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WESTERN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES
SELF-STUDY FOR REACCREDITATION
California State University, Sacramento
Phase I Report
November 11, 1996


Table of Contents


Preface
Chapter 1 - CSUS in Context

Chapter 2 - WASC Self Study Design
Opportunity Knocks
Initial Steps
Survey Approaches
Building a Culture of Evidence--Phase I
Building a Culture of Evidence--Phase II
WASC Response to Self-Study Plan and Site Visits


Chapter 3 - Teaching and Learning at CSUS
Survey Approach
Student Perceptions of the Quality of their CSUS Experience
Student Perceptions of Teaching and Learning
Faculty Perceptions of Teaching
General Education and Major: Different Perceptions
Concluding Thoughts
Committee Responses to the Data


Chapter 4 - Student Outcomes -- Measuring Educational Effectiveness
Survey Approach
ACT College Outcomes Survey
College Outcomes
Personal Growth
ACT Alumni Survey
Employment
Educational Outcomes
CAAP Basic Skills Assessment
The Tests
Writing Test Results
Critical Thinking Test Results
Mathematics
Pre-Professional Standardized Tests
Graduate Record Examination
California Basic Educational Skills Test
Medical College Admission Test
Law School Admission Test
Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in General Education
Committee Responses to the Data


Chapter 5 - The Learning Community
Survey Approach
Staff Perceptions of the Learning Community
Values, Expectations and Needs of Staff
Incentives and Impediments
Relationships with Faculty, Students and Administration
Diversity Issues
Committee Responses to the Data
Faculty Perceptions of the Learning Community
Values, Expectations and Needs of Faculty
Impediments and Incentives
Relationships with Staff, Faculty, Students and Administration
Diversity Issues
Committee Response to the Data
Student Perceptions of the Learning Community
Campus Climate
Social, Cultural, Physical and Organizational Environment
Academic Environment
Other Dimensions of the Learning Community
Values, Expectations and Needs of Students
Perceptions about Campus Life
Student Relationships with Students and Faculty
Committee Response to the Data


Chapter 6 - From WASC Self-study to Institutional Commitment: A Culture of Evidence
The Institutional Commitment to Assessment
University Assessment Initiatives
WASC
NCAA
CSUS Assessment Policy
Academic Program Review
Academic Program Accreditations
Non-Academic Program Review
Assessment Activities and Instruments
Institutional Data
Surveys
Standardized Surveys
Campus Surveys
General Education
Department Based Assessment Activities
Focus Groups
Assessment of Themes in University Strategic Plan
Link Among Assessment, Planning, and Budget
Using Evidence to Build Institutional Effectiveness: Actions Taken in Response to Assessment Findings
Teaching and Learning Theme
New Scheduling Initiatives
Learning Communities
Technical, Communication and Research Skills
Technology
Campus Life Theme
Student Centeredness
Student/University Relationship
Campus Environment
Student Support Services
Commuter Campus
Student/Community Relationships
Concluding Remarks

 

PREFACE

California State University, Sacramento's WASC self-study reflects the piloting of a new approach to reaccreditation. At the suggestion and encouragement of the Director of WASC, CSUS undertook a self-study that replaced the traditional nine standards approach with one designed to document the character and effectiveness of the institution with data. While the traditional approach relies on data to document input and activities (e.g., number of faculty with advanced degrees, research proposals submitted, volumes in the Library), this innovative approach uses data in an entirely different way--to document outcomes of the educational experience.

It is well known that defining outcomes for educational enterprises is not only complex but one fraught with ambiguities. We have learned over the past several years that it can be an overwhelming task to decide what data, of the plethora of data available, best reflects the character and effectiveness of CSUS. We made a decision to collect, analyze and report data on three themes selected by the WASC Steering Committee. While the themes certainly do not encompass everything that CSUS is, and does, they were judged to be of fundamental importance, not only to achieving the mission and purpose of the University, but to meeting the expectations of an accrediting agency.

The experimental nature of the self-study design is reflected in both the structure and content of the report. We begin with an introduction to CSUS, containing key demographic facts and other characteristics of the University. The second chapter describes the WASC self-study process. An innovative study requires an innovative process. The third, fourth, and fifth chapters summarize the most salient evidence that we have generated during our assessment of the three themes--Teaching and Learning, Student Outcomes, and The Learning Community. Two points must be made clear about the content of these chapters. First, data are presented to capture the "flavor" and character of CSUS, which we decided could be achieved most effectively using a modified version of classic research study. Significant findings are summarized and suggestions are made for institutional action. Complete summaries of the data can be found in the tables that are included in the appendices. Second, the data presented both in the text and the appendices are drawn primarily from the surveys selected and/or designed by the subcommittees responsible for each theme area. The surveys reflect the understanding of the theme by the WASC Steering Committee and its subcommittees. Additional data, relevant to the WASC self-study can be provided to the WASC Review Team upon request.

The final chapter of the self-study report explains the steps that CSUS has taken to institutionalize planning and assessment as an ongoing University activity. Our planning process has already been profoundly affected (and improved) by our engagement in this innovative self-study process, and many programs and services have been changed as a result of assessment data. We welcome the opportunity to share these changes with the WASC team. We understand that the campus visit conducted as part of the reaccreditation process will be non-traditional. A smaller team will make two visits to the campus with the intent of assisting the University in its efforts to institutionalize its commitment to a "culture of evidence." In between the visits the campus is expected to discuss and respond to the report.

This innovative self-study document is a work-in-progress. The process that produced it, is sensitive to the elements inherent in the traditional standards for WASC re- accreditation. Specifically, the report presents sufficient information to assess compliance with traditional standards; demonstrates a process of collaboration, consultation, and peer review; addresses themes consistent with the University's Strategic Plan; focuses on undergraduate teaching; and represents the spirit of genuine self-examination.

A final note concerns the style of the written document. The report is the culmination of the collective efforts of numerous faculty, staff, and students over a period of almost three years. We have chosen to let the reader hear the voices of the many individuals contributing to this assessment of CSUS. The reader, therefore, will encounter the first person plural "we" as representative of the discussions, conclusions, and assessments of multiple viewpoints. It is our hope that "we" have presented a rich, informative, responsive, and useful self-study report.

At this time, we wish to thank everyone who provided assistance and support to the WASC Steering Committee in developing the design, collecting and summarizing the data, and analyzing the results. While we met resistance along the way, we realize we have traveled down a new path. We have learned, and will continue to learn, what it is that we as a University are all about. With this information, we will influence the future of California State University, Sacramento as we enter the 21st Century.

 

Chapter 1

CSUS IN CONTEXT

Founded in 1947, California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) is the sixth largest of 22 campuses in the California State University (CSU) system. It is a comprehensive regional university uniquely located in the state capital. Over 800 full-time faculty and approximately 475 part-time faculty offer 73 baccalaureate and 38 master degree programs, in addition to 75 credential programs at the post baccalaureate level.

Our faculty are among the most senior in the CSU with 500 of them over the age of 50 and 150 over the age of 60. Seventy-five percent of our faculty are full professors. Of the University's 1,000 clerical and support staff positions, 820 are full-time employees and 212 are part-time. Fifty-seven percent have worked at the University for over 15 years. The diversity of the State of California is represented in the University's faculty and staff, with more than 25 percent from the Latino, Black, Native American and Asian populations. Although one-half of the employees of the university are women, 70 percent of the faculty are men.

The University 's enrollment over the past five years has undergone a budget related decline from a high of 19,837 full-time equivalent (FTE) students in the Fall of 1990 to 18,060 in the Fall of 1996. Graduate students account for 15 percent of our FTE enrollment. Eighty percent of our undergraduate enrollment is upper division. Seventy-one percent of our undergraduate students transfer to CSUS from other institutions, primarily community colleges. The average unit load of our students is 11.5, the median age is 24, and the average student works at least 24 hours per week. More women than men are enrolled at CSUS. Students reflect the diversity of the state's population; almost 50 percent of the student population comes from groups traditionally underrepresented in United States universities.

During the 1995-96 academic year, three new Schools, Arts and Letters, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies, were created from the School of Arts and Sciences, previously the University's largest school. With over 10,000 FTES, the School of Arts and Sciences was larger than six other CSU campuses. CSUS also has four other schools: Business Administration, Education, Engineering and Computer Science, and Health and Human Services. Fifty-three departments are housed in these seven schools.

Historically, the primary mission of CSUS, like its sister campuses in the CSU, has been teaching (Appendix A). Because teaching is considered the major responsibility of CSU faculty, successful instructional performance is the primary factor in retention, tenure and promotion decisions. From within the senior faculty, and increasingly from the ranks of newer faculty, the place of scholarship in the roles and responsibilities of faculty has been challenged, particularly its relationship to the mission of the CSUS. However, faculty increasingly consider scholarship as an essential component of their roles and responsibilities.

As CSUS approaches its 50th birthday, it is struggling with its identity as a comprehensive regional university in a growing metropolitan area of California. Many of the faculty, particularly those hired in the sixties and seventies, came to CSUS when it was relatively small and its largest academic programs were in the arts and sciences. The growth in pre-professional and professional degree programs, and the University's move toward meeting the needs of the region and extending the campus into the community, while valued by many, has challenged what some faculty perceive as the fundamental character of the University, the liberal arts.

Within the CSU system, the Sacramento campus is also known for its active and committed faculty participation in the governance of the campus. The relationship between faculty and upper-level administrators has not always been positive. At various points in the history of the institution, presidents have been openly challenged by the faculty. Between 1969 and 1972, CSUS had four presidents. While there has been relative stability in administrative leadership since Donald Gerth was appointed president in 1984, tensions do exist between faculty and administration. These tensions, while not always explicit, are an ever-present characteristic of the University's collegial governance relationships. As we enter our 50th year as a University, CSUS finds itself favored by a number of human and geographic assets. We have a committed and accomplished faculty; visible and influential student leadership; an established and influential relationship with state government; a dedicated support staff; strong alumni and community support; a much improved physical plant; and strong faculty and administrative leadership. Over the past ten years, since its last re-accreditation, the University has faced many challenges and made many changes. How the University faced these challenges has made it what it is today. California State University, Sacramento, like most state-supported universities that rely heavily on state funds, has faced some particularly difficult budgetary challenges during the past decade. The nature of the social contract between the people of California, acting through their elected governmental representatives, has changed dramatically. As the State struggled in response to an economic downturn, funding for the CSU was reduced. Since 1990 CSUS has experienced severe budget reductions with the usual consequences. Although faculty and staff were threatened with layoffs, no permanent employees were laid off. Students were turned away as classes were eliminated. Over the past several years, the University experienced a drop in student enrollment which resulted in the threat of diminished resources from the CSU. Since 1990 state university fees have doubled. Full- time students now pay approximately $2,000 in fees per year.

