Case Study

Overcoming Faculty Resistance on the Path to Program Improvements

Indiana State University’s Bayh College of Education includes four academic departments, two service departments, and eight centers. With 57 full time faculty members, the total college enrollment for 2011 was 683 undergraduates and 682 graduates. The total campus undergraduate teacher preparation program enrollment in 2011 was 1,300. 184 teaching undergraduate degrees were completed in 2010-2011 and 211 graduate degrees were completed.

A Case Study by:

Denise Collins, Associate Dean, Bayh College of Education
Steve Gruenert, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Educational Leadership; Chair, Unit Assessment Planning Committee, Bayh College of Education
Eric Hampton, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Disorders and Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology Adams Fellow and Director of Assessment, Bayh College of Education

The Challenge

Faculty were resistant in the transition to online college-wide assessment efforts. Those responsible for implementing and overseeing assessment systems are familiar with resistance. Faculty members often view data collection processes as tedious, burdensome, and largely extraneous to their work. Even when they support the goals and outcomes of assessment, faculty members may resist the changes inherent in establishing a data management system like Tk20’s HigherEd. At Indiana State University (ISU), we encountered such resistance. Because the data management system that was originally used was fairly complex and did not adequately serve our needs, the presentation of data was overshadowed by faculty members’ discontent with the technology, thus providing an excuse not to buy-in to the concept of using technology to complement our assessment efforts; it was also an excuse not to engage in assessment conversations. Due to the strong resistance, there was a need to make assessment more relevant by ensuring that processes were more user-friendly.

The Solution

Assessment Day Activities Foster Acceptance Adopting Tk20’s HigherEd as a new, more intuitive system in which to house data, the evolution toward a culture that embraced assessment was underway. Even the staunchest resistors learned from their peers how this new online system can benefit program improvements and improved student learning outcomes. In 2007, Assessment Day in the Bayh College of Education (BCOE) was founded as a forum by which faculty and stakeholders could come together, share data analyses, and determine next steps based on those findings. Its early structure included reports from the subcommittees charged with assessing initial and advanced programs, focusing on presenting statistical analyses of data.

For the last three years, Assessment Day has been structured around our conceptual framework, Becoming a Complete Professional. This framework has three central tenets: (a) educator as expert or mediator of learning, (b) educator as person, and (c) educator as member of communities. Each year we focus on one of these elements, presenting data and organizing discussions based on key issues identified from the findings. Using a triennial cycle allows us to avoid data overload; engage in concrete, focused dialogue; and work toward finding solutions rather than rehashing frustrations. Increased involvement by faculty indicates movement from resistance to acceptance in this new format.

We frame the Assessment Day program with an overview of the data from the Unit Assessment System (UAS). For both initial and advanced programs, the heart of the UAS data collection revolves around assessing dispositions, ability in technology, skills to work with diverse clientele, a work sample, field experiences, and ability demonstrated during student teaching. These six major UAS foci are assessed using Tk20. In the case of dispositions, diversity skills, and technology, assessment is made by course instructors and field supervisors using Tk20 observations. For the student work sample, assessment is made by course instructors utilizing Tk20 coursework assessments. Finally, for assessment of professional field experiences and student teaching, assessment is made by field supervisors utilizing Tk20 fieldwork assessments.

Following presentation of data analyses, the Assessment Day schedule continues with breakout sessions that address key findings, vexing problems, or innovative solutions. Members of the Unit Assessment Planning Committee (UAPC), which is a merger of the initial and advanced program assessment subcommittees, facilitate the sessions and bring findings back to the UAPC for action throughout the year. The day includes a working lunch and, in some years, a keynote speaker. The final session provides an opportunity for participants to share important points raised in the breakout sessions and reflect on ways to use the day’s information for program improvement.

The Win

We  saw progress on the path from resistance to acceptance and integration. From the early days when technology was seen as the enemy to the current integration of Tk20 as a tool that facilitates our assessment and accreditation efforts, we have experienced a culture shift in the BCOE. Assessment Day has become an energizing celebration where we acknowledge the good work that has been done and the improvements required for further growth. Although our path from resistance to acceptance to integration is not yet fully realized, we are making good strides forward to embodying a true culture of assessment.