CURRENT STUDENTS | FUTURE STUDENTS | FACULTY/STAFF | A-Z
|AQIP Systems Portfolio 2009|
CATEGORY 1: HELPING STUDENTS LEARN
Western New Mexico University seeks to develop each student as a whole person capable of contributing to society and appreciating its diversity. This common learning objective is supported in everyday operations within the University, from the classroom to the workplace.
Academic objectives for learning are built upon the University’s General Education program. The WNMU Catalog identifies general education and discipline-specific objectives for each certificate, undergraduate, and graduate degree program delivered by WNMU, but the goals for student learning and development are consistent across the curriculum:
Based on these goals, the following objectives are incorporated into the General Education Program, with emphasis placed on integrating an appreciation of cultural diversity throughout the curriculum:
a. Critical thinking
c. Communications (written, oral, visual)
d. Multi-cultural perspectives
e. Social responsibility & cooperation
f. Literacy of all types (reading, numbers, consumerism, technology)
g. Intellectual curiosity & wonder (continued learning)
h. Environmental responsibility
There are five General Education program areas (communications; mathematics; laboratory science; social and behavioral sciences; and humanities and fine arts), each with core competencies, that support all the baccalaureate degrees: this 35-credit-hour program is mandated by the New Mexico Higher Education Department (HED).
For the non-degree, continuing education, and recreational students, individual learning objectives dominate. While individual course offerings provide student learning objectives within the syllabus, these may or may not reflect the goals of life-long learners or those who are still in the process of defining their learning objectives. The overall learning objective for the pre-college students in the Community Education and Technology Programs is growth in self-esteem and human potential that comes with achievement of a GED or job ready skills through the Welfare to Work program.
Student learning does not end in the classroom, and a recent AQIP Action Project Team, Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SOTL), examined in part how student employees value their work experience at the University. Feedback gathered over two years revealed that, while our students were generally satisfied with all aspects of their jobs, there was a lack of consistency in training and expectations from one campus office to the next. Team research into department-level student training yielded two findings: first, the Library and Maintenance Office have the most comprehensive and up-to-date student training manuals; and second, that an institutional student training manual does exist, but it is very out-dated. Team findings and recommendations are presented in the SOTL final report.
Accreditation agencies for programs such as education, social work, business administration, nursing (ADN and BSN), occupational therapy, early childhood, economic development, and the Law Enforcement Academy also specify certain competencies that students are expected to achieve. For example, the School of Education curriculum must prepare future teachers for rigorous state licensure testing and teaching field endorsement completion. These discipline-specific accreditation requirements are addressed through program reviews conducted by faculty within the department. Changes to all undergraduate courses and programs require approval by the faculty Curriculum and Instruction Committee (C&I). New Graduate courses and programs require approval by the Faculty Graduate Council, and new programs must also be approved by HED.
In addition, technical programs specify skills essential for certification purposes. Curricula for certificate programs offered in the School of Applied Technology, such as construction, electrical, and welding, are industry-driven through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Curriculum. This organization publishes its own textbooks, releasing new editions as industry changes dictate.
New program development at WNMU is driven by demand, availability of resources, and competition in the state and in the region. WNMU’s decentralized decision-making structure increases its ability to respond to changing environments and to support more rapid responses to new initiatives. Faculty and staff are central to developing innovative ways to deliver courses and programs, and to designing other new educational initiatives.
To determine long-term market trends and environmental factors affecting education, the leadership and the faculty use information, studies, reports and publications from HED, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), Council of University Presidents (CUP), Renaissance Group (RG), HLC, Educause, discipline specific organizations, briefings at professional meetings, New Mexico Public Education Department (PED), New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other studies prepared locally. New programs follow the same procedures as new courses; however, final approval for new programs requires approval of the BOR. The process for developing new programs at WNMU is outlined in the Board of Regents Manual, Chapter VII.1 (pp. 98 – 100).
New courses also generally originate from the department where they will reside. The faculty prepares a New Course Proposal Form (graduate or undergraduate, as needed) that is initially approved by the appropriate academic unit. From there the proposal goes to the C&I Committee or the Graduate Council, where it is presented to a university-wide body. If approved, it goes to the P/VPAA for approval and submission to the Registrar for filing and inclusion in the listing of approved courses. This process may take as little time as two months or it may take longer if additional information is needed. To facilitate immediate offerings, faculty may propose a workshop course that may be offered one time without C&I or Graduate Council approval.