The disruption of the social contract between the State and universities in California, particularly the CSU, had significant consequences for the CSUS community. Relationships between and among various constituencies were strained. Students expected more of the institution. Faculty saw class sizes increase. Administrators were challenged to make do with less. Simultaneously, our campus was increasingly more culturally and ethnically diverse. Articulation of the University's affirmative action and educational equity goals created some tensions and problems. Given these challenges, examining the University as a community was almost an inevitable choice as a theme for our WASC self-study.

Along with the severe budget reductions, the University was increasingly being told that it needed to become more accountable and plan for the future. The WASC Assessment Initiatives in 1989, and similar initiatives from the CSU, made it imperative that the University begin to assess the outcomes of its academic programs. Although policies were in place, they had not been implemented. A new General Education program was implemented in 1992. In 1991 the Academic Senate recommended, and the President approved, a policy on Instructional Program Priorities, which outlined criteria for establishing priorities among the University's academic programs. The Instructional Program Priorities document, which represented a major effort to classify academic programs according to their centrality to the University's mission and plans for enrollment, formed the basis for the University's Academic Plan. While the University had responded to the recommendations from the last WASC visit to prioritize its programs, it had not yet embarked on assessment as a mechanism which could be used to measure student outcomes and, at the same time, guide decision-making and demonstrate accountability to its constituencies.

It should come as no surprise that a "teaching" University, like CSUS, was interested in learning more about what goes on in the classroom. We knew that reduced resources had increased class size. While faculty typically teach 12 units (usually four classes) per week and are committed to their roles as teachers, little was known about the teaching and learning experience as perceived by students and professors. Therefore, the WASC self- study became a vehicle to explore teaching and learning and to begin to assess student outcomes.

We hope that this "snapshot" of CSUS, along with some of the issues and challenges we faced, will help the reader understand why our WASC Steering Committee selected Teaching and Learning, Student Outcomes and The Learning Community as the three themes for the University's self-study.

Chapter 2

WASC SELF STUDY DESIGN

Historically, Western regional universities were expected to base their self-studies on the following nine standards: Institutional Integrity; Institutional Purposes, Planning, and Effectiveness; Governance and Administration; Educational Programs; Faculty and Staff; Library, Computing, and Other Information; Student Services and the Co-Curricular Learning Environment; Physical Resources; and Financial Resources. In a 1988 revision of the standards, WASC called on schools and colleges to focus on assessment as a means to assure "institutional and program quality and effectiveness." Universities were expected to build a "culture of evidence" to use in their decision-making processes. Colleges and universities were asked to do the following over a three to five year period:

  • develop an institutional plan for assessment;
  • incorporate assessment data in the evaluation of the effectiveness of the General

    Education program;
  • incorporate assessment techniques into program review procedures; and
  • develop an assessment plan to review the co-curricular program of the

    institution (Achieving Institutional Effectiveness Through Assessment, 1992).

 

Opportunity Knocks

As the time drew near for CSUS to prepare a self-study to reaffirm its accreditation by WASC, the campus was given an opportunity to play a part in shaping the future direction of accreditation in the Western region. In Fall 1993 Ralph Wolff, then the Associate Executive Director of WASC, asked if CSUS would be interested in developing an innovative self-study design based on an assessment model. If CSUS agreed, Dr. Wolff expected the University's self- study to focus on the teaching and learning process, while simultaneously building an institutional infrastructure for ongoing assessment. CSUS would not be expected to address, in a traditional sense, the nine standards used by WASC. Although CSUS had compiled a census of assessment data at the University level and in 1992 approved an Assessment Policy (Appendix B) that incorporated assessment into the University's Program Review process, there was no University plan or timeline to implement the assessment policy.

While there was concern about this new approach to a self-study, many perceived it as an opportunity to conduct a meaningful self-study, to respond to the 1992 WASC assessment initiatives, and to implement the University's assessment policy. In the Spring of 1994, Ralph Wolff met with selected members of the campus community to explain the approach and explore possible themes for our self-study. After extensive consultation with the Academic Senate leadership, we concluded that this new approach would provide the campus with an opportunity to ask itself some serious questions, which would be addressed with "evidence," rather than guesses. Hopefully, in the process CSUS would learn more about itself and its commitment to excellence in teaching. A decision was made to accept the offer to experiment and planning began.

Initial Steps

The University began by selecting a faculty coordinator and a steering committee of faculty, staff and students for the WASC self-study. The first major threshold decision for the group was to determine the substantive focus of the self-study. The Steering Committee initially considered using the University's Program Review process as a vehicle to assess teaching and learning at CSUS. A consultant was hired to assist in formulating and refining a plan to assess student outcomes. One idea was to prepare assessment plans and gather data on student outcomes in those departments currently engaged in program review. Department chairs who would be preparing self-studies and implementing assessment plans the following year were invited to meet with the Steering Committee to discuss the plan, but things did not go smoothly. The proposal to focus the self-study on department-based assessment of student outcomes was not greeted with enthusiasm. Some faculty questioned the level of consultation with the Academic Senate on establishing the membership of the Steering Committee. By the second meeting, anxiety surrounding the proposed approach to assessment of student learning was widespread. The Steering Committee realized that it needed more time to educate itself about the entire area of student outcomes assessment, particularly appropriate methodologies for specific programs. The plan to base the self- study on student outcomes assessment at the academic program level was abandoned.

In the Fall of 1994 an expanded Steering Committee (17 faculty, 4 students, 3 staff, 2 alumni, 7 administrators), was endorsed by the Academic Senate (Appendix C). This group resumed a discussion of alternatives. Since WASC expected the University to focus on teaching and learning, particularly the assessment of student outcomes, the Steering Committee decided that it would be useful to begin by finding out how students perceive their educational experience at CSUS. Although University data was available on our students from the 1994 Students Needs and Priorities Survey (SNAPS), little, if any, data had been collected from staff and faculty. After much discussion the Steering Committee proposed the examination of three aspects of the educational experience at CSUS:

the extent to which students experience, and faculty use, effective teaching practices,
an exploration of student outcomes from a variety of perspectives, and
faculty and staff perception of the University as a Learning Community.

Three subcommittees were formed to develop plans to measure the University's "performance" on each of the three themes. With broad-based representation on the Committee and involvement from all constituencies, faculty, staff, students, and administrators, the University began to build its "culture of evidence."

Survey Approaches

The Steering Committee examined available institutional data, identified several new data collection activities, and proposed some specially designed processes to address the three themes: Teaching and Learning, Student Outcomes and The Learning Community. The subcommittees, formed from the membership of the WASC Steering Committee, further refined the questions, examined survey instruments, determined the methodology and, in effect, designed the study of each of the three themes. Items from the California Postsecondary Education Commission's (CPEC) instrument, which focused primarily on diversity as an indicator of community, were selected to assess faculty and staff perceptions of The Learning Community. Student responses to the 1993 Campus Climate Survey were used to assess student perceptions of campus climate.

Surveys on the use of effective teaching practices, based primarily on Wingspread's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education(Appendix D) were developed and administered to students in general education classes, graduating students and faculty. Standardized surveys from American College Testing (ACT) were selected to assess the perception of continuing, non-returning and graduating students, as well as alumni regarding their educational experience at CSUS. The writing and critical thinking skills of our students would be assessed, and compared to those of students from similar institutions, using the ACT-College Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP). All of these methods were designed as a way to address the selected themes.

A graduate student who assisted the WASC faculty coordinator in collecting and analyzing the data from the teaching surveys compared the perceptions of students about teaching and learning with those of the faculty. An Anthropology graduate student interviewed 90 faculty on their perspectives of teaching at CSUS. The mathematics competency of graduating students was assessed by a graduate student in Education who designed a questionnaire which was included with the ACT-College Outcomes Survey. All three graduate students were able to use the data they collected as part of their requirements for the Master's degree.

In addition to using data from the studies described above, the Steering Committee decided to incorporate data on student outcomes into the self-study from other sources whenever possible, including the results from SNAPS and student responses to phone surveys conducted during CASPER (the University's phone registration system. Data from the General Education Committee's assessment of General Education "Race and Ethnicity in American Society" courses would be included in the Student Outcomes chapter.

The University Assessment Policy prompted a revision to the Academic Program Review process that required academic departments to prepare, submit for review, and implement a plan to assess student outcomes. The intent was that some departments would have successfully implemented their assessment plans for program specific student outcomes by the time of the WASC Review Team visit. As the WASC self-study plan emerged, Robyn Nelson, the Faculty Coordinator conceptualized the design as an "educational cornerstone" incorporating the four WASC assessment initiatives, the three performance themes, and the surveys and instruments we planned to use (See Figure 1 on the next page). The cornerstone represents the three themes studied through the CSUS self- study process, the activities and instruments used by the University in collecting its evidence, and their intersection with the four areas for assessment prescribed by WASC.

There was ample support for university-wide assessment activities, including assigned-time for the faculty coordinator, a graduate research assistant, and staff support. Funds were allocated to purchase instruments, send faculty to assessment conferences, and provide consultation to departments as they developed their assessment plans. This support was essential to sustaining the self-study process for the past two years.

Building a Culture of Evidence--Phase I

Once the design was approved, the Steering Committee and subcommittees met regularly to oversee the implementation of the process and to review the data as it was collected. The Academic Senate and the Council for University Planning (CUP) were regularly apprised of the self-study progress (See Appendix E for a CSUS Organizational Chart.). An "Accreditation Update" appeared regularly in the faculty and staff Bulletin where monthly activities and assessment issues arising during the self-study process were shared.

