ACCREDITING COMMISSION FOR COMMUNITY AND JUNIOR COLLEGES, WESTERN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES (ACCJC) Responses to Questions from the ACCJC Accreditation Standards Symposium
April 23-24, 2015
Below find responses to participation questions concerning the Accreditation Standards adopted in June 2014. Also please review the posted slides from the conference, as information from questions answered during presentations is included there. Additional Q&A will be added as it is completed.
Standard II II.A.2.
Q. What is the difference between part time and adjunct faculty?
A. Systems and institutions use the terms in different ways, but generally part time employees (including faculty) are restricted to a maximum number of hours per week, while adjunct faculty are paid by the number of credits/hours they teach. The standards envision the participation of full time, part time, and adjunct faculty in the academic quality of the institution’s instructional programs.
Q. Do SLOs have to be on the course outline of record in addition to objectives (we have Curricunet and this would be very difficult). We do have them on all syllabi.
A. The standards do not require that there be course objectives on the course outline of record, but there is a requirement for the student learning outcomes to be there. The course outline of record serves as the record of the institution’s official course curriculum that is used for
articulation, transfer review, syllabus development, and course preparation and delivery (among other uses). Since adoption of the 2002 Accreditation Standards, the course outline of record has been expected to contain the student learning outcomes.
Student Learning Outcomes, Generally
Q. Since we don’t have all the answers on student learning outcomes, have we studied other accrediting processes in other countries? If so, how has the information be used for continuous quality and improvement.
A. As are “higher education” and “pedagogy,” “student learning outcomes and assessment” is more in the nature of a field of study and practice than a fact or set of facts to know. And, the field of SLOs has developed significantly over the past several decades. There has been much gained from the work within and outside the U.S. concerning the science of student learning, and methods in education and educational support for assessing and enhancing student learning. While the approaches in some national systems have focused on guiding students to ensure their likely success within educational pathways for which they are deemed qualified, the U.S.
approach has been to ensure that curriculum and instruction, and various resource and support services, provide the optimal learning environment and experience, to give students access to multiple educational and career pathways.
Q. Is there scientific research to prove that assessment of SLOs, including at the course level, improves the quality of student learning?
A. Yes, there is research that makes this connection. I recommend that folks visit the website of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign) for some of this literature. As with any complex phenomenon, there are multiple factors which cause students to be more- or less- successful in their learning. The work of SLO practice provides data for faculty members in individual classes and for the institution across its programs and operations to make decisions and changes to that enhance student learning. Of course, the exercise of completing an assessment is not what transforms institutional practice; it is the examination of the assessment results, consideration of the implications and strategies, decisions made about responsive action, and implementation of the changes, that will impact the institution’s practices and the students’ learning experiences.
Q. Is the expected level of compliance with SLOs “Proficient?”
A. Member institutions were notified at several points in time after 2005 that they would be expected to be at the level of Proficiency in SLO practice by fall 2012. The term was linked to a Rubric that presented examples of practices (“sample institutional behaviors”) demonstrating SLO practices which fell at the Awareness, Development, Proficiency, and Sustainable Continuous Quality Improvement levels. The Rubric was a tool that helped institutions understand the progression in practice toward meeting the standards.
Institutions were asked to submit a College Status Report on SLO Implementation during the 2012-2013 academic years. At that time, colleges were reminded that while the Rubric had been used previously as a guide, and the Proficiency level as a target, moving forward colleges must demonstrate the Accreditation Standards were met as to student learning outcomes. At this time, the Rubric is no longer distributed, as member institutions are expected to have fully developed their SLO practice in accordance with the Standards.
Q. Our college has interpreted SLOs to be a tool for internal evaluation of courses by the faculty. Why should the SLOs be on the course syllabus?
A. The Accreditation Standards describe student learning outcomes assessment and results as important tools by students, faculty, staff, and administrators at the institution, and by
prospective students, transfer institutions and employers outside the institution. Student learning, and the competencies achieved over a program of study, and student learning across the
institution, are data and analysis elements in evaluation, planning, and decision making and resource allocation for the institution. While the per-student performance in each area of learning is important at the class level, different levels of granularity and aggregation are needed to use SLO results for curriculum, program, instruction-wide, student support, and institution-wide consideration. That will also be the case for examining the methods and measures of SLO
assessment. Students, prospective students, transfer institutions, and employers will also have different needs related to SLO results, based upon the manner in which their work is expected to use the SLO information. An institution will not be able to meet the Accreditation Standards if SLO information is retained only as an internal evaluation tool for use by faculty in their courses. Q. Where is the term Institutional Learning Outcomes found in the Standards?
A. The Accreditation Standards expect institutions to focus on the learning of all students it serves. Institutions set goals and outcomes, including for student learning and student
achievement, which can be tracked and evaluated to determine how the institution is meeting its mission. Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are not identified in the Accreditation
Standards. The term has developed from college usage, and is related to those institutional goals and objectives pertaining to student learning.
