Blog: Idea Exchange

Advancing Assessment at California Baptist University, Part 4: Fostering a Culture of Change

Kathryn Norwood & Dirk Davis August 10, 2017

Welcome back for the final installment of this four-part series that explores the journey of adopting new technology for the collection of assessment data on student achievement in the Division of Online and Professional Studies (OPS) at California Baptist University (CBU).

In Part 1 on automating assessment, we examined our initial steps of 1) Developing a sense of urgency around the need for change and 2) Forming a powerful coalition along the way. In Part 2 on envisioning change, we walked through our next steps of 3) Creating a vision for change and 4) Communicating the newly-formed vision. In Part 3 on paving the way for change, we took an excursion through the steps of 5) Removing obstacles and 6) Creating short-term wins.

We’ll complete our journey now in Part 4 on fostering a culture of change with steps 7) Building on change and 8) Anchoring changes in the culture.

Step 7: Building the Change

“We always begin with the end in mind.” Those were our first words in this four-part series as we reflected on how to tell our story regarding the change process of automating assessment at a private liberal arts university. We believed, and had been told by other universities and vendors for assessment management, that we were ahead of the curve on faculty involvement in assessing student learning outcomes in each of our 38 degree programs.

From the beginning days of the OPS at CBU, we recognized the importance of building on change. As we observed an increased desire for programs offering degree completion at a non-traditional students’ own pace, OPS continued to build and assess additional programs. Several questions drive us every time we analyze taking on a new project for improving our status quo: Is this project in the best interest of students? Is this project sustainable with growing student, faculty, and degree program numbers?

After an affirmative answer to the above questions and an adoption of a new project, we ask two additional questions: What worked well? What could we do differently for future iterations? After our first session using Taskstream, when we discovered that a student submission of the final critical assignment required a degree program selection by the student, and multiple columns were added to the grading learning management system, we knew that we had to change something quickly.

Taskstream allows the institution to group either courses or programs in the creation of direct response folios. Hurray for flexibility! We restructured the Direct Response Folio’s (DRF’s) very quickly and have the new ones in place immediately before the next session started. Lesson learned? Be flexible to change by seeking continuous improvement.

Adding general education course rubrics into Taskstream was an original goal of ours set for a future date. After noting all that went well using Taskstream in the fall of 2016, we moved the target date forward, added the rubrics, and data was collected for nearly every general education course OPS offered in the spring semester of 2017. We recognized success and continued the momentum of building on the change of automating assessment.

Bringing in new change agents is also critical when fostering a culture of change within the organization. We did this by meeting one-on-one with potential new discipline leads whose role includes serving as assessment coordinators for a degree program. The value-added dimensions of using Taskstream to collect data, for the purpose of assessing what works well and what needs to be changed within a degree program or course, were thoroughly explained in order for the prospective discipline leads to comprehend the significance of the role.

Step 8: Anchoring Changes in the Culture

As September 2017 approaches and brings with it the start of fall classes for colleges and universities nationwide, it also brings the end of the first and beginning of the second year for OPS adopting new technology to automate assessment data for student achievement by using Taskstream.

Now, the sixth week of every eight-week session is marked on Kathryn’s calendar as ‘Taskstream email to all faculty.’ This email, containing Taskstream instructional manuals and embedded how-to videos for students and faculty, is as much a part of our culture as the regularly scheduled email from the registrar indicating when electronic grades are due. We choose to anchor changes proactive in our culture by promoting progress at every opportunity.

All faculty recently hired for the 2017-2018 academic year have already been vetted in the automated assessment process for OPS students and faculty. We accomplished this by beginning the vetting process early, while candidates were in the interview process. Moving forward, the vetting process will also include one-on-one meetings with all academic administrators to discuss individual roles and responsibilities of automating assessment.

As another proactive measure for anchoring change, our specialization deans – assessment, student development, faculty, and course development – meet weekly to cross-train roles and responsibilities and to report challenges, successes, and new developments. This practice prepares the team in the event of a change in key personnel and prevents a specific body of knowledge from being held by only one member of the team.

Every course instructor in the Division of Online and Professional Studies at California Baptist University is considered a key change initiator, as they are responsible for disseminating content expertise to students and then grading critical assignments using Taskstream to assessing student achievement. Ongoing encouragement and recognition occurs through faculty meetings, emails, training sessions, phone calls, and assessment meetings to ensure every individual understands that assessment is a team effort.

The degree to which students perform on measurable outcomes – for each program, the course, the institution, and our regional and specialized accrediting bodies – is the responsibility of every member on the university team. This is the culture of change we choose to foster in a variety of ways at all times.

Thank you for joining us to learn about our adventures through the change process in adopting Taskstream for automating the collection of assessment data on student achievement. It has been a pleasure sharing both our accomplishments and our missteps during the journey. We hope our story has inspired and enlightened you, and we wish you the best in your endeavors as you seek to make student learning the center of all things academic.

About California Baptist University

California Baptist University (CBU) is a private, faith-based, liberal arts university located in Southern California with a current enrollment of approximately 9,157 students. The Division of Online and Professional Studies (OPS) began in 2010 to service non-traditional students seeking a distance learning environment. Initially, offering eight programs to approximately 500 students, OPS has since grown to offering 37 programs that serve approximately 4,000 students each semester.

About the Authors

The authors have an extensive background in K-22 education. Both have served as K-12 public educators, full-time faculty in higher education, and have held administration positions that include student development, faculty development, assessment, and academic leadership at various levels. Dr. Kathryn Norwood currently serves as the Dean of Assessment and Accreditation for the Division of Online and Professional Studies at California Baptist University. Dr. Dirk Davis currently serves as the Associate Vice-President of Academics for the Division of Online and Professional Studies at California Baptist University.