Programmatic ideas may begin in the department/unit based on market studies, as a result of receipt of grant funding, or at the urging of the P/VPAA based on market factors. Stakeholder feedback may also initiate investigation into the feasibility of new program development. Title V funding in 2001 was used to create the Student Success Seminar, a three-credit-hour required course for all students entering WNMU and pursuing baccalaureate and some associate degrees.
Market factors drive new program development, as well; increasing demand for online liberal arts programs drove the decision to add a new, fully online Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) program in 2008. Two other graduate programs, the Master of Occupational Therapy (also offered online) and the Master of Social Work (MSW), were approved by HED in 2009 and are in the accreditation process. The Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) is a bridge program designed to work with degrees from other regional colleges and universities. The MSW program was developed based on two years of survey data conducted by students enrolled in the Social Work Program’s Research Project course. The survey tool measured interest and need with respect to a Master’s program, in southwestern New Mexico. Workforce Solutions data on need and anticipated growth were also used, and the MSW course rotation schedule was tailored to meet the needs of the non-traditional, working student. Demand, as well a solid competitive position within the state, prompted the creation of all three graduate programs at WNMU, with delivery methods and scheduling considerations driven by learner needs.
On the baccalaureate level, the Expressive Arts Department worked throughout the 2008-2009 academic year to design an Interdisciplinary Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program. Declining enrollment in traditional fine arts courses, and a growing interest in technology-based design and production classes, prompted the faculty to re-evaluate its department’s mission, vision, goals and objectives. The outcome is a new, integrated program that will introduce traditional fine arts “appreciation” concepts while preparing the student for a variety of careers and future educational options in the arts, digital media, and related fields.
A programmatic design change at the Associate degree level occurred in 2007 as a result of changing student needs and expectations. The School of Applied Technology, answering increasing demand for as-needed, skill-focused vocational training, added certificate programs in computer technology, electrical technology, financial services, and welding technology. Working students, displaced workers, and others wanting “just-in-time” training were not interested in a two-year program that involved the time and expense of fulfilling general education requirements. Certificate programs in Digital Media Communications, Computer Technology, Electrical Technology, Financial Services, and Welding Technology are now available.
The WNMU Catalog provides a list of recommended courses for students preparing for college. Students are placed in the appropriate math, reading, and writing classes using the COMPASS (Computer Adaptive Placement Assessment and Support System) from ACT unless they have completed the appropriate course(s), receive a waiver from the Director of the Academic Support Center according to current catalog criteria, or have a recent ACT sub-score of 21 or better (or the SAT equivalent) in math, reading, or writing. Students placing into developmental course work may request a retake of the COMPASS test or, when available, a departmentally developed placement test. Transcript evaluation occurs at entry for placement of transfer students.
Some academic programs, such as nursing, occupational therapy assistant, and education, may have additional requirements for admission beyond those of the University. In such cases, the academic unit makes its recommendation to the C&I Committee or Graduate Council for approval of the additional requirements. These C&I Committee and Graduate Council recommendations follow the same process as a program or course change. Course proposals include a listing of any required or preferred prerequisites. Students are informed of such prerequisites by advisors, review of the catalog, or through Banner denial of requests for enrollment in a course for which the prerequisite has not been taken.
All students enrolled in an online course have access to the Online Student Resources link on the Blackboard-Vista login page. This links makes available a number of tutorials, practice activities, and basic troubleshooting tips.
Other methods used for determining appropriate placement are personal interviews, outlines of preferred course sequences that build upon knowledge and skills presented in previous classes, competency testing, discipline-specific testing (primarily SOE and Spanish), evaluation of certification examinations, records of advising sessions, and diagnostic exams (primarily English Composition). Faculty members also make recommendations for the best sequence of course work based on their assessments of particular students in current courses.
Faculty/student interactions, course syllabi, program brochures, advisors, WNMU Catalog, Blackboard-Vista, student orientations (institutional and online), placement testing, and the Student Success Seminar serve as primary means of communicating expectations regarding learning. Most information can also be found on the WNMU web site or Mustang Express. For existing students, student clubs and peer interactions are also important means of communication. As students progress in their academic programs, the faculty becomes a central communicator of learning expectations.
Learning objectives are included in course syllabi. Program objectives are increasingly available via the website for accredited programs and those requiring licensure or certification. General education learning objectives, while readily available, are not well understood by students and reflect an area where additional communication efforts are warranted.
