For my Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education course we read an article, or maybe it’s a chapter from a book, on accreditation (The Assessment Context: Accreditation, Accountability, and Performance. By J. Fredericks Volkwein). This sparked a discussion on trends shaping accreditation, specifically placing “student outcomes assessment at the center of the accreditation review” (p. 8).
Here are my thoughts, as I posted on our online discussion board.
I found this trend hopeful and myself wishing were more prominent. As one of the other students in my class said was required of her degree, I think it’s beneficial to require students to take a comprehensive exam in order to graduate. Unfortunately, many programs do not require this. The article mentions that accrediting bodies are pushing institutions to “strengthen the evidence of student learning…” (p. 8) which was cited from back in 2005. Seven years have passed since then, and I think we’re still falling short of holding institutions accountable for this. Too often, and I don’t have any research to cite this on, I feel students are awarded bachelor’s degrees without having fully earned this, without the skills and knowledge necessary to obtain or successfully complete a job. Personally I think this falls significantly back on another portion of the article: emphasis on “academic achievements and graduation rates” (p. 7). The article seems to focus on the positive and optimistic side of this approach, suggesting that this will drive institutions to select higher quality faculty and students. I think this has a negative effect as well, though. The idea that grades and graduation rates are an accurate measure of success can, and often does, drive faculty and institutions to issue grades and degrees to unworthy students. Consequently, the reputations of those institutions and programs diminishes because of the students they produce.
My question is, if student outcomes assessment is at the center of accreditation reviews, why are so many students ‘earning’ a bachelors’ degrees then complaining they weren’t properly prepared for the ‘real world,’ or bragging that they were able to graduate and pass without ever studying, purchasing a text book, or that college was a breeze? Do they not have the knowledge or skills necessary, or are they simply upset they are unable to find their dream jobs?
*Note: Many of my opinions above are just that, my opinions. Thus, they are primarily based upon personal observations and not formal research studies.