears to have the leadership, visibility, and credibility to address this need.  We encourage the FDC to blend such an initiative with current programs on the scholarship of teaching to enhance the quality of teaching.

              Finally WASC team members encourage the two programs to continue and perhaps to increase their efforts to create an integrated community of learners among faculty, staff, and students.  United campuses can be much more effective in promoting student learning.  By recognizing the contributions and potential of all employees and providing opportunities for them to develop necessary knowledge and skills, the institution is making a significant investment in its own adaptive capacity.

 

 

Attachment 4-B(3):University Support for Student Learning

 

The University Learning Center is a recent incarnation of a center that was administered by the Educational Opportunity Program from 1982 until 1992 when it was eliminated because of budget cuts.  Under the Student Affairs umbrella, a concerted effort has been made over the last two years to enhance the learning assistance program in order to maximize student retention and success.  With a renewed commitment to the peer tutoring concept, a full-time faculty member with experience in pedagogy and tutoring assumed responsibility for the Center in Fall 1999.  The staff, including an assistant director and administrative assistant, projects enthusiasm and a clear commitment to its mission to serve students across all disciplines.  Through the collaborative efforts of both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, a new location was found and renovated recently to provide a larger, more attractive and more functional learning environment. It should be noted, however, that the new basement level location presents its own challenges because the Center is not as easily found as it was in its previous location.

The Center publicizes its offerings to students by posting flyers, and to faculty by sending information through campus mail and electronic mail.  Although faculty often encourage students to visit the Center, participation is generally voluntary.  The services can be divided into three areas: 1) peer tutoring, which is the primary service, 2) assistance with using computers, which is carried out in a room equipped with approximately a dozen computers, and 3) workshops in areas such as research skills, study skills, and test-taking strategies.  One example of compulsory use of the workshops is the College of Business and Economics, that requires students who are on probation to attend two workshops (study and test-taking skills).

We talked to five students who use the tutoring service, four tutors, and three faculty members who interact directly with the Center.  Subsequently, we met with the Center Director, the Director of Student Academic Services, the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, and the Vice President for Student Affairs.

The students to whom we spoke indicated that students who use the Center once tend to come back in subsequent semesters.  What we observed, from the content of the conversation and from the atmosphere in the Center, was that a strong social and learning community has developed in the Center, giving some important grounding to students who might otherwise be at risk, either in a specific course or more generally in their undergraduate education.  Both the tutors and clients reported that there is good coverage for most of the lower level courses that the institution offers.

The Center encourages input from faculty, as might be expected given the faculty standing of the Director.  Faculty members can request a workshop for a particular class, in much the same way that faculty can request that the library teach a special session for a class.  Another important opportunity for interaction with faculty is not yet in place, and this involves the hiring of the tutors.  Currently, the tutors are chosen based on grades and on references.  Some faculty members have made it clear that they wish to be able to recommend tutors for their disciplines.  The Center staff welcome this closer relationship with its rich potential, ultimately working to the advantage of all concerned.

The Center is keeping careful and detailed statistics of usage that will play a large role in determining future directions based on real and quantifiable student needs.  Future steps may involve expansion, either in hours of operation or in utilization of physical space.  Future plans as articulated by the office of Student Affairs, include the relocation of other student service programs, such as the Intensive Learning Experience (ILE), the MESA Engineering Program, the Reading Program, the Writing program and Student Retention, to areas in close proximity to the University Learning Center in order to establish a cluster of programs and services that will work cooperatively to address student needs.

 

 

Attachment 4-B(4) D. Institutional Research and Assessment

 

For the Core Process Audit of Institutional Research and Assessment the campus asked the visiting team to focus its attention on the work of the Office of Analytical Studies (OAS) and the Student Affairs Research Center (SARC).  This investigative approach calls attention mainly to the “Institutional Research and Analysis” function (the “IR” function in short) as an element of the campus core process.  The “Assessment” element of the core process is thus addressed only inasmuch as OAS and SARC do in fact provide general support, at certain times, for institution-spanning assessment activities – especially the special efforts connected with the WASC Self-Study Process – and special ad-hoc support, for assessment studies conducted by others.  At present the “embedded” quality of assessment activities in the operations of various academic and administrative units is the most striking feature of the assessment enterprise at CSUF.  Campus-level coordination of assessment occurs on a project basis and there seems to be quite a bit of cross-campus communication about assessment, but there is as yet no single campus framework for supporting and coordinating the assessment process.