The process for communicating with prospective students is well defined by the Office of Student Affairs and, due to the work of various Action Project and WIN teams over the past two years, an increasing number of these processes are electronic. Through admissions, orientation, advising, and registration, a well-structured and defined process occurs for communicating broad-based expectations. More details of these processes are found in Category Six. Informing feeder schools regarding their graduates’ placement scores is a recent initiative designed to communicate expectations at the university.
Academic advising is an integral component of Western New Mexico University. Our web-portal-based advising program received the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Program and Technology Innovation Award in 2005, when the “Advising Space” feature was developed for Mustang Express. Additionally, the P/VPAA offers monthly Advising Training sessions during fall and spring semesters, with a variety of topics covered throughout the academic year. All faculty and staff are invited to Advising Training.
Academic Support Center Advisors assist students in defining academic goals and career planning. They provide guidance with appropriate class scheduling, so students can meet their desired goals. All degree-seeking students are required to see an advisor before pre-registering for classes. The academic progress of a student will determine where advising takes place and who serves as the student's advisor. New freshmen and transfer students will begin their advisement at the Academic Support Center; students who have declared majors are assigned faculty advisors within their disciplines.
Other techniques to help students select programs of study that match their needs, interests, and abilities include the following:
• Administration of tests to identify student strengths and weaknesses or special aptitudes
• Interviewing students
• Mentoring relationships by peer students
• COMPASS and other diagnostic testing for course placements
• Student Success Seminars
• Academic Support Center services
• DISCOVER Program for career and major selection
• Learning styles inventories
• Student grapevine
• Counseling and other interpersonal interactions
• Library and Career Services materials available on different majors or careers
• Introductory courses as part of general education or select majors
• Handbooks and brochures
• Classroom lectures on choosing and preparing for a career
• Work study jobs
With an average student to faculty ratio of 15:1, there are many opportunities for faculty to observe students’ abilities and interests fairly closely.
As an open-enrollment university, WNMU must address the remediation needs of its students. Approximately 40% of the students admitted to the University require developmental reading, writing, and/or mathematics. In its final report of 2008, the Foundations of Excellence® AQIP Action Project Team put forward the recommendation to create two positions to support developmental studies efforts, Coordinator of Writing and Coordinator of Mathematics. These positions were filled with experienced faculty members and both coordinators were available to students during the 2008-09 academic year.
The Student Success Seminar and Early Alert Program were also implemented to close the gap between necessary and actual preparation of our students. Faculty support the tutoring process by recommending tutors and by encouraging students who need additional preparation to take advantage of available tutoring programs in the Academic Support Center.
In the summer of 2009, WNMU launched a new, two-week bridge program called Jump Start. This program gives students an opportunity to earn six college credits before the beginning of their initial fall semester at WNMU, with the possibility of earning up to 18 credits in the fall. The two courses offered are the Student Success Seminar and Developmental Algebra. The former affords student the opportunity to learn strategies that will lead to success through academic, emotional, and physical aspects of learning. The latter focuses on preparing students for college level math. A graduation ceremony was held for the 19 pilot program students.
Administration of learning style inventories, placement and other assessment testing, course grades, and the Early Alert program provide ample information to support faculty determination of learning styles, and to make necessary adjustments to enhance learning by all students. The Student Success Seminar, a required course for freshmen at WNMU, devotes a part of the curriculum to identifying and leveraging learning styles.
With an average undergraduate age of 28, the typical WNMU student is non-traditional. Many of our students are returning to school after years in the workforce, and most are balancing work, family, and studies. With a service area of nearly 29,000 square miles, WNMU and its off-site learning centers also function as commuter campuses. At the Gallup Graduate Studies Center, it is not unusual for our McKinley County students to commute sixty miles or more, largely on secondary roads.
Geographic considerations and time restrictions of our working and commuting student groups help drive the increasing demand for online courses and programs at WNMU. Course rotations within academic programs are also tailored, whenever possible, to meet the needs of non-traditional, working students. Non-traditional students benefit from the services described above in 1P7 – 1P9, and senior citizens may take up to six credit hours of courses at a tuition rate of $5 per credit hour. For seniors who would rather enroll in non-academic classes, WNMU offers a wide variety of continuing education courses through its Western Institute for Lifelong Learning (WILL). The popularity of this three-year-old program is evidenced in its growth, with the number of courses offered doubling every year between 2006 and 2009.
