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Assessment Tools Improve Outcomes

SPOTLIGHT: Community Colleges

This spotlight appeared in Business Officer Magazine, May 2007

St. Louis Community College (SLCC), Missouri, has designed an effective, mission-based approach to collegewide assessment that uses models developed by its office of institutional research, planning, and assessment. The initiative has improved student learning outcomes and institutional effectiveness, while fulfilling the college's promises to the community that it serves.

Deliberate Data Collection

SLCC recognizes assessment as a continuous improvement process. This involves the systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and use of data by faculty and staff. staff. One of the primary tools used for assessment is known as "LAASIE."
The "LAASIE" model serves to assess and improve student support services. It consists of the following steps:

  • Listen, look and learn-Involving all who will participate in the assessment process, specify what needs to be examined and select a project or approach that needs to be assessed. When possible, analyze current activities, processes, and results to establish a baseline for future measurement.
  • Act-Determine how to address the selected project or to plan a change that is expected to improve a particular area. Identify measures you will use to determine whether improvement has occurred.
  • Another look-Collect the data and interpret the results. Recommend strategies or adjustments for further improvement, as needed.
  • Share the news-Document the assessment process and share the results on a collegewide basis-using a Web page or newsletter-and report to the president's office.
  • Improve-Make the improvements suggested by the results or move on to another issue. Always celebrate the achievement, whether it's new information on what can be improved, improvements actually made, or results that indicate a high level of performance.
  • Excel-Continue to assess and improve, integrating the results with ongoing operations.

Registering Results

The college's vision for assessment has paid off. SLCC has revised its new-student orientation program, improved the curriculum, and explored alternative instructional strategies for lowest-level developmental education students. Other outcomes include improvement of the college's general education cornerstone courses, creation of better processes for staff hiring, addition of an annual regional training survey, and the launch of a revitalized Web site. Assessment information about the performance of transfer students has been used to develop new information-exchange and research projects with the University of Missouri. In addition, the college is currently using its assessment process to evaluate the implementation and impact of its new student tuition payment plan.

SLCC is clearly growing a culture of inquiry and, equally as important, a culture of action. The campuswide engagement of faculty and staff enable the assessment process to be a routine component of their work, not just an exercise to prepare for review by the state or by the accreditation agency. Taking the most meaningful measurements and using that information for improvement will help the college remain accountable to the community and true to its mission.

NACUBO CONTACT

Maryann J. Terrana, director, constituent services for small institutions and community colleges, 202.861.2562, maryann.terrana@nacubo.org

RESOURCE LINKS

For more information on SLCC's assessment models, go to www.stlcc.edu/assessment/index.html.
Community Colleges: Measuring What Matters, a webcast by NACUBO and SunGard Higher Education, June 15, 2007. For details go to www.nacubo.org/distancelearning.