Overview of Institutional Effectiveness
Welcome to the Office of Institutional Performance and Assessment at Florida State University!
We are dedicated to supporting the University community in our continuous improvement efforts. Our goal is to facilitate systematic, comprehensive, and data-based planning and evaluation processes focused on enhancing institutional quality and effectiveness. We believe that meaningful collaboration and genuine commitment is at the heart of our University’s excellence!
What is Institutional Effectiveness?
Institutional Effectiveness (IE) is a cyclical planning, implementation and assessment process that allows us to evaluate whether our practices are meeting our goals. The process reinforces instructional and administrative quality and effectiveness through a systematic review of performance against FSU’s mission.
It is important to understand that we already, on a regular basis and mostly informally, evaluate and enhance how well our departments and offices provide direct and indirect support to students and faculty. Structured, formal assessment allows us to be more organized and intentional in documenting and telling the story of the valuable work we do.
Why do we evaluate Institutional Effectiveness?
The IE process is a key way to measure how well we are meeting important program goals. The main reason for IE assessment is to self-evaluate and improve services for the benefit of faculty, staff, and students. Assessment helps quantify the daily work that is put into advancing the educational mission of FSU. Assessment helps us know, for a fact, that our university services help students learn and develop as individuals and prepare them for a successful post-graduation launch. Assessment also informs us of where we are already excelling and where we need to focus next.
As a by-product and a consequence of our assessment and quality enhancement work, we also meet important expectations that various state, regional and national organizations have for FSU as an institution of higher learning. Over the last few decades, accountability for public funds has increased and expectations became more output-focused. In the state of Florida, the Board of Governors determines funding based on how well each public university meets specific student success benchmarks. IE assessment strengthens our position in demonstrating the products of our efforts to the public and campus community.
Furthermore, by engaging in the systematic, explicit and documented assessment of IE, the university meets several accreditation requirements. In the United States, regional accrediting organizations are charged with the oversight of universities’ quality and effectiveness. Federal funds, such as research grants and student financial aid, are tied to accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states, which includes FSU. SACSCOC’s accreditation standards require evidence that the university engages in genuine, systematic and ongoing reflective evaluation practices and uses the results of these assessments to enhance instructional and student support services. FSU will seek its next reaffirmation of accreditation in 2024.
“Student outcomes – both within the classroom and outside of the classroom – are the heart of the higher education experience. Effective institutions focus on the design and improvement of educational experiences to enhance student learning and support appropriate student outcomes for its educational programs and related academic and student services that support student success. To meet the goals of educational programs, an institution is always asking itself whether it has met those goals and how it can become even better” (SACSCOC Resource Manual, pages 66-67).
How do we assess Institutional Effectiveness?
IE is typically assessed at the level of individual academic, academic and student support services (A&SSS), and administrative units, which are defined as the basic units of organizational hierarchy, usually with a director as the head of the unit/office and an assessment coordinator leading the process for academic programs. A full list of units can be viewed in the IE Assessment Status Report visualization and under the Org Tree tab.
All university units define and set annual performance goals that are measured and evaluated to determine how well they performed in a given year. These goals are referred to as Program Outcomes (POs) and are the broader goals of the unit. They may either directly align with, or indirectly support, FSU Strategic Plan implementation, state funding metrics, strategic/operational plans of the unit or its division, and/or the unit’s mission, vision and values statements.
Academic units develop Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) in addition to POs that specify knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that students will attain throughout their studies in a program or in a specific course. Assessment methods and desired levels of student competencies are established in accordance with discipline-specific expectations and levels that are appropriate for post-graduation success. If appropriate, SLOs can be written to conform to the requirements of discipline-specific accrediting agency.
What is the appropriate number of Program and Student Learning Outcomes?
Administrative units are required to formulate at least 2 POs. Academic and student support services units are also required to formulate at least 2 POs. There is no expectation for these types of campus units to formulate any SLOs.
Each academic program is required to formulate at least 1 PO and at least 2 SLOs for all degree levels, except Bachelor’s. Due to increased accountability for undergraduate educational outcomes, Bachelor’s-level programs are requested to articulate at least 5 SLOs, 3 of which must be assessed in 3000-4000-level courses and focus on 3 different categories from the following list: content/discipline knowledge and skills, communication skills, critical thinking skills.
Who governs Institutional Effectiveness?
The Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs is responsible for the overall coordination of the university IE assessment processes. The Office of Institutional Performance and Assessment (IPA) within the Office of the Provost provides oversight, quality maintenance, training, and assistance to all reporting units during all stages of their IE assessment cycle. The final review and approval of IE assessment reports is the responsibility of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs or authorized designee(s).
At the level of individual units, the IE assessment process is a shared responsibility between the division’s senior leadership, department heads/directors, unit assessment coordinators, IE representatives, and staff members. As such, they are all involved in an annual workflow that assures that defined outcomes are appropriately designed, measured, analyzed, improved and reported in timely fashion. Each unit creates an assessment governance structure most suitable to its size and function.
Typically, for each A&SSS and administrative unit there is one assessment coordinator who leads and manages the assessment process and implementation of improvements. This individual can also function as the unit’s IE representative, who is responsible for documenting the unit’s IE assessment in the university IE portal housed in the Nuventive platform. In units with few employees, the head/director of the office can assume all three roles: function as the unit’s assessment coordinator, IE representative and the unit’s head/director who approves final IE assessment narrative. Regardless of the unit’s size, it is expected that all employees of the unit understand, provide input for, agree with, and participate in the IE assessment and improvement process.