Interviews with “Clients, Directors, and Administrators” concerned with the IR function included eleven vocal and enthusiastic clients, representing a remarkable cross-section of institutional activities.  There were four representatives of academic departments, a public affairs officer, the director of extended education, three directors and staff members from student-centered service areas plus the Director of Admissions and Records, and the Chief Information and Technology Officer (CITO).  Both the boundary-spanning range of the IR clients and the depth of knowledge and experience represented in the group were remarkable.

The Directors meeting was conducted with the Acting Director of the SARC and the Director of OAS and the Associate VP-Academic Affairs to whom OAS reports.  Participants in the Administrators meetings were the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), the Assistant VP-Student Affairs and the Director of Analytic Studies at the CSU system-wide office in Long Beach.

Conversation was vigorous, flowing, candid, and informative in all three of these meetings.  The praise expressed for the work of OAS and its director in these conversations by all parties, including clients, supervisors, and senior university administrators was striking.  Taken together with the written materials provided, the visiting team was offered a very thorough account of CSUF’s IR  activities.

Subsequently, the team requested an interview session dealing with the enrollment management process. The Vice President for Academic Affairs (VP-AA), the Director of Enrollment Management (EM), and the Director of Admissions and Records (A&R) attended.  The IR function at CSUF is reflected by the material presented at this special meeting.  If campus enrollment and resource management at CSUF are driven by FTEs, as we were often told during the visit, this is a necessary consequence of the CSU resource allocation system.  Campus enrollment planning and management efforts enable CSUF to justify, project and obtain enrollment-related resource flows within the CSU System.

The campus effort is characterized by extensive collaboration, consultation, and great “depth of field” (viz., a great amount of local detail remains in focus within a larger field of vision).  Two committees work in tandem in the enrollment management process.  A policy committee chaired by the VP-AA meets monthly to consider issues in a campus-wide framework and to develop policy options and plans.  An operations- and action-oriented committee chaired by the Director-EM implements these plans through the Assistant Deans and other committee constituents to develop school- and program-specific enrollment targets.  This is an iterative, interactive, collaborative, inclusive, and integrative process that epitomizes the excellence of planning and the positive administrative culture at CSUF.  There are well-maintained relationships and frequently-used mechanisms here for transmitting information and decisions across major administrative boundaries, such as the one between academic and student affairs, and from the central administration to the academic operating units.

The OAS plays a critical part at the “beginning” of the annual campus enrollment planning cycle.  The OAS initiates the enrollment process by connecting with the CSU system-wide enrollment planning process, assessing current campus enrollment capacity and prospects, forming new annual enrollment, and finally in obtaining approval of the target by the policy.  The work of OAS illustrates several of its distinct functions.  The study of the enrollment patterns of currently matriculated students and the workload patterns of the academic units as a basis for determining enrollment capacity illustrates the research function.  A service function is reflected by the creation of data sets, exhibits, and specific enrollment targets and scenarios that inform all parties of the state of affairs.  Transforming the numbers into an intelligible picture that brings focus to committee discussions illustrates an interpretive function.  Finally, there is a critical communication function that bridges potentially problematic gaps.

Once the work the OAS performs at the “beginning” has been ratified by the VP-AA and policy committee, its effects are then extended by the implementation committee and other participants in the enrollment management process.  The academic units and other special units concerned with outreach, recruitment, and student affairs are engaged in a process that brings the planning of the Deans and Program Heads into alignment with campus-wide plans and objectives.  The operational units then put plans into practice by adjusting their unit-based outreach and recruitment and informational activities and simultaneously pursue unit-specific objectives regarding enrollment and the pursuit of enrollment-related resource flows.

The team-initiated discussion of the enrollment management function with the VP-AA and the two directors developed into an interesting conversation.  All involved recognized enrollment management as a vital area of institutional activity.  This is an energized process where the critical business of acquiring institutional resources (in the form of FTEs funding) is directly joined with the management of academic program development.

