Last week, Knox welcomed consultant evaluators from the Higher Learning Commission to campus as part of a reaccreditation process that takes place every ten years.
“Our job is to evaluate [the institution] — are they who they say they are?” said evaluator Dave McFadden. “A key part of that is students.”
Open meetings were held with students, faculty, and staff in order to generate a picture of how different groups of people perceive Knox. Evaluators also focused on Knox’s mission statement, how well it was understood, and how well programs on campus carried it out. Their findings were then compared with Knox’s 2009 Institutional Self-Study Report, a 377-page document that took a year and a half to create and which covers all aspects of the college.
“The self-study is completed from the ground up,” said Dean Larry Breitborde. “It involves every program and every office on campus.”
In addition to the self-study, the HLC evaluators were provided with a variety of documentation, including auditing reports and ACM agreements. Within four to six weeks, they will submit a report to Knox to see “if we have any issues with it,” Breitborde said. Assuming none exist, the report will then go to the HLC at their next meeting and Knox will be reaccredited. Without accreditation, Knox would lose its federal financial aid.
Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, of which Knox is a founding member, began in the late 1800’s as an idea from colleges themselves.
“We live with ourselves, so we have our own perception from the inside,” Breitborde said. “It’s good to have a perception from the outside as well.”
Making it Knox
Rather than taking the reaccreditation process in stride, Knox used the opportunity to evaluate itself.
“We turned [reaccreditation] into something that was our agenda […] using the self-study as a baseline for institutional planning,” said Breitborde.
Students, faculty, and staff all had a hand in creating the self-study, which deals with where the college was ten years ago and how consistently events since have aligned with Knox’s mission and goals. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment played an especially important role in dealing with collected data.
“We’ve got all this data that’s very hard to analyze,” Breitborde said. “We were forced to for the self-study, and it gave us really good news.”
In addition to good news, the self-study also indicated areas of priority for the next ten years. Knox’s revision of its curriculum, which began being introduced in 2002, will “never be finished” according to Breitborde. Institutional assessment, as something Knox is just beginning to integrate into its system, is also an area for development.
“You take a course, and the syllabus states the goals [of the course]. We make an assessment via a grade,” Breitborde explained. “But how [else] do you measure the outcomes? People’s satisfaction is also really important, but how do we know [what it is]?”
Despite these challenges, the self-study indicates that a variety of constituencies on campus agree on the nature of Knox’s mission, and much evidence exists that it is being fulfilled.
A copy of the self-study is available online at http://www.knox.edu/Institutional-Self-Study/Self-Study-Report.html.