WNMU is committed to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), both as to the letter of the law and to its spirit. The Office of Special Needs, which is staffed with a full-time director, exists to advocate, support, and listen to our students with disabilities. Types of assistance provided through this office include note takers, interpreters, readers, guides, lecture recorders, transcribers and academic tutors. Also, Miller Library has technology to support access to bibliographic holdings for blind and deaf patrons, and ample handicapped parking is available across campus. The latter is particularly critical on the Silver City campus, which has steep terrain.
Expectations for effective teaching and learning are defined and communicated through a variety of mechanisms, including annual department assessment reports, various accreditation requirements, the Academic Affairs Operation Plan, course syllabi, course evaluations, and promotion and tenure application processes.
Figure 1P11.1 presents various teaching and learning documentation methods used by WNMU academic departments.
Department assessment reports are due each September and are peer reviewed by the Assessment Committee during the fall semester, using a rubric that undergoes its own assessment as each cycle of review occurs; results are scored and returned to the academic unit early in the spring semester, with comments. The rubric includes components related to plans, process, data collection and use, and results. Outcomes and expectations are shared at the annual Assessment Convocation.
Effectiveness of departmental assessment is growing, but still varies considerably across the campus, with professionally accredited programs generally more advanced in their approaches to assessment and their use of the data to make meaningful changes in programs and courses. The University’s oldest and largest nationally accredited department, the School of Education (SOE), is an example of a more “mature” approach to assessment, documentation, and communication of expectations of teaching and learning. Its “conceptual framework” provides a basic, underlying philosophy for teachers and students.
In April 2004, the SOE underwent its NCATE reaccreditation visit and was fully accredited in all standards. The next reaccreditation visit will occur in 2011. The School’s Assessment Program was recognized by AACTE as a model program receiving one of four national awards at the 2004 AACTE Conference. The SOE Conceptual Framework is communicated via the website and through various promotional and informational publications, including the WNMU Catalog.
Various program accreditations and licensures are presented in Table 1P-11.2
The Academic Affairs Operational Plan is tied to the University’s Strategic Plan and provides a framework for addressing and improving teaching and learning at WNMU. The Mission of Academic Affairs is “to increase access and success for students;” this aligns with AQIP Category 1, Helping Students Learn. Every year, when the plan is being developed, the P/VPAA invites feedback from process owners across campus. The information gathered is included in the Operational Plan, and a final draft is sent out to all employees via email and posted on the University’s shared drive, “Steel.”
Institutional student learning assessment processes also occur at several levels. At entry, student placement in developmental, introductory, or more advanced college level courses occurs through the use of ACT scores, and COMPASS and other placement testing. Each spring rising juniors undergo assessment testing using ACT’s College Assessment of Academic Progress (CAAP) related to general education. Discipline-based student learning assessment occurs in the academic units using a variety of course-, program-, and degree-level methods that include the following
§ Classroom testing and feedback (course-level assessment)
§ Classroom assessment techniques (CATs)
§ Nationally normed, discipline-based, standardized exams (program and degree)
§ Portfolios (program and degree)
§ In-course performance (course-level)
§ Capstone courses (program)
§ Competency-based requirements (program and degree)
§ Licensure and certification exams (program and degree)
§ Senior projects (degree)
§ Comprehensive examinations (program and degree)
§ Internships, practica, and clinical and fieldwork experiences (degree)
Assessment of graduate student learning follows similar formats as those of the undergraduate programs.
Faculty provide input into teaching and learning requirements in the annual MBO evaluation process, various faculty committees, conference attendance, and incorporation of new teaching methods and technologies. Students provide input through course evaluations (face-to-face and online), surveys (NSSE, Noel-Levitz), and through service in student government and on University committees and teams.
Course syllabi are central to communicating teaching and learning expectations both on and off campus. To ensure consistency of instruction, syllabi and course materials for off-campus courses and for classes taught by adjunct instructors must be approved by the academic department dean/chair. Academic departments are required every semester to post all course syllabi on Steel. An online course syllabus template is used to define and communicate learning objectives as well as expectations and instructions specific to the web-based classroom. This template was designed and implemented by the University’s Instructional Designer to provide students enrolled in online courses and programs with consistency and clarity, reducing potential confusion.
