Faculty and Chair Perceptions and Ratings about System-Wide Assessments in the Higher Colleges of Technology

Faculty and Chair Perceptions and Ratings about System-Wide Assessments in the Higher Colleges of Technology

Matthew A. Robby (Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4615-5.ch004
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This chapter examines use of System-Wide Assessments (SWAs) in the Higher Colleges of Technology of the United Arab Emirates. These end-of-course assessments were designed to ensure consistency of standards, to measure student learning outcomes, and to improve the quality and effectiveness of instruction, courses, and programs. The author reviews literature highlighting the importance of outcome assessments, the relevant issues and trends in higher education, the challenges with implementation, and the type of support necessary for enhancing best practices. The chapter primarily describes the design and use of SWAs among the 17 Federal Colleges. It summarizes 2013 survey findings from 232 randomly selected respondents about the level of satisfaction and agreement among faculty and academic chairs about the purpose, process, value, and impact of SWAs. Findings identify what is perceived to be working well including the challenges and issues to promote continuous improvement in SWAs. From experiences and research findings, recommendations are offered for applying best practices and enhancing the effectiveness of assessments in higher education.
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There has been an increased focus in the last decade on using assessments to measure learning outcomes in higher education. This has been influenced by a number of factors. Meyer and Bushney (2008) suggested the assessment of learning outcomes has arisen because of the perceived failures historically in properly evaluating higher education systems and programs. Derlin et al. (1996), Kenyon and Barnes (2007), and Kuhn and Ikenberry (2009) indicated that government authorities, educational agencies, regional accreditation associations, the public, and reformers have placed greater demands on colleges and universities for demonstrating objective evidence of student learning outcomes. Dinur and Sherman (2009) reported that “Outcome Assessment (OA) has emerged as the systemic mechanism for academic institutions to demonstrate to their stakeholders their viability as institutions that create and disseminate knowledge” (p. 291). Research by Harman and McDowell (2011), Hounsell and Anderson (2005), and Reimann (2009) confirmed that institutions of higher education are under increased pressure from all segments of society for demonstrating transparency of reporting and the sharing of what is working in terms of how well students are learning in courses and programs.

According to the United States Department of Education (2006), the U.S. Commission on Higher Education’s report emphasized for regional accreditation agencies to use assessment to promote performance outcomes over inputs and processes, to improve teaching and learning, and to determine “value added” for students. Sources of accountability in education, according to Burn and Gabriellem (2000), Lincoln (1990), and Poliment and Iorgulescu (2009), now demand proof of student learning in courses, effective academic programs, and educational quality. Lucas and Weber (1998) attributed the increased demand for assessment of learning outcomes to trying to address the perceptions of lowered expectations and grading standards. In fact, the increase in student grade point averages from grade inflation has driven the need for objective end of course assessments, as reported by Bond (2009), Johnson (2003), and Millet (2010).

The increased focus on accountability and assessment of outcomes has been associated with the concern about continued high college attrition rates and differential educational outcomes based on socio-economic status and factors of race/ethnicity (Kimmel & Marquette, 1998). The call for greater assessment of outcomes in higher education has been an attempt to ameliorate perceived lack of institutional effectiveness and increased probability of negative implications for communities and societies because of increases in under-prepared and uneducated populations, as described by Kuh and Ikenberry (2009), Nusche (2008), and the U.S. Department of Education (2006). This emphasis has been driven by the perceived need for more effective programs and systems (Lincoln, 1990); that is, which better educate students and instill them with knowledge and skills required for careers in the modern economy, as reported by Barton (2006), Iversen and Cusack (2000), and Nusche (2008). Globalization pressures, as described by Kasarda (1993), Kuhn (2005), and Massey and Denton (1993), have been producing technological changes in work requiring specialized and more advanced levels of education for graduates to become competitive, to meet increasing demands of the knowledge economy, and for individuals, communities, and societies to properly leverage these changes for future prosperity.

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