Assement Background

When MSU's accreditation was reviewed by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges in October of 1990, outcomes assessment was not yet a strict requirement, although the NASC was discussing assessment requirements to strengthen the Education standard. With that understanding, a task force was appointed following the accreditation visit and charged to develop strategies for implementing outcomes assessment at MSU. The task force considered several alternatives and finally recommended a program combining portfolio analysis with standardized testing. The task force requested funds from the 1993 legislature through a program modification. The legislature did not allocate funds for the program, and it was never implemented.

Early in 1995, a task force appointed by Provost John Drumheller began meeting to develop plans for a university-wide student outcomes assessment program to meet the new accreditation standards established by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NASC). Later that year, he formalized the task force as the Assessment and Outcomes Committee, charged to develop an overall assessment strategy for the university. He asked Cel Johnson, Director of Institutional Research, to oversee this process, and hired Mary Ann Brown as a graduate assistant. In his memo of August 29, 1995, he informed the academic deans and department heads of his commitment to develop an assessment program.

The Assessment and Outcomes Committee undertook an assessment inventory of all departments with undergraduate majors to determine what assessment activities were already being done on campus. All departments responded to the inventory, and their reports revealed that a wide variety of assessment activities were being done informally. The committee proposed that each department develop an assessment plan for undergraduate majors during FY96, with plans to be implemented during FY97. During FY97, the Core Curriculum Committee surveyed core course instructors as a first step in this process. During FY98, the committee is developing plans for assessing the university's general education requirements. Assessment activities in the future may be expanded to encompass advising and graduate programs.

In October of 1995, MSU-Bozeman's mid-decade accreditation review was conducted by Dr. Joan Wadlow for the NASC. She was pleased with the campus response to the assessment inventory and approved the basic structure of the committee's proposal to develop an assessment program for the university.

In his memo of February 27, 1996, Provost Drumheller charged all academic departments to develop programs to assess student learning in each undergraduate major and create capstone courses in majors lacking them. He reiterated this charge at a meeting of all deans and department heads held March 19, 1996, where specific guidelines for submitting assessment plans were also presented.

Assessment plans were due June 1, 1996. Each plan was reviewed by members of the Assessment and Outcomes Committee, and assessment plans were posted on the Student Outcomes Assessment Web site as they were approved. Implementation of these plans began in the fall of the 1996-97 academic year, and departmental summaries of assessment results were submitted at the end of that year.

Joseph A. Chapman was hired as permanent Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs on July 1, 1996. After Mary Ann Brown finished her graduate assistantship, he decided to convert that support to a part-time faculty assessment representative and sent an announcement to all faculty who were tenured, tenure-track, or recently retired with tenure inviting them to apply. On April 1, 1997, he held a meeting of all academic deans and department heads to discuss pending actions relating to assessment activities and PQO. In his memo of April 10, 1997, the Provost summarized issues raised at that meeting and presented additional clarifying information.

The Assessment and Outcomes Committee screened applications for the position of Faculty Assessment Representative and recommended that the Provost appoint Pamela Hill, an Associate Professor of Architecture, to the position. She accepted the appointment and began reviewing assessment summaries with academic departments during fall semester, 1997.