One way to manage enrollment at a campus like CSUF might be to use a broad, undifferentiated, passive approach to serving whatever enrollment demand turns up from year to year on the institution’s doorstep.  The CSUF approach is not at all like this.  It is a fine-tuned, well-articulated, active approach that involves a strong commitment to plan through the operating units, assigning local responsibilities, drawing on local capabilities, making use of local knowledge of opportunities and threats.  This approach requires extensive collaboration and effective communication.  The payoffs from this effort are real.  Cross-campus awareness of enrollment issues and campus-wide enrollment aims is evidently high, allowing the central administration to mobilize the campus in pursuit of institutional objectives.  This is an advantage over many other institutions.  When particular departments or enrollment-related programs (First-Year, Honors, etc.) can be mobilized to pursue their particular enrollment objectives in outreach, recruitment and advertising the institution has far better prospects for setting and meeting institutional goals regarding the management of student populations and enrollment flows.

In discussing these themes with the VP-AA and the Directors, an opportunity could be created to perform program-specific studies of the retention and success of the students who are now being attracted to CSUF through different recruitment plans.  The ability to perform such studies could play a critical part in establishing an institution-wide assessment mechanism for a well-articulated institutional enrollment management strategy.  The common and requisite technical base for such studies would be a student longitudinal database system designed and managed by the campus for the purpose of tracking the academic progress of students possessing different recruitment or program profiles, as well as different demographic or student-aspiration profiles.  The organizational basis for database systems of this sort is normally found in a strong working alliance between the Admissions and Registration offices that maintain major transactional databases and the IR units that maintain the working analytical extracts from these databases.  Institutional investment is required; institutional payoff can be considerable.

The CSUF approach to enrollment management is distinctive.  This appears to be an area of strength for the campus in the pursuit of both its short-term objectives and its long-term commitment to the preeminence of learning.  The strengths that stand out here are consistent with the integrative, communication- and collaboration-based strengths that the team has identified in other areas.

The re-establishment of the Student Affairs Research Center (SARC) in 1998 significantly increased the visibility and utility of the institutional research function within the Division of Student Affairs at CSUF.  Managed at present by the Acting Director, under the guidance of an Assistant Vice President, SARC has become much more closely identified with division-wide initiatives of the Vice President.  Communication is a major responsibility of the center.  The production of an impressive series of nearly twenty brief research reports in two years has communicated a great deal of useful information to the campus.  It has also put the Center “on the administrative map” and demonstrated CSUF’s commitment to institutional research.

The re-fashioning of SARC also demonstrates how restructuring analytical and research functions can bring them into closer alignment with the culture of evidence emerging at CSUF.  The initiation of inquiry in many organizations has become a driving force behind the revitalization of the institutional research function.  Supporting distributed assessment while maintaining campus-wide standards, SARC provides a mechanism enabling CSUF to recognize and reap greater campus-wide benefits from various local investments in the learning- and outcome-oriented assessment.  The restructuring of SARC to enhance its visibility and clarify its identity is a real gain for the Division and for the campus.  This leads directly to a question as to whether the central-campus institutional research function, invested in the OAS, might not also benefit from increasing its capacity to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex culture of evidence at CSUF.

The SARC mission statement is squarely focused on producing new knowledge about students for dissemination to the campus community, the wider community, and the world at large.  SARC “performs research on students” and “provides consultation to all researchers”.  This business is certain to be extended and deepened in the future if SARC succeeds in moving toward its indicated goal of outlining a “student-focused research agenda for Student Affairs, including common practices in evaluation and assessment across the Division.”

Written responses to the questions prepared by the visiting team show that the newly developed SARC research program has been carefully considered and aligned with institutional priorities.  Much of the work over the past two years has focused explicitly on student learning and staff learning themes.  Guidance for implementing the SARC research program has come directly from the Office of the Vice President and from other Directors in the Division.  Having increased overall alignment with campus-wide goals and programs in this way, it is now possible for SARC to function more effectively by informing senior campus leadership of key research findings.  In the future, SARC will judge its success by the extent to which both knowledge and application of assessment techniques and findings can be observed on campus, particularly in the work of the student affairs units.  SARC expects that its research work will be valued and used by campus leadership.  Responses from the campus to SARC efforts will be evaluated, and the Center is clearly prepared to adapt its program to increase effectiveness.  A process is now underway to establish and staff a permanent Director position.