Chapters Three, Four, and Five in this document are the results of Phase I of the process. Each chapter addresses one of the three themes and includes statements of methodology, significant findings, some preliminary interpretations and questions generated by the data. All background information, including the results of the studies, is in the Appendices.

Since WASC expected the University to provide an infrastructure for ongoing assessment, the Steering Committee proceeded to explore ways to build a "culture of evidence" around the three performance themes. The University's Council for University Planning, representing all campus constituencies, has committed itself to assess progress toward meeting the goals of the University's Strategic Plan. The institutional plan for assessment, its significance to the planning and resource allocation process of the University, and some of the changes that have already been made in response to what was learned are described in Chapter Six.

Building a Culture of Evidence--Phase II

The CSUS self-study is ultimately a "work in progress." During Phase II, which has already begun, faculty, staff and students will be invited to participate in focus groups to explore in more depth the findings from the surveys used to assess the three themes. The WASC Steering Committee will take the results of its assessment activities to the campus community to help the University understand the significance of what has been learned and to determine the next steps that should be taken in response to those findings. After widespread consultation with the Academic Senate, the Associated Students Incorporated, the University Staff Assembly, CUP, and the Administrative Council, the WASC Steering Committee will prepare a response integrating the comments for the WASC Visiting Team.

WASC Response to Self-Study Plan and Site Visits

The plan for the WASC self-study was presented to Associate Director Wolff in the Spring of 1995. The response was generally positive, particularly its ". . . innovative approach to gathering a wide range of data on . . . program outcomes, general education, and co-curricular experiences, from a combination of sources." There still remained, however, the issue of the traditional nine standards. Ultimately, CSUS was given permission to proceed with its self-study plan without separately addressing each of the nine standards. Instead, the campus agreed to place the three performance themes at the heart of the self- study, with an additional chapter describing the institutionalization of assessment at CSUS.

In May of 1996 representatives from the campus met with Dr. Wolff and prospective Visiting Team members to discuss further the format for the self-study document and the structure and process for the site visit. We agreed to two site visits. In December of 1996 a Visiting Team will come to campus to discuss the data collected and review documents traditionally examined in an accreditation site visit. The Team will visit again in April of 1997 to review the response to assessment data and subsequent actions of the campus community.

 

Chapter 3

TEACHING AND LEARNING AT CSUS

A teacher affects eternity; (s)he can never tell where her/his influence stops.

--Henry Adams

 

CSUS has identified itself as a teaching institution since its inception almost half a century ago, one in which the pursuit of excellence in teaching takes precedence over all else. The dimension of teaching and learning, therefore, was an important theme upon which to focus the University's self-study efforts. The Steering Committee wanted to explore what was happening in our classrooms, how instructors teach, and how students perceive their educational experience at CSUS. In particular, the Committee wanted to move beyond the "culture of anecdote," our primary source of evidence about teaching effectiveness at the University, to a "culture of evidence."

Toward that end, the Steering Committee launched the most far-reaching and systematic survey of perceptions about pedagogy and related issues in the nearly 50-year history of this campus. The goals were threefold: (1) to produce a comprehensive profile of student, faculty and alumni perceptions of teaching and learning at CSUS; (2) to establish a baseline against which the results of future departmental self-studies and program reviews could be measured; and (3) to suggest a range of questions about teaching and learning that would engage the campus community during and after the WASC self-study. Ultimately the results will be added to the University's "culture of evidence" and used as a basis for decision-making. There has been significant progress toward each of these goals.

Survey Approach

The primary means by which the Steering Committee sought to discover how students viewed their academic experience at CSUS was the ACT-College Outcomes Survey (ACT- COS) which was administered to the CSUS graduating class of 1995. Thirty campus- specific questions, developed by a subcommittee of the Steering Committee, were added to the survey (ACT-COS), the great majority of which were based on the 1987 Wingspread report, Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, which in turn represented a synthesis of "best practices" derived from a number of studies of pedagogy in higher education. In keeping with the commitment to develop an instrument that reflected the consensus among higher education scholars about what constitutes effective teaching and learning, the subcommittee also made extensive use of the Harvard Assessment Seminar reports in developing its questionnaire. In addition, the campus-specific questions on Teaching and Learning were administered to students in selected General Education classes, along with four additional questions.

A total of 3,994 graduating students (2,902 undergraduate and 1,092 post baccalaureate) were sent the ACT-COS and the campus-specific Teaching and Learning Survey. The response rate was 15.6 percent (N=622). Among the respondents, 67.5 percent were female and 32.5 percent were males. Another 2,000 Teaching and Learning surveys were distributed to selected General Education courses. Of the 657 General Education students (32.9%) who completed the surveys, 53.4 percent were females, and 35.2 percent were males (the balance declined to identify gender).

Both groups of students responded to the same 30 Teaching and Learning questions, but graduating seniors were asked to answer them in terms of their experience in the major while the on-campus group responded only in terms of their experience with General Education at CSUS. Supplementing the 1996 graduating students ACT-COS data, and by far the largest group of respondents, were alumni who responded to the ACT-Alumni Survey sent to 1,667 alumni in departments undergoing program reviews during the 1995-96 cycle. Student data from SNAPS and the Spring 1995 ACT-Non-returning (Withdrawing) Survey (ACT- NRS) related to our study of Teaching and Learning will also be included in this chapter.

In order to explore faculty perceptions of teaching and learning, a questionnaire was developed based primarily on Wingspread's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, including some campus-specific questions generated by the subcommittee. Twelve of the items were similar to those on the student survey of Teaching and Learning. The majority of the items on the questionnaire were designed to elicit responses to specific teaching practices.

The faculty survey included items that related to campus efforts to support teaching, such as whether faculty read The Teaching Newsletter, a publication of the University's Center for Teaching and Learning; participated in faculty development workshops; or used information technology, e.g., electronic mail and list servers. The instrument also included three open-ended questions which asked faculty to describe how they learned to teach, the methods they use to evaluate their teaching performance, and activities they engage in to enhance their teaching.

The faculty survey of Teaching Effectiveness was sent to 1,262 full- and part-time faculty during Fall 1995. A total of 310 surveys (24.6%) were returned. This chapter will attempt to highlight some of the significant findings on teaching and learning at CSUS. During Phase II, all segments of the campus community will have an opportunity to react and respond to the findings.

Student Perceptions of the Quality of their CSUS Experience

In general terms, student perceptions of CSUS are markedly favorable. A significant
majority of graduating students surveyed in the ACT-COS survey in Spring 1995 (Appendix F) reported positive perceptions of the University. More than three-fourths of the respondents were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the "Quality of instruction," the "Quality of their program of study" and the "College in general." Even greater numbers of students "strongly agreed" or "agreed" with the statements indicating that they were "Proud of their accomplishments at this university" and that the "University has helped me to achieve my goals." When asked about their "Intellectual growth," more than three-fourths of the respondents reported that the contribution made by CSUS was "great" or "very great."

A majority of students who responded to the SNAPS survey administered during the Spring of 1994 have positive perceptions of the instructional experience at CSUS (Appendix G). Sixty-one percent reported being pleased with their "experiences at this University," and sixty-one percent said they "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the question that asked them if they "would recommend this University to others."

Similarly encouraging were alumni responses to the question, "How would you rate the university?" Thirty-one percent responded "excellent"; 56 percent responded "good"; 12 percent responded "average;" only two percent responded "poor." (ACT-Alumni Survey, 1995)

Student Perceptions of Teaching and Learning

Given that students and alumni are generally satisfied with the University, it is not surprising that more than 80 percent of those surveyed (ACT-COS), including students who had withdrawn from the University and were surveyed in the Spring of 1995 (Appendix H), perceive that instruction at CSUS is organized, coherent, sensitive to student needs and taught by enthusiastic instructors. Seventy-five percent of the graduating seniors said that their professors "almost always" or "frequently," "took the quality of their teaching seriously" and "seemed to enjoy teaching." Eighty-two percent of the alumni who returned the ACT-Alumni Survey were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the quality of instruction at CSUS, compared to 76 percent of the graduating students who completed the ACT-COS survey.

The University received high marks from alumni on the appropriateness of class size relative to the type of courses offered. Approximately 75 percent of the alumni indicated that the faculty encouraged and supported academic success and were available outside the classroom. Two-thirds of the alumni were "satisfied" with the variety of instructional approaches used in the classroom and found their CSUS experience to be intellectually stimulating.

Both graduating seniors and students enrolled in General Education courses in the Spring of 1995 noted that faculty encouraged the free exchange of ideas and challenged students to think about and explore new concepts and theories. A high percentage of General Education students indicated that "almost always" or "frequently" classes met as scheduled, instruction was systematic and feedback on assignments was prompt (Appendix I).

Faculty Perceptions of Teaching

Respondents to the Faculty Survey on Teaching Effectiveness use many of the good teaching practices identified in higher education research on pedagogy (Appendix J). Ninety-eight percent of the faculty enjoy teaching, a response similar to that of both students and alumni. More than 90 percent of the respondents "almost always" or "frequently" use contemporary examples, encourage students to challenge the ideas of faculty and classmates, give students concrete, real-life situations to analyze, allow free exchange of ideas, return assignments within one to two weeks, expect students to complete assignments promptly, explain consequences of non-attendance to students, make their expectations clear, explain what will happen if work is not completed on time, help students set challenging goals, revise their courses, encourage students to speak up if they don't understand, design courses to connect new knowledge to what is known, and notify students when classes are canceled.

About 30 percent of the respondents "almost always" or "frequently" work with staff and administration on student activities, take students to professional meetings in the field, carry out research with students, try to resolve student conflicts on campus, use pretests at the beginning of courses, call or write students who miss class, or develop mastery learning, learning contracts or computer assisted learning activities for class.

