Quality Enhancement Plan
Compliance Certification Report
Comprehensive Standard 3.3.1 - Assessment of educational programs and support services
The institution identifies expected outcomes for its educational programs and its administrative and educational support services; assesses whether it achieves these outcomes; and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of those results.
Judgment of Compliance
Davidson College is in compliance with Comprehensive Standard 3.3.1.
Rationale for Judgment of Compliance
Davidson College identifies expected outcomes for its educational programs, and its administrative and educational support services, through carefully crafted planning documents. Assessment of the College’s success in achieving those expected outcomes is a regularly occurring activity that provides feedback on which improvements are made.
The College’s Statement of Purpose provides the most complete context for these outcome and assessment activities. In addition, the Priorities Planning Group document, Foundations of Excellence, has provided additional focus. The planning priorities were originally established in 1998 as a foundation upon which the College’s capital campaign could be based and the Planning Priorities Group, the committee that crafted the document, had wide representation that included faculty, administrators, staff, and students. The document continues to provide general goals but is now more dynamic in nature.
Each division of the College proceeds in its outcomes assessment cycle in ways relevant to the unique nature of each, but all share the College’s philosophy of the importance of identifying and assessing outcomes. All assessment activities are taken seriously; it is part of the Davidson culture that every aspect of the campus contributes to the learning environment.
Focus on the Liberal Arts. The liberal arts curriculum at Davidson “is dedicated to the intellectual and personal growth of students. It affirms the intrinsic worth of a broad exposure to intellectual and artistic achievement.” Graduation requirements reflect the College’s focus on the liberal arts.
Within this context, each academic department independently engages in planning and review. In the past year, every department revisited its mission, its core processes, and its outcome assessment techniques. As part of this process, each department has identified its principal goals and objectives within the broader Statement of Purpose of Davidson College. Each department then considers the means (core processes) used to achieve its goals. Such core processes tend to include curricular initiatives consonant with the broader objectives of the department. The final portion of this submission relates to assessment and the measures of outcomes that help the department determine if they are meeting their goals. Some of these outcome measures are quantitative; others have a more qualitative aspect to them. A review of these submissions will show the seriousness with which this process was addressed.
A variety of processes have been effective in evaluating how well departments are meeting their educational goals and determining how to address goals left unmet or new issues that arise. Examples of the processes and resulting changes may be found here.
Davidson also believes strongly in the role of external reviews, as they ensure that the College has objective assessments from professionals outside of the Davidson campus. The College tends to draw on individuals who come from institutions with missions like Davidson College. Within a seven-year time period, each academic department and program reporting to the Dean of Faculty must undergo a thorough review by external professionals. These reviews are then assessed by the department’s faculty, the Dean of Faculty, and the President. Recommendations from the external evaluators then inform changes within a department and assist, within the budget process, in allocating needed resources to academic programs. Examples of changes made as a result of these reviews include those found here.
The Teaching Responsibility of the Faculty. Davidson believes the teaching responsibility of its faculty is one the hallmarks of the education it offers. How well the College is achieving its goals related to teaching include several quantitative measures that are tracked annually, among them:
Each year, every academic department and program submits its faculty activities report to the Dean of Faculty. These reports detail teaching, research, and community service consistent with Davidson’s mission. Together with department chairs’ recommendations, these reports are the basis for the Dean’s annual salary awards.
Student evaluations of courses are critically important at Davidson. Within each Davidson College course, students complete a comprehensive, prose-based course evaluation form. These forms are read each semester by the faculty member teaching the course. Also, when the faculty member is being assessed or evaluated (contract renewal, tenure decision, or post-tenure review) the Dean of Faculty reads these course evaluations. Inevitably, faculty consider seriously the comments of our students and, when appropriate, introduce changes into their courses based on these course evaluations.
Finally, the Dean of Faculty oversees several faculty assessment processes: contract renewals for pre-tenure faculty, the tenure process, the post-tenure review process, the periodic reading of the course evaluation forms of senior faculty, and the annual salary increase review. With this latter process, every faculty member and staff member reporting to the Dean of Faculty has an annual assessment. In each of these processes, the individual’s performance is evaluated in comparison to institutional expectations. Recently, with respect to the annual salary adjustment process, we have added a mechanism by which the Dean provides to the department chair annual feedback on individual performances of faculty within the department. With pre-tenure renewals, post-tenure reviews, and the periodic reading of course evaluations, the Dean of Faculty provides the faculty member with a written assessment of effectiveness.
It is within this context that we provide programs, services and activities in the following departments: Career Services, Community Service, Office of the Chaplaincy, College Union, Student Health, Minority Services, Students with Special Needs, Dean of Students Office, Public Safety, and Residential Life. As its mission suggests, The Division of Student Life is committed to student growth, whether it be by engaging in community service, spiritual life, leadership development, civic engagement, and career preparation or student health.
Admissions and Financial Aid:
Appreciating that some goals are realized and some fall short, there are assessments made as to why strategies did not yield our desired result. Surveying of enrolled and non-enrolled students, reviewing our scheduled and true delivery dates and the message sent have pointed out unanticipated shortfalls in planning, or simple misunderstandings on our part. Our assessments have identified that success was not achieved in some cases as a result of limited resources on the part of the College. And finally, on occasion, we have appreciated that the goals set were not realistic, despite all the efforts made.
Admissions and Financial Aid recently partnered with the Office of Planning and Institutional Research to assess the effectiveness of its communication channels for prospective students and to better understand how and when prospective applicants contact the College. Recent changes made as a result may be found here.
There have also been a number of ad hoc studies that examined the appropriateness and predictive value of some calculated admission variables.
The Athletics division is subject to NCAA regulations and certification and has, in fact, just successfully completed the recertification process. Changes made as a result of the self-study that was part of that process may be found here.
The Athletics Department also surveys faculty and conducts senior exit interviews with all senior athletes at the end of each semester. Some changes have been made to the athletic program as a result.
Business and Finance:
The Vice President for College Relations also serves on the campus Facilities Planning Committee which ensures that the Office of College Relations has appropriate planning time to prepare for capital projects that will require raised funds.Several departments in College Relations have partnered with the Office of Planning and Institutional Research for projects using the extensive data collection procedures College Relations has developed. The most recent project was an assessment of the Annual Fund giving patterns, with a goal of better communicating with the College’s donors. A survey of Davidson Journal readers is in the planning stages and a review of potential alumni surveys has begun in an effort to add to data already collected by the Office of Career Services (in Student Affairs).
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