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Forum updates faculty on university's assessment program

Radford University held an open forum on April 15 to provide faculty with an overview of the university's assessment blueprint and to discuss the role of academic programs assessment in RU's future.

A group of RU administrators and faculty, including Assistant Vice Provost of Academic Assessment Ebenezer Kolajo, spoke to the importance of academic assessment and encouraged faculty to develop individual assessment plans. Forum presenters noted challenges involved in the assessment process and highlighted assessment success stories from each of RU's seven colleges.

In her opening remarks, RU President Penelope W. Kyle thanked those who had gathered in Heth Hall Room 043 and acknowledged that assessment is "something that is very important to us all and to our students."

RU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and that accreditation was reaffirmed in 2012. RU's next reaffirmation with SACS is due in 2022. The president noted that in 2012 SACS officials had stated RU needed to improve and broaden its academic assessment processes. "We still have some work to do in this area," she said.

The president encouraged those in attendance to actively participate in the forums and other opportunities offered by the RU Office of Academic Assessment and to also "encourage your associates to want to participate in assessment, to offer us your best ideas." She  urged anyone with questions or concerns about assessment to talk with Ebenezer Kolajo and the staff in the Office of Academic Assessment.

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Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle addresses the open forum on April 15 that provided an overview of the university's assessment blueprint and a discussion of the role of academic programs assessment in RU's future

RU Provost Sam Minner later spoke of effort and courage in relation to assessment. "Engaging in a meaningful outcomes assessment takes effort," he said. "It also takes courage to examine how much students learn. Sometimes we don't like what we find there. Sometimes it just isn't pretty. And too much of the time it's just too easy to explain it all away by focusing on others, mostly students."

Minner noted that "outcomes assessment will never, ever assess all the important things happening in our classrooms. Let's not allow outcomes assessment to exceed its purpose, but for the sake of our students, for the sake of your success, let's also not engage in the pedagogy of hope. We can do better than that and we should."   

To that end, Minner said, he is planning the first RU Student Success Day for the fall of 2014. "On that day, we'll take another look at our institutional and disciplinary outcomes, look with courage at those outcomes, and make plans to do an even better job in our classes," Minner said.

Speaking of the importance of the forum, Kolajo said the goal was to examine the progress that had been made. "We are making some headway," he said. "With the support we have, I believe we will do great things."

Matt Dunleavy, interim director of Academic Affairs, provided the forum audience with a brief statistical overview of RU, highlighting the university's undergraduate and graduate enrollment, retention rates, the number of in-state and out-of-state students, and percentage rates of first-generation students and ethnicity. "These are relative data points as to who we are and where we're going," Dunleavy said.

Also at the forum, English Professor Laurie Cubbison delved into the particulars of the core curriculum assessment and Erin Webster-Garrett, director of the Scholar-Citizen Initiative, provided an overview of the SCI, which strives to enhance student learning through real-world problem solving and to foster a culture of engaged learning and scholarship, she noted.

Concluding the forum's formal session were Bethany Bodo and Sandra Baker from the Office of Academic Assessment. Both provided examples of how RU colleges and departments have successfully utilized assessment data.

In a question-and-answer session, faculty and administrators informally discussed assessment strategies, finding a national measurement system and the challenges of managing assessment data. Minner noted the purpose of assessment was to ensure the success of RU students. "Student success is so important," the provost explained. "Let's teach them at high levels. Let's launch them out into that next destination."

Apr 24, 2014