When faculty and student perceptions of classroom behaviors are compared, in almost every category, faculty report that they use "good practices" more frequently than students recall, even the practice "encouraging cooperation among students" which students rated lowest of all. While 95 percent of the faculty perceive that they allow free exchange of ideas between themselves and students, "almost always" or "frequently," only 64 percent of the General Education students and 70 percent of the graduating students agreed with their perception. Although 85 percent of the faculty respondents say they take course evaluations seriously, only 51 percent of the graduating students and 55 percent of theGeneral Education students agree. The perceptual differences between faculty and students in the use of "good practices" need to be studied further.

Seventy-four percent of the faculty read The Teaching Newsletter. Although less than 20 percent of the respondents participated in the Peer Coaching Program or the teaching series offered by the Faculty Professional Development Center on campus, over half of the respondents have had a formal course in instructional design and teaching. Forty-five percent of the faculty indicated that they were either too busy or not interested in attending the series on teaching.

General Education and Major: Different Perceptions

The self-study data discussed above indicate a high degree of general satisfaction with pedagogy at CSUS. Certainly, graduating senior and alumni responses indicate that there is a largely favorable view of teaching and learning in the major. But several areas of concern about General Education, both its pedagogy and intended goals, emerge from the data. Student perceptions need to be explored further in the Focus Groups scheduled for the Fall 1996 semester.

A close examination of data generated by questions based on the Wingspread criteria reveals that good teaching practices in virtually every category are reported less frequently-- sometimes dramatically so--in General Education courses compared to major courses (Appendix K). Seventy-one percent of the graduating students indicated that professors in major courses had high expectations and were willing to help them "almost always" or "frequently" compared to 55 percent of the students enrolled in General Education courses. Similarly, 70 percent of the graduating seniors, and only 46 percent of the General Education students, noted that instructors use a variety of teaching methods "almost always" or "frequently." Seventy-five percent of the graduating seniors compared to 46 percent of the General Education students claim that faculty knew their names "almost always" or "frequently." Less than 50 percent of the General Education students indicated that they needed to use the library to complete assignments, compared to 71 percent of the graduating students. More cooperative learning experiences, both in and out of the classroom, appear to occur in major courses than in General Education courses.

The WASC Steering Committee discussed some of the comparative data at one of its meetings in the Fall of 1996. Some members observed that a good many students at a comprehensive university, such as CSUS, consider General Education a hurdle to be surmounted before they can get on to what matters to them--their major. To be sure, the survey asked students to recall specific classroom practices, and not to express their general impression toward the program itself. That said, there can be no guarantee that their attitudes toward General Education did not enter into the results. (The complexity of the program and its seeming arbitrariness have been suggested as possible explanations for the somewhat negative student views of the program.)

Although 61 percent of the graduating students indicated that most of their General Education coursework was completed at CSUS, how much of the General Education program was actually completed here is not unknown. More than 75 percent of the undergraduate student population at CSUS are transfer students from community colleges. While the students may not be critiquing our General Education program specifically, the responses indicate perceptual differences in their experiences of General Education and major courses.

Other explanations of the perceived differences between General Education and major courses can be offered. Some faculty may resent General Education courses almost as much as the students; they would rather be teaching in an upper-division specialty course. Their displeasure may be communicated to their students. Large class enrollments in some General Education courses may discourage faculty from using the same classroom practices in General Education that they use routinely in major instruction.

Whatever the explanation, the question of pedagogy and general education is clearly one that has been raised by this inquiry and should be pursued. Student resistance to the program or not, it is precisely the General Education program that separates CSUS from, say, those proprietary universities that primarily specialize in professional career development and training.

Data generated from the General Education Teaching and Learning Survey and the ACT- Alumni Survey raise further concerns about General Education. While a significant majority of the alumni reported CSUS as having had a "Major" or "Moderate" impact on a range of skills involving effective verbal communication, problem solving, and accessing and using various information sources, it is also the case that much lower percentages were recorded in areas involving broader values, in particular "Appreciating and exercising my rights, responsibilities and privileges as a citizen," "Living personal and professional life by my own standard/ethic" and "Understanding international issues." (Both of these dimensions, of course, could reasonably be expected to fall within the purview of general education more than curriculum in the major.)

Fewer than 40 percent of the General Education students surveyed indicated that they used what they learned in General Education in their major, or work, social, volunteer or other activities apart from school. Less than 50 percent of these same students indicated that their learning experiences in GE helped them deal more effectively with personal, moral, or social problems. Similarly, fewer than 50 percent of the graduating students said that their education at CSUS prepared them "very much" or "much" to participate effectively in the electoral process, to recognize their rights, responsibilities and privileges as a citizen or to gain insight into human nature through the study of literature, history or the arts.

While it may be the case that alumni are simply now reporting the lack of something in their education that they themselves did little to embrace, it may also be the case that their recollection of the CSUS curriculum, and that of graduating students as well, reflects an emphasis in the classroom on the transmission of information to the exclusion of an examination of questions related to values and their roles as citizens. If so, this is cause for concern given the promise in the University's Mission Statement that "[CSUS] will be known for graduating students with the knowledge and skills to assume productive roles in society."

Concluding Thoughts

Much of the data summarized in this chapter points to a teaching culture at CSUS that is appreciated by a good majority of the University's students and alumni. Particularly in the major, teaching effectiveness is reported by students to be generally high--both in terms of general satisfaction and when considered in the context of what the literature has to say about effective teaching practices. More problematic issues are (1) the data reported for the General Education experience, and (2) apparent contradictions in some of the "satisfaction" data, particularly those reported by alumni. For instance, 31 percent of the respondents rate the University as "excellent" and 56 percent rate it as "good" on the one hand. On the other hand, 49 percent say they would recommend it to a friend "without reservation," yet 46 percent say they would recommend it "with reservation."

Similarly, 33 percent said they would definitely attend this school if they had it to do over again, 46 percent said "probably yes," 13 percent responded "uncertain," and 7 percent said "probably no." In some respects, this is less than unbridled enthusiasm, and it would be useful to further explore the degree to which teaching effectiveness may have something to do with these mixed feelings.

In all of this there is perhaps a larger problem, the absence of standards against which to measure the data. For instance, is the finding that nearly a quarter of the students rated their major curriculum as "less than adequate" or "very poor" in providing needed technical skills cause for alarm or not (CASPER Phone Survey, Fall 1995; Appendix L)? Should we be concerned that students perceive research skills required by the discipline as inadequate? In considering all of its data, the Steering Committee really has no way of saying what is an "acceptable" threshold and what is not. It may be that standards, in the usual sense of that term, cannot be usefully developed from self-study data, but a campus-wide conversation about whether it is possible to develop standards could make a significant contribution to clarifying what CSUS hopes to achieve.

Committee Responses to the Data

During Phase II of the WASC self-study process, results from the study of teaching and learning at CSUS will be explored further in Focus Groups. In addition, the Academic Senate and its committees will be asked to respond to significant findings, where they will be integrated into the University's assessment database on teaching and learning.
The WASC Self-Study Committee recommends further exploration of the following issues:

  1. Apparently there are perceptual differences between faculty and students about teaching and learning at CSUS. What is the basis for this perceived difference?
  2. Students likewise perceive differences between General Education and major courses. What accounts for the difference?
  3. Students do not seem to value General Education. Do students understand the relationship between General Education and a University education? How can faculty help students appreciate the value of General Education?
  4. Students do not perceive that the University 's General Education programcontributes to the development of personal values and citizenship. Assuming these are implicit, if not explicit goals of the University's General Education program, how can they best be achieved?

Chapter 4

STUDENT OUTCOMES -- MEASURING EDUCATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS

I'm glad someone cares about how well we are learning instead of just how much.

--incoming first-year student

CSUS, until a few years ago, was not a participant in the national assessment movement in higher education to measure student outcomes. In the late 1980's the CSU held several assessment conferences for faculty and administrators, and, along with WASC, expected campuses to develop and implement assessment initiatives to assess the effectiveness of their educational programs. In 1993 the CSUS Academic Senate responded by developing a policy, which the President approved, requiring departments to develop assessment plans to measure student outcomes in the major. The 1992 revised General Education program also included an assessment mandate. Faculty and administrators attended assessment conferences and meetings of the Assessment Forum of the American Association of Higher Education to learn more about assessment.

When the WASC Steering Committee was presented with the opportunity to build assessment into its self-study, the selection of the Student Outcomes theme was particularly pertinent. However, when the proposal to have selected academic departments measure student outcomes in the major was challenged, the Steering Committee moved toward a more general assessment of educational outcomes. The Committee was aware that an initiative to examine student outcomes would contribute to future curriculum changes, and, in the long run, might have a positive effect on students, faculty, alumni, employers, and the public.

The WASC Educational Standards, as well as the liberal arts tradition, require that University graduates demonstrate competence in written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and develop an appreciation of cultural diversity. A subcommittee of the WASC Steering Committee examined instruments and studies conducted at other universities designed to measure these competencies. An assessment framework was developed to measure 21 outcomes using multiple sources of evidence. Realizing any attempt to measure such a large number of outcomes would be an extremely complex enterprise, the subcommittee reduced the list to 11. The research task remained daunting. Given the time frame for the self-study, the subcommittee realized it would be impossible to develop assessment tools unique to CSUS. Eventually the WASC Steering Committee agreed to examine the performance of CSUS students on existing tests taken by graduating students and to use assessment instruments developed by professional testing services that measure student outcomes. Since this was the University's first foray into the assessment arena, validated tests and instruments would provide some baseline data on CSUS students for future assessment efforts at the program level.

Measuring an appreciation of cultural diversity posed a special problem. Since one of the underlying objectives for requiring a course approved for the Race and Ethnicity in American Society General Education category is to develop an appreciation of cultural diversity, the WASC Steering Committee decided to include the results of the General Education Committee's assessment of courses approved to meet this requirement. Students enrolled in these courses were asked to assess whether the course they took met the intended General Education objectives.