Course evaluations provide faculty, academic department deans/chairs, and the P/VPAA with student feedback on teaching and learning. This information is used to identify and address course-related issues, including environmental conditions that impact student learning. Course evaluation feedback is also a critical component of the promotion and tenure application process.
Key course delivery systems at WNMU include face-to-face, web-based, and ITV instruction. These delivery formats may be used in combination and/or be supplemented by a number of others, including co-op placements, internships and labs.
A strategic advantage for the University is the low student to faculty ratio of 15:1; this is evidenced by the continued preference of many of our students and faculty for face-to-face classroom instruction. Face-to-face instruction addresses the needs of our students requiring remediation by minimizing reading demands that are placed on online learners, and by maximizing direct contact with the instructor.
Web-based delivery of courses plays a growing role in serving the students and other key stakeholders, with online course enrollment growing significantly over the past four years. While Blackboard Vista is the platform currently used for delivery of online courses and for required enhancement of ITV classes, an increasing number of faculty are using the institutional web portal, Mustang Express (ME), for the same purpose. Both products provide a variety of communications features, including email, chat rooms, bulletin boards and shared calendars. All students enrolled in the Student Success Seminar (SSS) are required to learn and use ME and Blackboard-Vista in preparation for future coursework.
Off-campus learning centers and remote receive sites at high schools in Reserve, Lordsburg, Quemado, and Magdalena rely heavily upon ITV for course delivery. Rural high school receive sites use classroom facilitators to take attendance, keep order in the classrooms, distribute course materials, proctor exams, and troubleshoot ITV equipment, as necessary. Off-campus learning center staff is available during broadcast of classes to perform the same functions. All ITV courses are supported by an online component (either Blackboard-Vista or Mustang Express) to facilitate communications, delivery of assignments, and administration of quizzes and exams.
The Information Technology (IT) staff is available both on campus and at the learning centers to support course delivery of web-based and ITV classes. Faculty members delivering courses via any instructional media receive formal training. ITV instructors are further provided with trained classroom facilitators to operate the Codex (for maintaining proper camera performance at all sites) and any other peripheral equipment being used, such as a computer or a document camera.
Course delivery in any format is designed and used to support teaching and learning, key components of the WNMU Mission. Traditional classes fulfill the needs of on-campus learners, particularly those who are not yet academically prepared to succeed in web-based courses. Online instruction addresses an organizational requirement to serve the region, including geographically remote and/or working students who otherwise could not enroll in regularly scheduled, face-to-face classes. ITV courses fulfill the same needs with respect to demographic barriers, and allow WNMU faculty to deliver their instruction in a real-time, interactive context without leaving the Silver City Campus.
Currency in curricula and programs is documented in many of the same ways that effectiveness of teaching and learning (Figure 1P11.1) is documented. This information is supplemented with the use of advisory committee input in a number of areas, interactions with alumni and others working in the profession, and program accreditations. Other methods include attending conferences and professional meetings, faculty discussions, contact with licensure and certification agencies, employer surveys, action research, internship and fieldwork feedback, reading current professional literature, incorporating guidelines from professional organizations, using up-to-date textbooks in courses, and changing and updating curriculum as new knowledge becomes available. Graduating senior and alumni surveys also provide input to this process.
Program and course changes are generated by the academic program review process, where recommendations of “modify” or “closure” can be made by the faculty review panel. The WNMU Board of Regents approves all changes to or discontinuance of academic programs.
If the content of a course is changing enough that a title change or catalog course description change is necessary, this must pass through C & I and the Graduate Council, then back to Academic Affairs, for approval.
Courses are discontinued based on the recommendation of the faculty. Faculty may be alerted to the need for discontinuance by the P/VPAA or the department chair. When a program consistently shows low market interest either by the lack of student enrollment in that program or the lack of jobs for graduates from those programs, the P/VPAA in collaboration with the academic unit in which the program resides begins a close down procedure. An essential element of this process involves making sure that existing students are able to complete the program within an appropriate timeframe and that any tenured faculty is accommodated in some manner. Program reviews follow a process defined by the BOR Manual.
