Administrator and faculty support for assessment at Virginia public colleges and universities

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Virginia Tech


In 1987, public colleges and universities in Virginia began complying with state-mandated outcomes assessment requirements. Administrators and faculty were expected to assume the responsibility for conducting assessment planning/activities, and substantial administrator and faculty support for formal assessment was expected to develop gradually over a ten-year period.

The purpose of this study was to investigate administrator and faculty support after three years of compliance. The objectives were (1) to investigate across-time involvements and understandings related to institutional/departmental assessment planning and activities; (2) to investigate across-time perceptions of the importance of formal assessment; and (3) to identify factors which had influenced these involvements, understandings, and perceptions of importance.

A total of 1,101 administrators and faculty from 37 of the 39 public colleges and universities in Virginia participated in this study. Results indicate that, by 1990, administrator and faculty involvements, understandings, and perceptions of importance had increased significantly. Respondents expected future levels of perceived importance would decline significantly external reporting requirements were eliminated. The most prevalent external factors which had influenced administrators and faculty were the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The most prevalent internal factors were chief academic officers, assessment coordinators, and resource constraints.

The findings of this study suggest that after three years of compliance, momentum for formal assessment among administrators and faculty had been generated. While this momentum did not represent administrator and faculty "ownership" of assessment, without doubt more administrators and faculty had become involved in assessment, more had begun to better understand assessment, and more had begun to perceive of formal assessment as important. If SCHEV were to remove its requirements, this momentum would be lost. If SCHEV requirements remain, wider administrator and faculty involvements and understandings should be accompanied by higher levels of perceived importance as more departments begin the process of assessing learning outcomes. By 1990, however, future widespread administrator and faculty "ownership" of formal assessment in Virginia remained uncertain.