Survey Approach

A variety of instruments were used to gather data for the Student Outcomes theme. The ACT surveys were used to measure the perceptions of graduating students, alumni, and non-returning students regarding their educational experience at CSUS. CAAP tests were used to examine the critical thinking and writing skills of CSUS students. A survey of mathematical skills was added to the CAAP test when it was administered to graduating students. The performance of graduating students on pre-professional standardized tests was also examined. Finally, the self-study examined the development of an appreciation of cultural diversity in "Race and Ethnicity in American Society" General Education courses through a survey administered to students at the end of the Fall 1994 semester. A summary and analysis of the survey data follows.

ACT College Outcomes Survey

All graduating undergraduate students (2,902) and graduate students (1,092) were sent the ACT-COS Survey in the Spring of 1995. The 622 (16%) respondents did reflect the demographics of the CSUS student population. Students were asked to evaluate their educational experiences at CSUS on a five-point scale with "5" representing the highest or "most satisfied" rating. For a complete summary of the results of the ACT-COS Survey see Appendix E. What follows is a profile of perceived student outcomes with the average rating for each item.

College Outcomes - Students rated "Acquiring skills and knowledge needed for a career" as the most important college outcome (4.7); followed by "developing problem- solving skills" (4.6); "becoming competent in my major" (4.6); "learning to think and reason" (4.6); and "drawing conclusions after weighing facts and evidence" (4.5). There was a high level of congruence between the value graduating students placed on these college outcomes and student perceptions of their progress in meeting them. Although students noted the importance of developing job-seeking skills, learning about career options, and using technology effectively, they were not as satisfied with their progress in attaining these desired.

When asked to evaluate the contribution the University had made to their growth and preparation, students reported that their educational experience at CSUS contributed strongly to their "intellectual growth" (4.1); "preparation for further study" (3.7); "career preparation" (3.7); and "social and personal growth" (3.5). Students perceived that required courses outside the major helped them to "broaden their awareness of diversity among people as well as their values and culture" (3.9). These courses also helped students to "develop as a whole person" (3.8) and become "more independent and self directed learners" (3.7).

CSUS Contribution to Personal Growth - When asked how much CSUS contributed to their personal growth, students gave the highest ratings to "intellectual curiosity" (4.2) and "academic competence" (4.1). When asked to indicate the extent of personal growth since entering college, and the University's contribution to such growth, the following items received the highest ratings: "acquisition of a well-rounded general education" (95%); "becoming academically competent" (93%); "gaining insight into human nature through the study of literature, history and the arts" (91%); "increasing my intellectual curiosity" (90%); "becoming more willing to consider opposing views" (90%); and, "interacting well with people from cultures other than my own" (90%). The University was seen as contributing much less to developing religious values, learning to become a more responsible family member, and managing finances.

ACT Alumni Survey

In the Spring of 1995, the ACT-Alumni Survey (Appendix M) was mailed to CSUS alumni who had graduated within the last five years. Alumni from ten programs undergoing program review were surveyed: Asian Studies, Bilingual-Multicultural Education, Biological Sciences, Counselor Education, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, French, German, Interior Design, Spanish, and Special Education. A total of 1,667 surveys were mailed with an 18 percent response rate (N=291).
Employment - The respondents reported that they were employed full-time (71%), part- time (9%), continuing to pursue their education (11%), or were unemployed (2%). Most respondents were employed in jobs highly related to their degree (59%); only 14 percent reported that their degrees and jobs were unrelated. The survey did not determine why some respondents were employed in areas unrelated to their degree, or how they felt about such an outcome. Almost half (49%) indicated that CSUS was more than adequate to exceptional in preparing them for their employment, while 11 percent reported that the University prepared them poorly. It was not known from the survey results what contributed to the poor preparation rating.

Educational Outcomes - Although the University was perceived by the alumni as having a major impact on the development of skills in the areas of understanding and appreciating culture and ethnic differences between people (41%), accessing and using a variety of information sources (39%), verbal communication skills (38%), and written communication skills (37%), the percentages were relatively low. These are important educational outcomes that need to be investigated further to ascertain the reasons for low university impact. Alumni indicated that verbal communication skills (77%), living life according to their own standards/ethics (76%), and commitment to life-long learning (70%) were very important; however, they did not perceive that CSUS had strong impact on the development of these outcomes.

CAAP Basic Skills Assessment

The Tests - CSU systemwide objectives for General Education are articulated in Executive Order No. 595: Graduates ". . .will have achieved the ability to think clearly and logically, to find information and examine it critically, to communicate orally and in writing, and to reason quantitatively." To determine whether students at CSUS possessed these basic competencies, acquired primarily through General Education coursework, the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) tests on writing and critical thinking were administered to a sample of students enrolled in Advanced Study courses in the University's General Education program. Advanced Study courses are upper-division courses and are not taken until students have passed the Writing Proficiency Examination. Note: Copies of the CAAP tests are not available for viewing; the tests were scored by ACT.

The CAAP tests were selected because they measured more than minimum competency in writing and critical thinking and CSUS results could be compared with similar institutions. Faculty with expertise in the areas to be tested reviewed the tests and concurred that the tests would be an effective measure of writing and critical thinking skills. The Writing Test was designed to measure skills most commonly taught in college-level writing courses and required in most upper-division coursework. The test measures a student's skills in formulating and supporting assertions about a given issue and in organizing and connecting major ideas. The Critical Thinking Test measures the ability to clarify, analyze, evaluate, and extend an argument. The WASC Steering Committee did not intend to measure the effectiveness of any given General Education course; rather, it wanted to measure the effectiveness of the educational foundation acquired through General Education coursework and reinforced in the major curriculum.

During Fall 1995, 600 students enrolled in advanced study courses were invited to take the CAAP tests in writing; another 600 students were asked to take the CAAP test in critical thinking. There were actually 288 completed writing tests and 338 completed critical thinking tests. The CSUS sample of students was comparable with national samples on all demographic elements except ethnicity (see below).

Writing Test Results - The mean score on the CAAP Writing Test taken by CSUS students was 3.2 (SD 0.7, range 1 to 4.75) -- a mean score identical with the national sample mean. African American students (2.9), Filipino students (2.55), and Native American students (2.61) scored below the mean.

The mean on the Writing Test for the 258 students whose primary language was English was 3.26 compared with the mean of 2.54 for the 28 English as a Second Language (ESL) students who took the test. Students scoring above the mean of 3.2 were from general studies (3.35, N=7), education (3.45, N=24), and fine arts (3.32, N=10). The lowest mean scores were students majoring in community services (3.08, N=24), computer science (3.05, N=5), engineering (2.94, N=13), and home economics (2.58, N=6). Note: Community services includes criminal justice and social work.

Critical Thinking Test Results - The mean score on the Critical Thinking Test for the CSUS sample was 63.6 (SD 5.0, range 0 to 99). The national mean was 62.7 (SD 5.4). Only Asian students at CSUS scored below (58) the campus and national mean scores.
The mean on the Critical Thinking test for the 289 CSUS students whose primary language was English was 64 compared with a mean of 59 for the 40 ESL students. Students majoring in the health professions (19) and home economics (7) scored the highest mean scores (66). Students majoring in liberal studies (6) and engineering (32) scored below the mean on Critical Thinking Test.

For the most part, CSUS students performed satisfactorily on the Writing and Critical Thinking Tests. Black, Filipino, and Native American students scored below the CSUS mean as did ESL students. ESL students likewise scored below the CSUS mean on the Critical Thinking Test. Note: The national norms for the writing and critical thinking tests were based on sophomore level skills. Students who completed the tests at CSUS were enrolled in courses typically taken by seniors.
In several instances, majors in one field scored high on one test and low on the other. Only students from engineering scored below the mean on both tests. Due to the low numbers of students, caution must be exercised in drawing inferences from these test results. While ESL students may have had difficulty responding to the writing test, it is not known why students from community services, computer science, engineering, and home economics scored below the mean. The University needs to examine more closely the basis for variations in scores on the Writing and Critical Thinking tests.

Mathematics - CSUS has a well-developed system for evaluating mathematics competence of incoming students. Students admitted to the University are required to have completed three years of mathematics in high school. The Entry Level Mathematics (ELM) test, administered on campus at the beginning of the student's first year, assesses student competence in mathematics at entrance. Some students need developmental work in mathematics before they can enroll in college level mathematics courses. There is no test of mathematics competence before graduation from CSUS, as there is for writing proficiency. Quantitative reasoning scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), an examination given to prospective teachers in California, indicate that CSUS students perform lower than national and state averages.

For this self-study, a mathematics knowledge survey was included in the ACT-COS (Appendix N) and sent to all graduating students in Spring, 1995. The mathematics assessment consisted of ten questions about mathematics knowledge and two questions about attitudes toward mathematics and the use of mathematics skills. While 700 mathematics questions were randomly included in the ACT-COS survey, only 56 (8%) were returned. The respondents answered an average of 4.5 questions correctly out of the 10 (SD 1.8). The scores closely approximate a normal distribution. The performance of the CSUS students was average, but there was only a very small number of respondents. Thus, drawing conclusions based on the sample must be approached cautiously.

Pre-Professional Standardized Tests

Four of the standardized tests currently being taken by CSUS students to meet credential requirements and to determine admission to graduate and profession schools were reviewed as part of the assessment of student outcomes.
Graduate Record Examination - The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a general test of verbal, quantitative, and analytical reasoning designed to assess undergraduate achievement or the qualifications of students for graduate study. The test does not and cannot measure all the factors important in predicting success in graduate study or in assessing undergraduate achievement. Although universities are discouraged from using the scores in aggregate form, a review of score ranges at CSUS indicated that:

  • half of the students scored at the 50th percentile or below on the verbal portion and half scored above;
  • 73 percent of the students scored below the 50th percentile on the quantitative reasoning component; and,
  • 56 percent scored at the 50th percentile or below on the analytical portion of the exam.

In 1997 the GRE will be adding new sections to the exam that will provide CSUS with more outcome assessment information. The University has not established an acceptable performance score to use in interpreting the GRE test scores. Many graduate programs have established a minimum raw score of 1,500.