The Acting Director and the Assistant Vice President confirmed that the focus on service within the Division has intensified in recent years with the re-fashioning of SARC.  Scattered consultation processes have given way to a more centralized approach to supporting a “cottage industry” of data analysis.  The new focus of the Center moves beyond providing a sequence of unconnected services to an integrated and responsive service package.  With a vigorous publication program and expanding support functions within the Division staff, workload issues are becoming problematic.

The Office of Analytical Studies at CSUF, unlike SARC, has been functioning within the same administrative framework for many years.  The Director has helped to manage many key central campus functions, such as the annual enrollment planning cycle, the strategic enrollment planning process, and even the WASC re-accreditation process.

The mission statement for OAS seems appropriate – emphasizing the centrality of the office and the many aspects of its efforts to “promote institutional self-understanding through research and analysis.”  However, the last update occurred nearly five years ago, so current issues and concerns relating to the institutional goal of making learning preeminent are not addressed.  OAS responses to Self-Study questions indicate that it takes responsibility for helping to align the many parts of a complex information infrastructure around the preeminence of learning.  The process of alignment is still a work in progress, however.  Everyone that the team spoke to at CSUF about the work of OAS agreed that the office is a highly valued and integral part of central administration.

The written response of OAS to the team suggests it is in many ways a typical IR office.  OAS helps the University to navigate among its various responsibilities – some controlled by commitment to the preeminence of learning, others by more mundane and practical concerns.  It provides a spectrum of services to a heterogeneous set of constituencies.

The research function of the central IR office, often thought of as a data-providing function, is readily identified by all parties as a specific IR function.  The analytical aspect of this function should not be underestimated.  At present, considering CSUF’s rapid growth, including expanded satellite campuses, and expanded summer enrollment, the analytical performance of the IR office is critical.  There is also a service function that involves providing well-packaged information products for various campus constituents.  In our meeting with IR clients we heard one example after another of the many different ways OAS and SARC work to meet client needs.  Clients appreciate the precision and orderliness of OAS in providing prompt and accurate responses to their requests.  SARC has provided essential support for alumni surveys for many years.  A new program director, who has seen IR offices operate on other campuses, says that OAS at CSUF is “clearly the best.”

A third function elaborated upon at length in the written response might be called the interpretative or story-telling function.  In the case of OAS this is often a matter of overcoming the localism of “private universes” on campus by providing some of the “big picture”.  Finally, what is apparent in examining the actual practice of OAS is that there is a critical communication function served in the course of transmitting data, information, interpretation, projection, and analysis between the CSU system office and senior management at CSUF or between central management and the operating units.  This kind of communication does not replace normal administrative communication but provides a second channel or a broader band to carry “the rest of the story”.

Although OAS is apparently very good at integrating these four functions, the degree to which it succeeds in fulfilling them is somewhat uneven.  Clients rave about the services that have been provided to them by the office.  The work of the office is highly valued and trusted.  Both the clients and the central administration identify OAS as a core campus resource.  But several clients also describe OAS as a “hidden gem” in the administration that they had personally been surprised or fortunate enough to find at a time of need.  The implication is that others on campus who have the same kind of needs may not yet have been so fortunate.  Even if they were so fortunate, however, the fact that many of the services described by clients can be prohibitively time consuming.  There may be inherent limits to the expansion of services OAS might offer even with significant infusions of new resources.  The staffing level or resource base may be less critical than the organizational design.  In this regard, plans discussed in the client meeting by the Director-A&R and the CITO about new collaborative approaches to campus-wide data management are particularly relevant.

