Assessment Academy

Missouri State University has been selected to participate as a pioneer in the Higher Learning Commission's Academy for the Assessment of Student Learning. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the accrediting body for the University, initiated the Academy in 2006 and accepted Missouri State in the first cohort of 14 institutions to participate.

The goal of the HLC Academy is to improve the assessment of student learning through "action projects" that occur on each campus during a four-year period. The projects and their results are shared electronically and through interaction with other institutions of higher learning.

Missouri State's participation in the Academy will assist the University in strengthening its assessment program with a university-wide plan for student success that recognizes both academic affairs and student affairs are integral to the learning process.

The Missouri State Academy Team is conducting two action projects designed to intertwine the learning goals of both Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. Together they will contribute to improved, integrated student learning and its assessment throughout campus. Anticipated outcomes include, in addition to student learning and its assessment, improved retention rates and graduation rates.

One action project, entitled "Living-Learning Communities for First-Year Success," is led by the Division of Student Affairs. This project includes six floors in four residence halls that have been selected as "learning communities" dedicated to improving success of first-year students. Students selecting to live in these communities will be introduced to monthly topics related to academics (e.g., study skills) and personal development (e.g., managing finances). Bulletin boards, door decorations, Facebook groups, social activities on and off campus, and interaction with faculty members and other members of the University community will contribute to the learning process.

The second action project falls under the auspices of the Office of the Provost and is the revision of the Academic Program Review Process. The new program review process, which began during fall 2006, includes three parts: strategic planning, an annual review, and a periodic review. An important component of the strategic planning phase is the Assessment Report, completed within the guidelines of the Center for Assessment and Instructional Support (CAIS). The Report focuses on student learning outcomes. The Annual Review and the Periodic Review will also include emphases on student learning within academic programs.

The Missouri State Academy Team began discussing goals and planning action projects during 2006. The planning phase included two workshops in Chicago with other teams of the cohort and HLC facilitators, who provided feedback.

Action Project plans will be posted to the HLC website during the spring and shared during the Learning and Assessment Exchange and Showcase at the HLC annual meeting in Chicago in April.

During the next two years, the Missouri State Team will complete annual progress analyses and share accomplishments with other institutions, Academy mentors, and HLC staff. The Team will also showcase good practices and plan post-Academy strategies at a concluding Results Forum.

HLC-appointed mentors will evaluate and respond to the final Project Report submitted by Missouri State. The Report and participation in the Academy will serve as documentation of accomplishments in preparation for the next institutional reaccreditation, scheduled for 2015.

In 2006, the University's Academy Team was co-chaired by Martha Kirker, Director of the Center for Assessment and Instructional Support, and Etta Madden, Chair of the University's HLC Monitoring Committee.