California Basic Educational Skills Test - Since 1983, prospective teachers have been required to take the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) to ensure an acceptable level of competence for credentialed K-12 teachers. The full array of CBEST scores for three tests administered during 1995 can be found in Appendix O. The data include scores for CSUS students and others across the State of California, comparing scores by gender and ethnicity and those of seniors to those with the BA, those with more than the BA, and those with the MA degree.

The overall pass rate for the State on the CBEST was 68 and for CSUS students was 64.7. CSUS students met or exceeded the State rates in reading and writing, but not in mathematics. Those with more than the BA exceeded the State and CSUS rates in reading, mathematics, and writing as did those with the MA. Black and Latino students scored below the State and CSUS rates in reading, mathematics, and writing. Other Latino students scored below the State and CSUS scores in reading. Males scored below the norm in writing while females scored below the norm in reading and mathematics. These results indicate a continuing need for academic support programs to improve student competencies in reading, writing and mathematics.

Medical College Admission Test - In 1995 two test results were available for CSUS students seeking admission to medical schools. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) measures proficiency in verbal reasoning and writing, and competency in biological and physical sciences. Forty-two CSUS students completed the test with the following results:
CSUS April 1995 Average: Verbal Reasoning - 7.8, Physical Sciences - 8.5, Writing* - O=50th percentile,
Biological Sciences -8.2
CSUS August 1995 Average: Verbal Reasoning - 7.5, Physical Sciences - 8.5, Writing* - O=75th percentile,
Biological Sciences - 8.4
National Average: Verbal Reasoning - 7.9, Physical Sciences - 8.1, Writing* - N, Biological Sciences - 8.3

CSUS students compare favorably with the national sample except for writing competency. *The letter "O" indicates that CSUS students fell below the national averaged represented by the letter "N." In August of 1995 students scored in the 50th percentile; in April of the same year, they scored in the 75th percentile.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT) - Scores on the LSAT are reported on a scale ranging from 120 to 180. Three sets of scores were reviewed for tests taken in December 1995, February 1996, and June 1966:
December 1995 February 1996 June 1966
CSUS Mean: December 1995 - 147.79, February 1996 - 144.58, June 1966 - 148
Percentile Rank: December 1995 - 38th, February 1996 - 24th, June 1966 - 35th
CSUS Range: December 1995 - 127-167, February 1996 - 134-156, June 1966 - 134-161
National Mean: December 1995 - 149.45 (1995), February 1996 - unknown, June 1966 - unknown

Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in General Education - In the Fall of 1994, 1,701 students enrolled in "Race and Ethnicity in American Society" courses were surveyed at the end of the semester to determine whether they perceived that the course they were enrolled in met the objectives, which were to develop ". . .a significant and useful understanding of the perspectives and contributions to human activities and experiences of people from a diversity of cultures and backgrounds." Of the students surveyed, 60 percent were female; 40 percent male; 41 percent were seniors; 27 percent were juniors; 20 percent were freshmen; and 10 percent were sophomores. Self-identification of race/ethnicity status revealed 54 percent were Caucasian, 18 percent were Asian, 11 percent were Mexican American and Latino, and 6 percent were Black.

Overall, the majority of students responded positively to the questions, indicating that the Race and Ethnicity courses were meeting the intended General Education objectives (Appendix P). The proportion of respondents choosing "agree" or "strongly agree" on each question varied from a high of 82 percent on "Having positive attitudes toward other ethnic groups" to a low of 57 percent on "Interacting frequently with other ethnic groups as a result of the course." The average was a 73 percent positive response across all survey questions.

Strong negative responses of "disagree" or "strongly disagree" ranged from a high of 12 percent on "How to interact effectively with ethnic groups" to a low of 3 percent on "Whether the course provided information on the history of underrepresented minority groups in the United States." The average proportion of negative responses was percent for all questions.

Neutral responses ranged from a high of 24.1 percent on "Interacting more frequently with members from other ethnic groups as a result of the course" to a low of 11.2 percent on "Whether the course included the study of at least two minority cultures." A rather high, 17 percent average, response of "neutral" was recorded on the survey and could not be interpreted.

Further analysis revealed that some courses appeared to meet the General Education Race and Ethnicity criteria better than others. Data summarizing the results for each course, including summaries of each section, were shared with the departments offering the courses, since they are responsible for monitoring their own courses. The survey instrument will be revised and refined before it is used again. The neutral response will be eliminated from the survey in favor of a forced-choice format. Perhaps students could be asked to assess the effectiveness of teaching strategies used in the course. One of the more interesting observations about the University's contribution to the understanding and appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity was the congruence between student evaluations of Race and Ethnicity courses and responses of alumni and graduating students to cultural diversity questions on the ACT surveys.

Committee Responses to the Data

ACT-COS data demonstrate that CSUS performs satisfactorily in almost all areas of inquiry. However, graduating students identified aspects of their University education in need of improvement. Student performances on standardized basic skills tests seem significant enough to require further inquiry. The Steering Committee recommends that the following issues be examined:

Students want the University to provide more assistance with career development and job seeking skills. What can CSUS do to facilitate student transition from school to career?

Students need and want more experience in using technology effectively. What is CSUS doing to ensure that its graduates are technologically literate? ESL students scored below the mean on writing tests. While this might be expected, the question is What specific difficulties do ESL students have in writing and what can be done to improve the writing competency of ESL students?

Black and Mexican American students scored below the State and CSUS rates in reading, mathematics, and writing. Other Latino students scores below the State and CSUS scores in reading. Men scored below the writing norm while women scored below in reading and mathematics. These outcomes demonstrate the need to continue special support for students. Further inquiry might yield competency areas that can be targeted for improvement.

Students majoring in community services, computer science, engineering, and home economics scored below the mean in writing tests. What are the contributing factors for students in these majors having writing difficulty and what can be done to improve their writing competency?

Asian students scored below the campus and national means in the critical thinking test. What are the reasons for this below average performance and what can be done to improve this competency?

Students majoring in liberal studies and engineering scored below the mean on the critical thinking test. What are the reasons for this below average performance of students in these majors and what can be done to improve their critical thinking competency?

 

Chapter 5
THE LEARNING COMMUNITY

To the extent that we foster a community on campus, we further our goals
in all areas.

--CSUS Strategic Plan

 

How does a regional comprehensive university define itself as a community,particularly when the majority of students commute to campus? It was this general question that prompted the WASC Steering Committee to examine the campus as a "Learning Community" as one of its themes for the University's self-study.

The easiest response to the question is to say that a commuter orientation limits involvement in the life of the campus; however, it does not lessen the University's commitment to create a learning community in which "teaching and learning are fundamental values and where people come together in community" (CSUS Strategic Plan). Within this broad definition the University's Strategic Plan asserts that the campus "should be recognized as a place of importance for students, faculty, and staff". . . "a place where achievement is recognized, collegiality and collaboration are valued, and all persons are respected." We agree with Ernest Boyer who noted that a community is a place where a balance exists between individual interests and shared concerns.

Using these definitions as a framework for its theme, the Steering Committee explored the characteristics and dimensions of a Learning Community. Faculty on the Steering Committee saw a need to explore the issue of community among the faculty at large. Anticipation of the retirement of many faculty, and an interest in the "socialization" process for junior faculty added, for some, a sense of urgency to the issue of community. The student and staff dialogue in the WASC Steering Committee developed in a somewhat different direction. For them, diversity became a defining dimension. The issues of representation and respect that a commitment to diversity expects from all constituencies were clearly of concern. These diversity themes became a significant feature of this first phase of data collection and examination.

Survey Approach

The WASC Steering Committee decided to examine the well being of the Learning Community by surveying staff, faculty, and students about their satisfaction with the University and the nature of the campus climate, particularly with respect to diversity. A study of the Learning Community is essentially a study of the organizational culture, the formal and informal environment of the institution where individuals learn, work, and live. The survey design explored values, beliefs, and relationships which contribute to a sense of community, the expectations and needs of faculty, staff and students as members of the community, and issues of diversity on the campus. The committee wanted to answer the following questions:

What is the nature of the relationships between and among students, faculty, staff, and administrators?;

To what extent are there widely shared values and beliefs about the campus as a Learning Community?;

What are the expectations and needs of faculty, staff and students as members of the community?;

What impediments to, or incentives for, strengthening community exist?; and,

How do faculty, staff, and students view issues of diversity as integral to the idea of a Learning Community?

With these questions, a subcommittee of the WASC Steering Committee examined existing survey data and instruments that might be used in the data gathering process.

A survey was developed in 1993 to measure student perceptions of campus climate using questions from an instrument generated and validated by CPEC. The Campus Education Equity Committee (CEEC) and the Committee on Diversity and Equity (CODE) collaborated in the development of the instrument. A faculty and staff survey was to follow in 1994. When the WASC Steering Committee decided to explore issues of diversity in its study of the Learning Community there was general agreement to include the results of the student Campus Climate Survey (1993) and to develop an instrument to survey faculty and staff.

The WASC Steering Committee agreed to use items from the Assessing Campus Climate instrument developed by CPEC. CPEC had validated the items for three separate instruments designed specifically for faculty, staff and student groups. While the student version of the instrument focused primarily on issues of diversity, the faculty and staff surveys sought to broaden the scope of issues to include general perceptions of the campus community as measured by personal expectations and needs, values and beliefs, and impediments and incentives.

In retrospect, it must be acknowledged that the faculty and staff surveys reflected some of the inevitable weaknesses of any attempt to mesh different goals and thus different variables in a single instrument. Questions were added to an existing instrument designed to assess campus climate on diversity issues. Nonetheless, there are many interesting and provocative findings which suggest rich avenues for continuing to explore the campus as a learning community. In addition to the student Campus Climate Survey (1993), the results of other surveys, conducted as part of the WASC Self-Study and relevant to student perceptions of the Learning Community, will be included in this chapter.

Staff Perceptions of the Learning Community

In May 1995 all staff at CSUS were sent the Learning Community Survey which included 11 demographic questions and 254 items regarding staff roles, responsibilities, campus relationships, and satisfaction with CSUS. One qualitative question included in the survey was designed to probe attitudes and experiences associated with the rewards and challenges of working in a multicultural campus community. Approximately 1,300 surveys were distributed and 184 (14%) were returned. With the exception of the narrative question, responses were marked on a scannable answer form.

