The Middle States Peer Review Team's 2002 report contained suggestions for heightened faculty training and involvement in the assessment process as well as the possible addition of assessment as an additional criteria for the evaluation of faculty work in the faculty union contract. The University has embraced these suggestions in a number of ways.
Extensive faculty training and consciousness-raising has occurred at RMU in regard to outcomes assessment. Two well-known speakers, Dr. Richard Light of Harvard University and Ms. Linda Suskie of MSCHE, addressed the faculty at two different semi-annual faculty convocation days during the past four years on assessment and on the improvement of student learning outcomes.
Several academic schools now have their own internal outcomes assessment committees that decide upon appropriate learning outcomes, select or design measurement instruments, evaluate findings and implement improvements based upon them. These efforts involve a significant number of faculty in these schools. At least four schools have gotten their faculties involved via their pursuit of specialty accreditations (AACSB, ABET-EAC, CCNE and TEAC). These accreditations have stringent and explicit outcomes assessment requirements and the faculty has made a concerted effort to formulate appropriate learning outcomes and to coordinate the assessment measures and procedures necessary to satisfy the accreditation requirements.
One of the greatest inducements for faculty to join the assessment effort was a recent change made to RMU's labor agreement with its faculty union regarding course-level outcomes assessment. Faculty members who use direct measures of student learning, and who follow the process for documenting their findings and any improvements made on the basis of such, can use these reports to support their case for the teaching effectiveness performance required for merit increases and for promotion in academic rank. This has proven very popular with the faculty and there are a significant number of participants in this process, which addresses one of the suggestions made by the 2002 peer reviewers.
One of the faculty members who negotiated the contractual change that codified course-level outcomes assessment into the contract presented the rationale and mechanics of the new process at the January, 2006 Faculty Convocation. This presentation was very helpful to the faculty in regard to training them in specific tools for course-level assessment as well as reinforcing the general importance of outcomes assessment as a means for improving student learning outcomes.
The aforementioned training, school-level planning, pursuit of specialty accreditations and contractual inducements have done much to increase the percentage of faculty who have routine interaction with the outcomes assessment initiative at RMU.