Case Study

“Universitizing” Assessment Across Programs in Multiple Locations

A.T. Still University is a graduate health sciences university founded in 1892 as the first osteopathic medical school in the world. It has grown to two medical schools, a dental school, and masters and doctoral programs in audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, athletic training, physician assistant studies, public health and 13 other health science programs. These diverse programs are encompassed within residential campuses in two states (Missouri and Arizona) as well as multiple online programs. A. T. Still University is consistently rated as one of the top innovative health science universities in the U.S. and is fully accredited as a university and in discipline-specific programs.

A Case Study by Dr. David A. Wayne, Special Assistant to the Senior VP Academic Affairs & Chair Curriculum Committee, A.T. Still University

The Challenge

Diverse programs and residential campuses in two locations results in vast silos of information.

The university’s diverse programs, together with having residential campuses in two locations, plus multiple online programs, led to the natural creation of vast silos of information. Two years ago, during its successful accreditation visit from North Central’s Higher Learning Commission, it was recommended that we examine ways to more fully integrate our operations and our data.

We took two approaches. The first was to establish specific skills for all of our graduates. We called these “transferable skills” which, in addition to the usual profession-specific education, we wanted all students to develop:

  • Critical thinking
  • Positive interpersonal skills
  • Cultural competency
  • Self-assessment capabilities
  • Leadership theory and application
  • Ethical and legal understanding
  • Interprofessional/team focus
  • Personal and professional wellbeing

We could not find a graduate university that tried to include these diverse transferable skills and were unsure how to analyze data to see if we were being successful. While our overarching goal was for students to have the ability to practice whole person healthcare, how could we measure such broad concepts?

The Solution

There was the opportunity to map course data both subjectively and objectively across online and residential programs in two locations.

Tk20 was determined to be a viable comprehensive program for ATSU because it offered us the opportunity to map data both subjectively (yes, we think we have this or that skill as part of “x” courses), and objectively (providing specific measures on objectives, content and evaluation) for each skill.

While this course mapping was taking place, the University and its Board of Trustees created a new strategic plan. Upon completion, each school, college, and service department started to create its own plans so as to align with that of the university. With this much information to warehouse, along with the professional accrediting bodies differing standards, we recognized the huge task it would be to analyze the data, let alone formulate next steps for each unit.

The Win

For purposes of accreditation, and for our own growth, we were able to analyze where we were aligned, have been successful, and have gaps.

Tk20 affords ATSU an opportunity to use both top-down and bottom-up analysis. For purposes of accreditation, and for our own growth, we are able to analyze where we are aligned, where we are successful and where we have gaps. This enables us to become more cohesive as a university (“universitizing”). It helps ATSU administrators actively use assessment by moving it off the shelf, analyzing it, and working with the results to transform decision-making at every level of the curriculum. It has shown us system issues of which we were unaware. For example, course numbering was not consistent, precluding us from entering and analyzing data consistently. We also found multiple starting and finishing dates for programs so, in trying to make comparisons of content data, we did not have any alignment.

We continue to move forward in our implementation of Tk20 with our goal to “universitize.” We have begun to utilize components within Tk20 including the survey and course evaluation capabilities with the goal of fewer survey instruments used throughout the Schools in the future. In addition, we are closely considering other components,including the field experience and portfolio aspects of Tk20. The ability to map these processes within Tk20 to the clinical settings for our graduate students would provide further support for the transferable model ATSU created.

The continuous assistance, cooperation, and patience Tk20 has provided to us, along with their responsiveness, has been targeted and most effective. ATSU looks forward to further implementation and application of Tk20 within the University and the continuation a highly successful partnership.