There are two ways in which member institutions have used the term:
- The majority of member institutions identify ILOs as those aspects of learning which apply to all students at the institution, even if they complete only a course or two. The ILOs are, in
essence, the institution’s promise to the community of the impact that the institution will have on individuals who come to the institution. These are the outcomes which other units of the
institution also participate in and may report on in program reviews. These stated ILOs tend to include the outcomes in Standard II.A.11, which apply to all programs. Institutions may include one or two additional areas in their ILOs. The key is that these ILOs are articulated at a
foundational level and then may be articulated at a higher level of competency as appropriate to completers of programs (shorter and longer certificates, 2-year degrees, and so forth).
- A smaller number of member institutions identify ILOs as aspects of learning that apply only to students who complete degree programs of study. These outcomes may be aligned with the general education learning outcomes, and may in essence be the program level outcomes for general education. For these institutions, some term other than ILO is used to identify the package of learning outcomes one would expect to see in the students other than degree
completers who are admitted and served at the institution (in which student activities and other units across the institution participate).
Please see the attached chart, which describes the Accreditation Standards which pertain to student learning outcomes and their connectedness.
STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES IN THE ACCREDITATION STANDARDS ADOPTED JUNE 2014 Standard I.B.2: Student Learning Outcomes for all instructional programs and student and learning support services.
[Other administrative units support student learning through their goals and objectives.]
II .A . Ins tr uct ional Progr a m s
Standard II.A.3: Learning outcomes for courses, programs, certificates and degrees. [Includes library and counseling courses.] A. ALL PROGRAMS B. CTE CERTIFICATES AND DEGREES C. DEGREE PROGRAMS
Certificates: Columns A+B; Degrees: A+B+C Column A+B+C
Standard II.A.11 II.A.14 II.A.12, II.A.13
In all programs, appropriate to program level:
- Communication competency - Information competency - Quantitative competency - Analytic inquiry skills - Ethical reasoning
- The ability to engage diverse perspectives
*[These are also ILOs at most member institutions which apply ILOs to all of their students]
Graduates completing CTE certificates and degrees demonstrate technical and professional competencies that meet:
- Employment standards
- Preparation for external licensure and certification
- Other applicable standards
General Education SLOs include:
- Responsible participation in civil society
- Lifelong learning and application of learning
- Broad knowledge of the development of knowledge, practice and interpretive
approaches in the arts, humanities, the sciences, mathematics, and social sciences
*[Some member institutions equate the GE outcomes with ILOs, because their ILOs only apply to degree graduates.] Appropriate to the program level:
- Program-specific learning outcomes
- Mastery at the appropriate degree level, of key theories and practices within the field of study
II .B . L ibrary and L ear ni ng Supp ort Servi ces
II.B.1, II.B.2 Library and learning support services support student learning
II.B.3 Levels of Student Learning Outcomes
Library and Learning Support Services are evaluated to ensure they contribute to the attainment of student learning outcomes. II .C . St udent Supp ort Servi ces
II.C. 1 Student support services support student learning II.C.2
Student support services and programs are appropriate to achieve the identified learning support outcomes for its student population.
NOTES: * There is no separate “institutional learning outcome” requirement in the standards, but most institutions use ILOs as an articulation of institutional goals and objectives which are specific to student learning, either for all students or for the degree graduate part of the mission.
Q. Why must terminal CTE degrees include general education math? Do college level courses in AA degree general education have to be transferable?
A. The Accreditation Standards include a number of requirements for an institution’s degree programs of studies, including, in II.A.12, a component of general education, which has as a part, the broad comprehension of knowledge, practice and interpretive approaches in mathematics. As stated there, the institution “determines the appropriateness of each course for inclusion in the general education curriculum, based upon student learning outcomes and competencies appropriate to the degree.”
Standard II.A.5 state the expectation that the institution’s “degrees and programs follow practices common to American higher education, including appropriate length, breadth, depth, rigor, course sequencing,…” and so on. Standard II.A.9 states that the institution awards degrees based on student attainment of learning outcomes, and that units of credit are consistent with generally accepted norms in higher education. Within these parameters, and within any parameters set by the state or system within which the institution operates, the institution determines the college-level math and other courses which are part of the general education requirements for its degrees and the level of transferability required of the general education component of a degree.
Q. Does II.A.13 mean that general education degrees are no longer compliant with standards? A. Under the 2002 Accreditation Standards, Standard II.A.4 stated: “All degree programs include focused study in at least one area of inquiry or in an interdisciplinary core.” This is the identical language of the first sentence in Standard II.A.13. As a general principle of higher education, degrees are expected to represent a program of study, rather than a nonspecific accumulation of units or credits. University Studies degrees or General Studies degrees which meet the
Accreditation Standards have a requirement of certain courses within a particular discipline or identified interdisciplinary core.
Under the 2002 Accreditation Standards, Standard II.A.2.i stated: “The institution awards
degrees and certificates based on student achievement of a program’s stated learning outcomes.” The linkage of degree programs of study to student learning outcomes continues into the
Accreditation Standards adopted in 2014, including for the degree area of focus in described in II.A.13.