What's Your "Why?" Understanding the Value of Outcomes Reporting

November 24, 2021 Tayler Conklin

University faculty wear many hats, and it’s often challenging to define and prioritize all of the elements of the job. In a recent webinar, Sarah Leach, an Associate Professor at Purdue University, shared the importance of understanding the role of a faculty member and getting to the “why” behind the role.

Purdue struggled to get faculty on board with outcomes reporting — Leach and her team had to work to build an understanding of the value of the process and how it ties to the mission of student success. But with the use of Watermark Planning & Self-Study and Faculty Success, faculty were able to shift their thinking and help Purdue evolve their internal and external reporting processes.

The Many Roles Faculty Play

Faculty have a lot of responsibilities, including (but not limited to):

  • Carrying out research and discovery
  • Teaching and learning innovation
  • Engagement and service to students
  • Governance and development of curriculum
  • Reporting on yearly achievement and learning outcomes

According to Leach, “effort in all [these] areas is required for collective success,” meaning the roles faculty members play throughout their career work together to advance student learning and keep universities running. The real challenge lies in the additional duties faculty must complete for both internal promotion and tenure reporting and external assessment and accreditation reporting. Because faculty members are often able to define their own unique forms of outcomes assessment, reporting can be quite the administrative headache (even more so if your university has hundreds of outcome reports from multiple courses and instructors using different assessments). This makes it difficult to create an efficient and organized system to analyze all of the assessment and outcome data for accreditation and review purposes. Furthermore, these annual reports can often trigger anxiety for faculty because they detract from other priorities such as curriculum development and working with students. Adjunct faculty have even greater challenges as they are balancing all of these priorities alongside a full-time job.

So how can we help faculty see the value of reporting?

Finding the Value in Outcomes Reporting

Spending time recording learning outcomes and personal achievements can feel like an extra burden for faculty, but there are ways to make it easier. Leach credits Purdue’s success to standardizing internal and external reporting to the use of digital tools (specifically, Watermark Planning & Self-Study and Faculty Success). Here’s how both products helped Purdue’s faculty see the value in reporting:

  • Purdue used Planning & Self-Study to help faculty monitor and report course outcomes and objective assessment in a consolidated, simple, and effective way. They began by introducing the new solution to one program in the School of Engineering and Technology and, after seeing wonderful results, expanded the use of Planning & Self-Study to every program in the school. Because Planning & Self-Study was so successful with faculty for reporting outcomes, every School of Engineering and Technology faculty member will now also use it for their curriculum and outcomes mapping as well. Leach stated that they will now be able to “reasonably and easily generate results on assessment” for their next ABET Accreditation in 2024.
  • Before Purdue implemented Faculty Success, every year faculty would gather information on credit hours, student contact, achievements, funding details and top it all off by writing a narrative. This yearly achievement report served as their “promotion document” and was used for tenure and promotion decisions. The issue with this prior system, however, was that all of the previously collected assessment and outcomes data never made its way into the promotion documentation. By using both Faculty Success and Planning & Self-Study, internal review processes now include faculty’s outcomes report as well as their achievements.

For more tips to help your faculty understand the “why” behind outcomes reporting, check out our on-demand webinar.

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