The analytical and research work of the office is probably the area that suffers most from the extensive use made of its services in supporting everyday needs of the institution and the central administration.  The “Day in the Life” document provided to the team sums up the situation in an particularly arresting and provocative fashion:  “What Analytical Studies IS: Analytical focus; Embedded, collaborative work; Constant interruptions, door is always open; Judgment calls; Honing reaction and response to a fine art; Juggling many issues and assignments.  What Analytical Studies IS NOT: Sustained time on a single project; Debriefing on any project; Linear priorities; Proactive approach; Promotion of the office.”  This condensed description of activities as experienced within the office might provide a foundation for a thorough review of OAS’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

The communication function served by the OAS seems to be the most important, possibly the most effectively performed, and arguably the least appreciated of its activities.  The CSU’s analytic studies officer commended CSUF’s OAS for its enrollment-related initiatives.  The high quality of most relationships between the campus center and operating units we heard about during the visit also reflects the way OAS manages the circulation of background information.  At some campuses the importance of certain aspects of this communication function is recognized in the differentiation of a campus-level officer -– a “Director of Planning” perhaps -- to focus on this function apart from other IR functions.

In the emerging culture of evidence at CSUF the Office of Analytical Studies could play an increasingly important part, consistent with its past performance, in both inserting and extracting full value for the campus from the assessment work being conducted across the campus.  If the coordination of assessment activities were eventually to be organized as the work of a separate central campus office, the work in support of such an office on the part of OAS would also be critical.  As pressures mount on the campus to master more difficult problems in the future along with growth and increasing organizational complexity, greater pressures on OAS will undoubtedly emerge.  The embedded, collaborative, responsive style of OAS that has served the campus so well in recent years may need to be supplemented or reconsidered.

In concluding our examination of Institutional Research and Assessment as a core process supporting CSUF in its efforts to make learning preeminent, we reiterate our observation that the campus is well served in this regard in many respects by both of its main IR offices.  Changes in the organization and orientation of SARC, increasing its visibility and bringing focus to the specificity of its mission, have made the Center an important asset for the Division of Student Affairs aligning its activities with the learning-centered mission.  Without undergoing organizational changes, and by making itself a part of the administrative efforts of the central campus, OAS has served as a catalyst for CSUF’s transformation.  Our concluding suggestion is that CSUF reconsider in a broader context the best use of its IR units.

 


 

TEAM ROSTER AND TITLE PAGE

California State University, Fullerton
P.O. Box 34080
Fullerton, CA  92834-9480
(714) 278-3528

Date of Visit: March 20-24, 2000 

Chief Executive Officer: Milton A. Gordon, President

Type of Visit: Reaffirmation

Accreditation Liaison Officer:
Thomas P. Klammer, Acting Dean,
School of Humanities and Social Sciences

WASC Staff:
Ralph A. Wolff, Executive Director

WASC Chair:
David B. Porter
Professor and Head
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership
U.S. Air Force Academy
H.Q. USAFA/DFBL
USAF Academy, CO  80840
(719) 333-2514
FAX: (719) 333-6711

  WASC Members:

Trudy W. Banta
Vice Chancellor for Planning & Institutional Improvement
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
355 N. Lansing, AO 140
Indianapolis, IN  46202-2896
(317) 274-4111
FAX: (317) 274-4651

Boice Bowman
Vice President, Student Affairs
California State University, Dominguez Hills
1000 E. Victoria Street
Carson, CA  90747
(310) 243-3784
FAX: (310) 516-3525

Robert Cox
Manager, Faculty Teaching Workload
and Enrollment Planning
University of California, Los Angeles
2107 Murphy Hall
Los Angeles, CA  90095-1405
(310) 206-3752
FAX: (310) 206-3766

Charlotte G. Crockett
Director, Leavey Library
University of Southern California
LVL-113 USC
Los Angeles, CA  90089-0182
(213) 740-2348
FAX: (213) 740-7713

David D. Dill

Amy Driscoll
Director for Teaching, Learning & Assessment
California State University, Monterey Bay
100 Campus Center, Building 1
Seaside, CA  93955-8001
(831) 582-4517
FAX: (831) 582-4545

Ricardo Machón
Associate Dean
College of Liberal Arts
Loyola Marymount University
7900 Loyola Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90045-8350
(310) 338-2716
FAX: (310) 338-2704

Deanna Sergel
Coordinator of Writing Assessment
English Department
Northwest Missouri State University
800 University Dr.
Maryville, MO  64468-6001
(660) 562-1745

Jon F. Wergin
Professor of Educational Studies
Virginia Commonwealth University
P.O. Box 842020
Richmond, VA  23284
(804) 828-1332 x556
FAX: (804) 225-3554