Portfolios: Not Just for Students
Chadron State College, founded as the Nebraska Normal School in 1911, is located on the Great Plains in Chadron, Nebraska. Its official service area includes the westernmost 30 counties in Nebraska, an expanse of nearly 38,000 square miles stretching from the Wyoming and Colorado borders on the west to central Nebraska on the east. In 1964, the institution’s name was changed to Chadron State College (CSC). With 87 full time faculty members, the total college enrollment for 2012 was 2,361 undergraduates and 644 graduates, representing 30 countries including the United States. CSC is a member of the Nebraska State College System.
A Case Study by Joy Omelanuk, Project Coordinator, School of Liberal Arts and James Bahensky, Graduate Assistant, Assessment & Accreditation, Chadron State College
PROVIDE EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF EFFECTIVE, HIGH-QUALITY EDUCATION
Throughout higher education, students are continually assessed to determine their level of learning and the effectiveness of programs; furthermore, institutions are becoming increasingly aware of the need to provide evidence that faculty members are regularly evaluated and are remaining current in their disciplines. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association specifically addresses these concerns in terms of quality, resources, and support for teaching and learning (Criteria for Accreditation, 2013). Locally, the State Colleges Education Association through an agreement with the college requires each faculty member to be evaluated by their supervising Dean annually. The evaluations are often useful in reappointment, promotion, and tenure decisions (Performance Evaluation, 2013).
In an effort to satisfy these needs, CSC implemented Professional Activity Reports (PARs) to conduct annual evaluations, encourage professional development, support research and service, and foster continuous improvement through self-reflection.
DEVELOPING THE PROCESS
Prior to adopting Tk20 CampusWide™, CSC conducted annual evaluations through a combination of software platforms including word processing, email, and the college’s learning management system. Although the process achieved its main objective of faculty evaluation, it was “cumbersome” and “inefficient”. Faculty, administrators, and support staff struggled to maintain all of the information in a single, secure location that was easily accessible for the parties involved.
As the campus community reviewed the current process, several questions surfaced. Is this the best use of our time? What are we gaining from all of our hard work? Are we meeting all of our goals? Where do members of the faculty need support? Is there a better way?
Thankfully, there is a better way to do things! While it may not be the perfect way, we may have found the next best thing. In order to facilitate the evaluation of faculty, continue to meet external requirements, and direct the allocation of resources, a pilot project using Tk20 Portfolios was approved by the administration during the 2012-2013 academic year.
The original self-evaluation template was redesigned using Tk20 Form Builder functionalities capable of providing both qualitative and quantitative data. Using text boxes, radio buttons, checkboxes, and table tools, faculty were able to report completion of their goals, describe how they accomplished what they set out to do, and provide a record of their campus engagement in an easy-to-use fillable form. To make the transition as smooth as possible, step-by-step instructions including screenshots were developed using a combination of Tk20 and CSC generated material, a workshop was held, and one-on-one support was provided by the project coordinator and graduate assistant responsible for Tk20.
Those participating in the pilot included seven new members of the faculty, six experienced faculty from various disciplines, each of the three Deans, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the college President. A predetermined assessment sequence created in Tk20 allowed the PAR to move seamlessly from faculty to each assessor thus eliminating the need for emails along the way. Faculty met with their Deans during the process for discussion, feedback and to determine their goals for the upcoming year.
There were some noted issues to be reviewed before implementing a migration of all PARs to Tk20: a copy of the PAR and evaluation must be printed, signed, and included in the faculty member’s personnel file; instructions require modifications to add missing explanations and clarity, especially for revision and resubmission in Tk20; and an additional artifact will need to be developed for Department Chairs.
OPENING THE DOOR TO COLLEGE-WIDE ASSESSMENT
So, is there a better way? Yes! Not only have we reduced the number of software platforms required to complete a single task, but we can now effectively compile all evaluations into a single location. Administrators are now able to use the reporting capabilities to identify tools faculty are using to shape pedagogy, and how resources should be distributed to best facilitate teaching and learning.
With all that we have learned over the past year through the PAR pilot, the most beneficial may be that we have effectively increased the visibility of Tk20 among faculty. Recognizing that Tk20 may be a useful tool in managing workload and increasing effective decision making, faculty have reached out to integrate their additional assessment needs. A similar pilot project will be introduced this fall, spearheaded by faculty, to organize and assess those eligible for promotion and tenure. Although implementation continues to be a work in progress, we have taken great strides in exceeding our own expectations at CSC while continuing to meet those of external reviewers.