Because WNMU is an open admissions institution, particular attention is paid to providing an environment that supports learners at different stages of development. The basic premise of WNMU’s key learning-centered process requirements is an understanding that people learn in different ways. This understanding requires the University to provide a variety of learning experiences. The learning requirements are matched to the needs of the learner by the skill of the teacher through such mechanisms as classroom assessments, student evaluations, and focus groups. Faculty provide input into the requirements in the annual MBO evaluation process, various faculty committees, conference attendance, and incorporation of new teaching methods and technologies. Students enrolled in online or web-enhanced courses, in turn, provide feedback to faculty through an early semester formative evaluation process that addresses both content and use of technology in a specific class. Accreditation self studies and visits to review best practices at other institutions by faculty and administration provide other input. Advisory groups and employers in the various academic areas also help determine key learning centered process requirements.
WNMU addresses individual differences in student learning rates and styles initially by proper placement based on testing and long-term by offering a variety of learning centered processes. Varied forms of testing—oral, written, and project-based are used. Students with diagnosed ADA concerns are accommodated. Students can choose among face-to-face classes, ITV classes, and web-based classes. Classes are taught in timeframes of 50 minutes, 90 minutes, and three hours. Classes are available in independent study, directed study, and individual lesson formats. Faculty generally provide for makeup classes.
Co-curricular development goals and learning objectives at WNMU were analyzed extensively and documented through the Foundations of Excellence® self-study process.
A number of co-curricular activities contribute to the students’ overall growth and enrich learning opportunities, including the Writing and Math Coordinators, Student Success Seminars, and Library instruction. Theater productions, music recitals, and art exhibits involve students as both producers and consumers. Participation in the Mustang, the student newspaper, helps build business and organizational skills and provides living examples of freedom of expression, diversity of opinion, and critical thinking skills. Participation in intramural and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference division athletic events assists in building skills in balancing priorities.
Professional organizations and clubs connect students with their professions. For example, the social work students are involved in the local chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, business students are involved in Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), Society for the Advancement of Management (SAM), and the student honor society. The Criminal Justice student organization supports fingerprinting and DNA collection for identification of community children. Figure 1P16.1 identifies several co-curricular activities that have strong ties to Helping Students Learn.
Through these and the many other organizations, activities, community service, and programs available to students, they gain leadership, team building, civic, and social skills that support their overall development and align with the WNMU Mission of preparing students for the challenges of a changing world.
As stated above, WNMU’s Mission is to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare our students for the challenges of a changing world. Learning and development expectations, including common student learning objectives, are set by specific program accrediting organizations and by the faculty; these are also determined through placement testing, curriculum planning, general education program goals (see 1P1), and academic advising. All degree candidates must fulfill program requirements as set forth in the WNMU Catalog. Degree audits are conducted for every student preparing to matriculate from the University.
Program-specific learning objectives are established and implemented at the department and school level using a collaborative and inclusive process. Faculty obviously play the dominant role in this process, making adjustments based on information they receive from outcomes assessments, accrediting and professional organizations, peers at other institutions, advisory boards, students, and other campus departments. Programs such as those found in the School of Applied Technology and the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, involving licensure or certification, may have some external or industry-defined learning objective components that must be built into the curriculum.
WNMU’s affiliation and assessment by national accrediting bodies and state approval processes also specify certain programmatic requirements. Figure 1P11.2 identifies organizations providing external evaluations along with their specific areas of interest. WNMU’s goal for all of its national or state accreditations is to continually maintain a level of accreditation that reflects the maximum years possible given the level of maturity of the program.
The key requirement for all the learning processes is their ability to contribute to improved learning. To accomplish this requirement, WNMU deploys good diagnosis and assessment tools, qualified instructors and student affairs professionals, and appropriate instructional aids. Faculty and staff receive training to enable them to use the tools and instructional aids, and professional development to keep their content and pedagogical knowledge current. The annual staff performance reviews and faculty MBO evaluation process are measures of the extent to which the preparation is appropriate. When new faculty and staff are hired, job descriptions are carefully crafted to delineate the learning centered processes they will be involved in, and the most qualified candidate is hired.
Each year departments report assessment activities related to the goals for student learning. Assessment activities include nationally normed tests, such as the Business Major Field Achievement Test (BMFAT) and the Area Achievement Concentration Tests (ACAT), and licensure results in fields such as social work, nursing and occupational therapy. Results provide feedback that departments use to adjust course and program requirements.