Typically, each academic program designates one or two faculty members as assessment coordinators who lead and manage the assessment process and implementation of improvements at the level of their academic program. Prior to or shortly after academic program assessment coordinators submit the description of the IE assessment components into the IE portal, department chairs or designees review and approve the submissions. The final review and approval should be conducted by the dean of the college or authorized designee. Suggested rubrics for evaluating the IE submissions are developed and distributed by the IPA Office on its website.
When do we assess Institutional Effectiveness?
While the process of improvement is always continuous and ongoing, we only formally evaluate attainment of Outcomes once a year, at the end of each unit’s IE cycle. Each campus unit determines the best start and end dates for their IE timeline. Generally, most units operate on fiscal or academic year timelines. Fiscal years at FSU start on July 1 and end on June 31. Common academic year cycle timeframes are: 1) Fall and Spring semesters, 2) Fall, Spring, Summer semesters, 3) Summer C, Fall, Spring, Summer A & B semesters.
The recommended calendar for engaging in and completing various components of the IE assessment cycle is provided by IPA. The timeline for submission of Outcomes prior year results and next year plans is aligned with yearly cycles of different campus units. For A&SSS units, the IE assessment reporting calendar begins in July and ends in September. For administrative units the process begins in September and ends in December. Generally, academic degree/certificate programs begin reporting in August and end in October, however, many colleges have custom timelines. All campus units are allowed and encouraged to complete their IE assessment documentation before the specified deadlines.
Completing IE assessment components in the recommended order and by the recommended due dates best positions the university to engage in meaningful evaluation and enhancement of academic and student support services. IPA advises to adhere to the following timeline:
- COLLECT SPRING DATA
Academic programs (by first Friday in May) should gather necessary student learning information/data from Spring.
- STUDY RESULTS
Every A&SSS (by the second Friday in July), administrative (by second Friday in September) and academic (by second Friday in August) unit should collect information/data from the previous academic/fiscal year and assess the levels at which the Outcomes were achieved. Results should be analyzed and discussed with appropriate parties within and outside the department/office. Based on the analysis of results, every unit should formulate plans to make enhancements to operations, services, or other aspects of the unit.
- FORMULATE PLANS
Every A&SSS (by third Friday in July), administrative (by third Friday in September), and academic (by third Friday in August) unit should decide which current Outcomes will be continued into the next academic/fiscal year and which current Outcomes will be sunset. If new Outcomes are selected, their assessment methodology should be designed and their goals/benchmarks should be chosen.
- DOCUMENT RESULTS AND PLANS
All A&SSS (by fourth Friday in July), administrative (by fourth Friday in September), and academic (by fourth Friday in August) units should report previous year’s results, analysis of results, and improvement plans in the IE portal housed in the Nuventive platform. Respective Outcomes should be ‘continued’ into the next year and/or new Outcomes with their assessment processes and goals/benchmarks should be added. The unit may use the IE assessment reporting templates to expedite the documentation process.
- PROVIDE FEEDBACK
For A&SSS (by second Friday in August) and administrative (by second Friday in October) IPA staff and/or the division’s IE representative should provide feedback to each unit regarding the quality of the submitted IE assessment narratives. For academic programs (by second Friday in September) the unit’s Chair (or designee) should review Outcomes Results and Plans. Each unit will either receive a written confirmation that their report meets the standards or will receive a written request for revisions. IE assessment reports submitted late may receive feedback with delay.
- REVISE RESULTS AND/OR PLANS
A&SSS (by fourth Friday in August), administrative (by fourth Friday in October), and academic (by fourth Friday in September) units asked to improve their IE assessment narratives should revise and resubmit all or parts of their reports. Shortly after, the unit will receive a written confirmation that their revised report meets the standards. It is very rare to receive a second request for revisions from IPA and/or division/department IE representative.
- DIRECTOR/CHAIR-LEVEL REVIEW AND APPROVAL
For A&SSS (by second Friday in September), administrative (by second Friday in November), and academic (by second Friday in October) unit’s the director/chair (or designee) should review the final IE assessment report and certify in writing that the report accurately represents results and plans for the department/office Outcomes. Early and continual involvement of the unit’s director/chair in the IE assessment process ensures that there will be no or minimal amount of revisions requested at this stage of the reporting cycle.
- DIVISION VP/DEAN-LEVEL REVIEW AND APPROVAL
For A&SSS (by fourth Friday in September), administrative (by first Friday in December), academic (by fourth Friday in October) units, IE assessment reports should be reviewed by the division VP/college Dean or designated representative(s). If no revisions are requested, the submission should be approved and the fact of its review and approval should be communicated in writing to the Provost-level representative and/or Office of IPA.
- COLLECT (SUMMER/) FALL DATA
By the fourth Friday in January, A&SSS and administrative units can optionally gather information/data from the first half of the fiscal/academic year. Academic programs should collect information from Fall (and Summer session(s) if applicable).
Which national, regional, and state entities are Institutional Effectiveness stakeholders?
We provide information about SLOs and POs to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. SACSCOC accreditation is required to maintain eligibility for federal funding, including student financial aid and research grants.
Per Regulation 8.016, Florida Board of Governors (BOG) requires all institutions in the State University System of Florida to establish a process for certifying that each baccalaureate graduate has completed a program with clearly articulated expected core student learning outcomes. These outcomes constitute state-mandated Academic Learning Compacts (ALCs).
Many national discipline-specific accrediting bodies also require FSU academic programs to document and achieve a range of student educational outcomes and to provide evidence of efforts toward continuous improvement.