The ethnic distribution of the respondents varied from the ethnic composition of the full staff population. Caucasian respondents were overrepresented with 127 (71.3%) of the total returned questionnaires while they constitute 67.7 percent of CSUS staff. African American respondents made up 2.2 percent (N=4) of the total while 10.2 percent of the CSUS staff are African American. In addition 65.7 percent of the respondents were female compared to 41.2 percent of the staff as a whole. The majority of the respondents (85.4%) were full-time employees for an average of ten years. A little over half worked in student services or administrative support services. The average age was 43 years. The Committee does not perceive the staff survey results as conclusive, but rather views the data as helpful as a starting point for further exploration via focus groups or additional surveys (Appendix Q).

Values, Expectations and Needs of Staff - The reasons why staff chose to work at CSUS were somewhat standard and predictable: job security, competitive salary, further educational opportunities and career advancement. A significant finding was the importance staff placed on opportunities for faculty/staff collaboration; 94 percent ranked it as "very important" or "important", giving it an intensity certainly equal if not stronger than some of the traditional factors above.

When asked to assess their satisfaction with various aspects of CSUS, staff were "most satisfied" with working in a collaborative manner with faculty (74%), followed by campus life (66%); and, campus facilities (61%). They were "least satisfied" with opportunities for promotion to a different job classification (64%), reclassification within the same job classification (62%), professional growth (58%), and earning a competitive salary (53%). Approximately one- half indicated "dissatisfaction" with opportunities to develop skills for professional advancement.

Incentives and Impediments - Among the staff, incentives for community center on the quality of relationships with supervisors, including mentoring, and general cohesion within their work groups. For example, 84 percent of respondents indicated that they regularly meet with their supervisors; almost half said they receive mentoring. Seventy-nine percent perceive appreciated by their supervisors; job expectations are clear for 70 percent; and 72 percent believe that their work is judged objectively.

Impediments to community include the lack of clear performance standards (43%), the lack of information and advice on promotional opportunities (62%), and the lack of effective staff orientations (41.6%). A set of questions probed the orientation that new staff receive to CSUS campus policies and procedures, departmental policies and procedures, the nature of the student body and the mission of the institution. Almost 50 percent of the staff indicated that they received "no orientation" in these areas.

Relationships with Faculty, Students and Administration - Although there is general satisfaction (85%) with staff/staff relationships, only 66 percent of staff perceive that their work is appreciated by faculty. When staff were asked to evaluate the leadership administrators provide in the areas of campus governance, opportunities for staff development, quality of campus life for staff and students, and the quality of teaching, research and public service, the most frequent response on all dimensions was "sometimes". Similarly, "sometimes" was the most frequent response to questions of whether campus administrators are receptive to ideas from staff, communicate important information, regard staff as professionals, and promote positive faculty/staff relations.

Diversity Issues - Issues related to the University's commitment to diversity are really woven throughout all the data as can be seen in the survey results. Fifty to 60 percent of the respondents participated in activities related to understanding diversity, including campus programs, informal discussions, reading books and attending special events which increase respect for diversity. The overwhelming majority of respondents indicate that when they have seen and heard about campus events where individuals from various groups (gender, culture, race, and age) are portrayed, these portrayals are positive. Administrators are also "almost always" or "frequently" perceived as supportive of staff from diverse racial groups, regardless of gender orientation, or disability. Similarly, most staff are satisfied with opportunities to become campus leaders regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability.

Despite these generally positive findings, staff indicate that they had "sometimes" experienced discrimination by other staff (46%), administrators (42%), faculty (35%) and students (25%). The most frequent source of discrimination felt by staff respondents was gender.

Attitudes about diversity are varied. Staff responses to special programs designed to diversify staff hiring and student admissions are somewhat evenly divided between those advocating qualifications as a sole criterion (44%) and those committed to including diversity factors in the decision process (38%).

Four qualitative questions, developed by CODE and included in the questionnaire, were designed to probe attitudes and experiences associated with the rewards and challenges of working in a multicultural campus community. One question was included in each staff learning community survey on a random basis so that 25 percent of the surveys contained each question. Of the 184 completed surveys, 94 respondents answered the question contained in the survey packet. Included in the 94 responses were 22 who replied that the situation was "not applicable" or they had not experienced or observed difficult situations of cross- cultural interactions that made them feel uncomfortable or ill-at-ease. The narrative responses were transcribed omitting identifiable information; samples are included in
Appendix Q.

The Steering Committee was disappointed in the responses of staff (14%) to the Learning Community survey. Anecdotal information indicated that some respondents were frustrated and even angry about a numbering error on 300 of the 1,300 surveys; others were concerned about its length.

Committee Responses to the Data - Respondents to the staff survey on the Learning Community did some areas that the Committee believes need to be pursued further.

The respondents to the staff questionnaire indicated a desire to collaborate more with faculty. While all staff are members of the Learning Community, their roles in the University would influence the nature of the collaboration. In what ways and how might staff collaborate more with faculty?

The survey indicated staff ambivalence about administrative leadership in a variety of areas. What are the specific concerns? How might they be addressed?

Staff were concerned about career advancement and promotional opportunities at CSUS. How should the University respond?

Respondents also indicated concerns about orientations for new staff and the standards used to evaluate staff performance. What kind of orientation should be provided for new staff? What are the concerns about the current standards used to evaluate staff performance?

There are perceived difficulties among staff related to the issue of diversity. How can the University strengthen its policies? Their answers indicate a need for further education and knowledge about issues such as racism, affirmative action, sexual harassment, and what is considered reasonable and sensitive behavior toward others. How might supervisors be more responsive when difficult situations arise in the workplace related to gender or ethnic discrimination?

Some of the issues listed can be addressed quickly, i.e., improving staff orientation, and strengthening the staff evaluation and performance evaluation system. Others will require a more concentrated effort. More information about staff perceptions of administrative accessibility and leadership and promotional/advancement opportunities is needed.

Faculty Perceptions of the Learning Community

Responding to comments regarding the length of the staff survey, the Steering Committee decided to survey the faculty in two stages. In January 1996, all faculty, full-time and part-time, were sent the Faculty Learning Community Survey, Part I, which assessed the campus climate regarding issues of diversity and equity. Part I included 79 multiple choice questions relating to diversity, four qualitative questions, and 13 demographic items. A total of 1,262 surveys were distributed to faculty with a 13 percent response rate (N=166) for Part I.

Part II of the questionnaire was distributed in March 1996 to all faculty, addressing the roles and responsibilities of faculty on campus. The survey included 127 quantitative questions including demographic information. There were no qualitative questions included in Part II. The response rate was again 13 percent (N=164). To maintain anonymity, no attempt was made to match faculty responses in Part I to those who responded to Part II. The demographics of the respondents were virtually identical for both Part I and II.

The respondents to Part I (N=166) represented the following variation: 60 percent were Caucasian, 20 percent were from a diverse group, and 20 percent declined to specify. (Twenty-five percent of the total faculty are from Hispanic, Black, Latino, Native American, and Asian cultural groups.) Respondents were almost equally divided between males (40%) and females (44%), and 16 percent did not indicate gender. Fifty-five percent were full professors, average age was 51.3 years, and the average number of years on the CSUS faculty was 16.6 years. The greatest number of respondents were from the School of Arts and Sciences (41%), Health and Human Services (18%), Education (12%), Engineering/Computer Science (4%), and School of Business Administration (4%). Responses to the faculty survey are included in Appendix R.

Values, Expectations and Needs of Faculty - Faculty respondents were asked to identify what was important to them when they came to CSUS; then they were asked to evaluate their level of satisfaction with their progress toward meeting their goals or expectations. Most striking about these comparative findings were the large number (91%) of faculty who came to CSUS with expectations to inspire students to continue their education and the equally large number (85%) who are either very satisfied or satisfied with their progress on that dimension. In almost all areas, faculty indicated satisfaction with their progress in proportion to the importance given to the goal when they initially came to CSUS. The item which revealed the greatest difference between initial expectation and current assessment concerned the pursuit of academic freedom through shared governance.

Faculty perceived numerous changes in the University. Changes in the curriculum, diversity of faculty and students, and the University's Mission Statement were perceived positively. Increases in the University's student/faculty ratio were perceived negatively.

When faculty were asked to indicate how they spend their time outside the classroom, an overwhelming majority (98%) cited class preparation. More than 50 percent of the respondents reported spending ten or more hours per week on class- related tasks. Faculty, by contract, are required to hold three office hours weekly. Fifty-three percent of the survey respondents are available for students an additional one to three hours weekly and 23 percent are available an additional four to six hours. Fifty-three percent said they attend student sponsored functions, 64 percent spend time making presentations, 69 percent participate in department and/or school activities, 78 percent volunteer in the community and 89 percent serve on campus committees.

Impediments and Incentives - Faculty seem satisfied that their teaching is respected (96%) and evaluated fairly (84%). Research was perceived as having a somewhat lower respect (76%), although 73 percent indicated that research received a fair evaluation.

Faculty enjoy teaching well-prepared, motivated students from diverse backgrounds. However, only 35 percent of the faculty respondents "strongly agreed" with the statement that they "enjoy teaching students needing assistance to succeed." When asked if they "prefer teaching only students who meet admission requirements," 37 percent "strongly agreed" or "agreed."

Unfortunately, the instrument did not sufficiently address factors which could be interpreted as internal campus impediments to community. These factors need to be addressed further.

Relationships with Staff, Faculty, Students and Administration - There were no questions which directly assessed faculty relationships with staff. An indirect measure of faculty/faculty relationships may be found in the respondents' perception of changes in collegiality over time. Twenty-seven percent indicated a positive change, 37 percent a negative change, with the balance (36%) noting no change. Positive student relationships can be inferred from the responses on number of hours spent by faculty in advising, both academic and personal, and by the overall receptivity to teaching a diverse student population.

