Faculty perceptions of assessment at public universities in New Mexico
Haughawaut, Chester A
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Education accountability in New Mexico is mandated by New Mexico House Bill 4 (1989), and other recent legislation. Education institutions must report enrollment and graduation rates to the public. The universities were warned that funding could be linked to their production of quality graduates. These accountability mandates seem to circumvent traditional faculty roles to plan and implement academic initiatives. The results are faculties that perceive unnecessary intrusion into the academic sector by agencies demanding student outcome assessment programs. The purpose of this study was to develop recommendations to improve student outcome assessment policy and practice. Another purpose was to increase the knowledge of faculty perceptions about: (1) accountability to external agencies, (2) credibility of mandated programs, (3) faculty release time, and (4) perceptions of student assessment as a measure of teaching effectiveness. The two research questions developed for this study were to examine: (1) faculty perceptions of certain student outcome assessment issues such as accountability and credibility of programs and (2) the relationship of selected faculty demographic characteristics such as faculty assignment and rank. A mailed survey instrument sent to 1,283 New Mexico faculty members resulted in 653 responses. These participants suggest that: (1) planning for student outcome assessment should not proceed without strong faculty support, (2) student participation in assessment planning is expected, (3) student knowledge of general education should be assessed, (4) release time from teaching should be extended to faculty involved in planning for assessment, (5) operational control of assessment should be assigned to the faculty, and (6) locally prepared assessment instruments are preferred over commercial instruments. Several policy recommendations evolved from this study as follows: (1) student assessment committees should be chaired by and comprised of faculty, (2) students should be invited to serve on assessment planning committees, (3) general education using normed tests should be required of all entering students, (4) release time for faculty for student assessment should be encouraged and funded with new moneys, (5) experienced faculty should lead and operate assessment efforts, (6) academic disciplines should be granted resources needed to develop local test instruments.