Assessments and program reviews attached to this portfolio include the following:
A variety of results for common student learning objectives is collected through the annual department assessment process. Student retention is a key measure of effectiveness for WNMU because of its open admissions policies that enable many academically under-prepared learners to matriculate. However, these are learners who are likely to be more easily discouraged or to have greater difficulty meeting academic standards. Consequently, retention becomes one measure of Western’s success in adequately addressing these student-learner needs. According to the 2008 CUP Performance Effectiveness Report, the second year retention rate for first-time freshmen was down approximately 5% from 2003 to 2007; however, WNMU levels have been slightly better than New Mexico Highlands University’s since 2005. Continued improvement is clearly needed in this area, and establishment of the Office of Data Analysis and Research in 2005 is instrumental in assisting to this end; data collection and analysis in the past five years is helping to provide a clearer picture of students needs, and improvements in Academic Support Center and advising services were made to address retention.
Department of Math & Computer Science: Maintaining an up-to-date curriculum in the area of Developmental Mathematics is connected with the University’s Foundations of Excellence, First Year Experience initiative. A majority of WNMU’s first year students take a course in Developmental Mathematics. In order for these students to be successful in their pursuit of a higher education degree greater attention on the success of the Developmental Mathematics program was needed.
Computer Literacy is a University required course with General Education focus. The scope of this course encompasses an understanding of Microsoft Office 2007 application software and an in-depth technology component. In the Fall 2007 semester, the competencies of Computer Literacy were structured so that all students would receive the same content.
The Writing Center provides assistance to all students in composition and research paper development. Services are available on campus in Miller Library and online through Western Online Writing (WOW). Results for the face-to-face service are provided in figure 1R2.2.
School of Education. The School of Education assessment plan includes a comprehensive, multi-faceted series of assessments related to the competencies necessary to complete each of the programs. Several assessments are taken at the entry, mid-point, and exit points of the various programs. Academic preparedness grade point averages and New Mexico Teacher Education Accountability scores for teacher candidates for admission into SOE’s licensure programs are presented in Figure 1R3.1 below.
Chemical Dependency Program. The Chemical Dependency Program (CHDP), which is part of the WNMU Criminal Justice Department, was established in January, 2004. The CHDP assessment includes the use of pre- and post-tests for comparison and progress measurement. The licensure test was developed by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (ICRC), a national organization for alcohol and drug counselors, and has 250 questions in four areas: pharmacology of psychoactive substances, counseling practices, theoretical base of counseling, and professional issues. The in-house test was developed by CHDP faculty and covers material from all chemical dependency courses required for the degree. This test has 285 questions.
To date, no major or minor graduate has failed the State Licensure Test.
The results of alumni surveys conducted by the department indicate that CHDP graduates are more than adequately prepared for the addiction counseling field. The only recommendations for changes in the curriculum have been to increase and make regular, course rotations for the following classes: Helping Skills in Chemical Dependency, Advanced Helping Skills in Chemical Dependency, Dual Diagnosis, Pharmacology, and Group Dynamics. Of the sixteen graduates, one is out of the field, eight are working in the field, and seven have gone to graduate school. Two of those seven are now working on a doctorate.
School of Business Administration & Economics. The ACAT (Area Concentration Achievement Test) was administered to senior students in the Business Policy course in May 2009. This is the capstone course for all business majors. The department has administered this test (or the MFAT) since 1997 to freshmen and seniors, but not to both groups in all years. By testing both freshmen and seniors, pretest and posttest results can be compared to measure the value added of WNMU business classes. The ACAT measures content knowledge in six subject areas of business and reports percentile scores for comparison to national averages. The results presented below compare the 2008-9 post-test scores to past year’s scores.
The improvement in percentile scores from pre-test to post-test shows strong value added in all business subject areas. The May 2009 scores are higher than the November 2008 scores in three areas (Accounting, Economics and Quantitative), but lower in three areas (Management, Finance and Business Law). The greatest decline is in Management (eight percentile points). The department target for scores is the 50th percentile, which was achieved in five of the six subject areas. Since making the post-test ACAT results part of the grade for the Business Policy class, the test results have been much better, and a more credible measure (greater validity) of what our students are learning and where we need to make improvements.
Nursing. There were 31 graduates in May, 2008. 21 passed the licensure exam on the first attempt and 10 failed on the first attempt. Since the first attempt, 28 have passed the RN licensure. This brings the 2008 statistics to 70% first time pass rate and 90.3% cumulative pass rate. This is in contrast to the first time pass rate of 94.4% and cumulative pass rate of 100% for the class of 2005 and the first time pass rate of 85.2% and cumulative pass rate of 100% for the class of 2006. The ADN program has an overall first time pass rate of 81.6% and cumulative of 96.2% since the program the first class graduated in 1991.
An annual survey goes to alumni five years after graduation, and every three years the survey results become part of the CUP report to the legislature. Employers are surveyed every three years via a CUP-supported telephone survey. Some departments/ schools also undertake employer based surveys. These surveys include questions that address the effectiveness of educational preparation for employment in the student’s chosen field, whether students have attended graduate school, sector of employment, and whether, if they had it to do over again, they would attend Western. Scores are also collected on CPA, Social Work, Nursing, and OTA licensure exams. Results for effectiveness of educational preparation are provided in figures 1R3.1- 4 and 9R1.1.
Both individually and comparatively, WNMU graduates receive high ratings, not only for competency in their chosen profession or work, but also for their team work, problem solving, decision making, and other skills relating to the general education goals and objectives. This information reinforces internal academic measures, such as grades, transcripts, capstone projects and courses, licensure exams, and competency tests, used to verify the knowledge and skills acquired by Western graduates.
Performance results for learning support processes are found throughout this portfolio:
Expansion of mental health services for students, including hiring of a full-time, licensed mental health counselor, provides further support for student learning and success at WNMU. Highlights of performance results are provided in figure 1R5.1.
HED identifies a set of schools viewed as WNMU peers. That listing has not changed for over ten years resulting in some of the schools no longer seeming to qualify as peers; e.g., those who have moved to doctoral education and have enrollments and budgets that far exceed those at WNMU. Thus, in order to initiate a credible comparative effort, WNMU focused on its state peers: Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU), and as appropriate the NM doctoral granting public universities. As the WNMU scorecard develops and measurements are put in place, the institution will add additional comparisons with the HED identified peers and AQIP schools.
National comparisons and comparisons with sectors outside of education are harder to secure. Some national comparisons, such as the IPEDS and discipline-based licensure rates, lag in availability; others, such as nationally normed surveys, are usually available within six months of being administered. Still others depend on the willingness of similar AQIP or Renaissance partners to share data in selected areas. Past WNMU performance data provides another set of useful comparative information.
Criteria for the selection and use of external comparative data include similarity of institutions, cost of securing data, compatibility of definitional terms, best-in-class examples, relevance to institutional needs and priorities, and ease of access. Comparative data are used to provide input on setting performance standards, a context for data analysis, and identification of potential benchmarking institutions or practices. Western undertakes some benchmarking of “better teaching and learning practices” at both academic and non-academic institutions. However, the benchmarking that occurs is a random activity, not built into the measurement system, not directly incorporated into training efforts, and seldom shared across units of the institution.
Informal comparative data gathering, to include interaction during professional meetings, professional paper presentations, web sites, etc., where successful practices, research results and other materials are shared, is very common within the academic community. Best-in-class practices identified through such exchanges are shared through departmental meetings and workshops and, where appropriate, adapted to the WNMU culture. Such was the case with the development of learning communities, establishment of the student success seminar, use of a rubric to evaluate departmental assessment plans, and contracting to provide certain support services.
Improvement processes for Helping Students Learn are systematic and comprehensive in that they are aligned with, and accountable to, the accrediting organizations listed in figure 1P11.2. Annual assessments and program reviews detail school- or department-specific improvements as well as needs for improvement. The SPP and developing scorecard, WNMU by the Numbers, will further systematize the process of capturing and disseminating performance results in all categories, including and especially Helping Students Learn.
On the institutional level, continued work of the AQIP First Year Experience Team in carrying forward the recommendations of the Foundations of ExcellenceÒ Steering Committee has produced improvements such as creation of the Writing and Math Coordinator positions. Other improvements include the Jump Start Program, expansion of online programs such as the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, online support provided by instructional designers, expanded advising training opportunities for faculty and staff, and introduction or restructuring of the following:
Specific processes to improve teaching and student learning are identified in a number of ways, including academic department/school accreditation feedback reports, QNM feedback reports, annual assessments, program reviews, course evaluations, student satisfaction surveys, and MBOs. Prioritization is driven by accreditation and licensure compliance, state mandates, and alignment with the WNMU Mission, the institutional strategic plan, and the Academic Affairs Operational Plan. Targets are determined externally by outside entities such as accrediting organizations and HED; internally, these are determined at the school/department level by assessments and at the individual level through faculty MBOs.
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