As was the case with staff, most faculty respondents perceived administration as "sometimes" providing leadership on issues like academic freedom, governance, teaching, research, and diversity. Faculty responses indicated that the administration should provide stronger leadership in supporting quality teaching. In general, faculty are about evenly divided in their satisfaction and dissatisfaction with campus administrative leadership.

The administration is given high marks by both faculty and staff for its commitment to diversity in the student, staff and faculty communities. Given a list of possible priorities of the administration, the hiring and retaining of quality faculty, responsiveness to the community, efforts to enhance diversity, and efforts to create a climate of respect were recognized by the faculty as priorities of the administration.

Diversity Issues - Part I of the faculty survey addressed four concerns: perceptions of rewards and recognition for faculty who actively promote diversity; experiences with discrimination; administrative policies and leadership regarding diversity; and views on special programs and policies designed to enhance diversity.

Most faculty respondents did not perceive discrimination toward themselves. However, 40 percent of respondents said that "sometimes" they had been discriminated against because of their gender and 25 percent answered "sometimes" because of race or ethnicity. The source of discriminatory behavior is more often other faculty and administrators than staff. Faculty generally are satisfied with their opportunities to become leaders regardless of race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities, or gender.

When asked to assess the behavior of other faculty, 50 percent of the respondents said that other faculty behave as though students from particular racial/ethnic groups are unprepared for college. When asked if special admission programs and policies lead to the admission of underprepared students, 64 percent strongly agreed or agreed, and 30 percent feel the programs are remedial. Sixty-five percent of the faculty are satisfied with the sensitivity of faculty/staff to students.

Committee Response to the Data - The Steering Committee was similarly disappointed in the response rate of the faculty survey (13%). In contrast to the staff survey, which was more straight forward in identifying issues for change, faculty responses to the Learning Community Survey, raised more questions than they appeared to answer. Questions requiring study include:

What is underneath the perception that collegiality among the faculty has declined over time? To what extent is it linked to the growth of the professional schools in contrast to the arts and the sciences? Do perceptions of collegiality differ among the Schools? Do perceptions differ by senior and junior faculty? By full- and part-time? Where does the responsibility lie for strengthening collegiality? Has the reorganization of the School of Arts and Sciences into three smaller school units had an effect on collegiality? Is the consistent use of "sometimes" in response to issues of administrative leadership a sign of apathy, antipathy, or marginal satisfaction? What is an appropriate response if we wish to strengthen trust in the learning community? What is the faculty response to the desire of the staff to be a stronger participant in the learning community? To the high value they place on staff/faculty collaboration?

 

Student Perceptions of the Learning Community

The original intent of the WASC Steering Committee was to assess student perceptions of the community using the results of the 1993 Campus Climate Survey. However, other surveys conducted as part of the WASC self-study provided additional data from the perspective of students and alumni on CSUS as a Learning Community. This section will begin with a summary of the campus climate survey results, followed by the results of other surveys.

Campus Climate - The 1993 Campus Climate Study, used to assess diversity issues on campus, was administered to two different samples of students. One sample of 1,600 students was stratified by class level and ethnicity. The sample, comparable to the total CSUS student body in terms of ethnicity, gender, and class level, was drawn from lecture classes in Fall, 1992. A total of 1,171 usable responses were received. A second sample consisted of underrepresented students in organizations or classes recommended by the CEEC. The following refers to the survey of the stratified cluster sample.

In general, respondents to the survey were moderate in their opinions about the University and how they are viewed by the campus community. Students gave ratings of about 3.5 on a 5.0 point scale of attributes. The highest rated campus attribute was friendliness (3.8), the lowest was sensitivity (3.15). When responding to how they are perceived by the campus, students were also moderate. Seventy- eight percent "agree" or "strongly agree" that the highest campus priority for all students is a quality college education. Positive interaction among ethnic, racial and cultural groups is a high priority for Hispanic (84%) and African American* (94%) students. Seventy-three percent of all respondents "agree" or "strongly agree" that recruitment of underrepresented students is a priority, especially if it is embedded in the context of a quality education. Student perceptions of the campus environment were organized around the social, cultural, physical and organizational environment and the academic environment. *In the Campus Climate Survey, African American, rather than Black, was listed as one of the options for Ethnicity.

Social, Cultural, Physical and Organizational Environment - In general, the University provides an environment that supports and reflects its diverse student population. There are however, pockets of insensitivity and areas in which behavior is patently offensive.

Incidents of discrimination do occur on our campus. African American students perceive they are discriminated against with greater frequency than students of other ethnic, racial and cultural groups. Six percent of all respondents, 24 percent of African American students, 11 percent of Hispanic students, and 11 percent Asian students responded they had been discriminated against "almost always" or "frequently." Individuals who discriminate are more likely to be students from ethnic groups other than those of the student.

A majority (71%) of students perceive positive portrayals of ethnic, racial, and cultural groups at campus events, and are aware of the availability of textbooks and other books written from a variety of viewpoints regarding ethnicity, race or culture (60%). However, respondents do observe negative portrayals, including graffiti, of various ethnic, racial or cultural groups on campus (33%).

Students reported very little pressure from their own ethnic group to socialize, study, date, "hang out" or participate in activities with their own group. Of the items listed, the pressure to participate in activities with their group was cited most by Hispanic and Asian students. African American students (23%), Asian students (9%), and Hispanic students (9%) perceived this pressure "almost always" or "frequently." The highest source of pressure for Native American students was to study with their group (18% "almost always" or "frequently"). Only African American students perceived pressure to "hang out" with their group "almost always" or "frequently" (25%). African American students are more likely to be sensitive to and have stronger opinions about ethnic, racial, and cultural issues than other groups. The proportion that responded with "does not apply" or "no opinion" was generally less than other groups.

Students were asked if they interacted with students of other racial/ethnic groups in a variety of settings. A majority responded "yes" to classes (92%), in-class study groups (67%), and out of class study groups (54%).

Academic Environment - Since most of the interaction that occurs between ethnic, racial, and cultural groups is in the classroom, the climate in the classroom needs to be equitable for accepting all students. Generally, students gave a high rating to the professionalism and helpfulness of the faculty. A majority (56%) noted that professors are comfortable teaching all students regardless of ethnicity, race, or cultural background. African American students, however, were more likely to believe that professors are less comfortable teaching African American students (35%) than students of the professor's own ethnicity (41%). Students responded affirmatively that professors in their classes (71%), and professors in their majors (65%), were the individuals who most frequently assisted them in achieving their goals.

Thirty-two percent of the students stated that professors "sometimes" incorporate materials that acknowledge the contributions of other ethnic, racial, and cultural groups. On a 5.0 scale from "almost always" to "never," the average rating was 3.27. African American students rated professors lower than other students in this area. Forty-five percent indicated "rarely" or "almost never" with an average rating of 2.8. Students also indicated that multiple viewpoints on race or ethnicity are "sometimes" discussed in departments (3.15) and "sometimes" discussed with enthusiasm by professors (3.15) or students (3.25).

Respondents indicated that they "sometimes" see materials in texts that increase their understanding of other ethnic, racial, and cultural groups (3.05). At the same time, respondents rarely saw materials that stereotype on the basis of race or ethnicity (2.35). More than any other group, African American students "rarely" see materials that increase understanding (2.48). Native American students rated the incidence of both types of materials higher; perhaps publications and materials selected to increase student understanding of Native American culture contain materials which are viewed as stereotypic by Native American students.

A majority of the students agreed that the most preferred qualities of their professors are that they are knowledgeable (89%) and good teachers (89%). The ethnicity of the professor was important to less than fifteen percent of the respondents.

Students were asked to rate their satisfaction with a variety of factors on a 5.0 point scale in which 5.0 indicated "very satisfied." Students were generally satisfied with the opportunities provided by the campus to learn about different cultures (3.44), discuss issues related to ethnicity and culture in orientation programs (3.22), and receive assistance when they feel discriminated against (3.28). African Americans were consistently less satisfied with these opportunities than other groups (3.0, 2.95, and 3.05, respectively).

Students were asked to rate on a 5.0 point scale their level of agreement with statements about academic preparedness. Five indicated "strongly agree." Overall, students did not relate academic preparedness with ethnicity. They disagreed with the statement that their ethnic group was the most unprepared (2.47), and that other groups were most unprepared (2.82). Most were in agreement that all ethnic groups are equally unprepared (3.16). Hispanic and African American students were more likely, however, to believe that their group was unprepared (3.55 and 3.45, respectively, indicating ratings between "neutral" and "agree").

Student perceptions of the campus and their experiences with faculty, and fellow students, both in and out of the classroom, fell most frequently into the middle of the range. The responses with respect to discrimination on campus ranged more toward the less frequent end of the range. When asked to identify the source of discrimination, most students identified faculty and members of other ethnic groups.

Other Dimensions of the Learning Community - Valuable information on student perception of CSUS as a Learning Community was also obtained from SNAPS, the ACT Surveys and the CASPER phone surveys.

Values, Expectations and Needs of Students - A majority (78%) of students in a recent CASPER phone survey (Spring 1996) supported the University's efforts to build a stronger campus community. However, only 44 percent of graduating students in the Spring of 1995 (ACT-COS) were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with "My sense of belonging on this campus" and 33 percent indicated they were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied." A slight majority of graduating students (ACT-COS) reported that they are "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with other aspects of the campus. Faculty respect (74%) was ranked highest, followed by the University's response to non-traditional students (62%); to students with special needs (62%); freedom from harassment (57%); and the campus atmosphere of ethnic, political and religion understanding, and tolerance (54%).

Although a majority of graduating students responded positively to statements about CSUS, less than half (34%) "strongly agreed" or "agreed" that the campus "welcomes and uses student feedback in making decisions. This finding is almost identical to the results of the SNAPS survey in which 36 percent of the students "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with a similar statement.

Perceptions about Campus Life - In the SNAPS survey, 35 percent of the students rated students clubs and organizations "important" or "very Important" to "Achieving Educational Goals." Similarly, 68 percent of graduating students reported that they spent "No time" participating in campus clubs or organizations; 24 percent spent one to five hours a week and 7 percent spent over five hours a week (ACT-COS).

Although enrolled students spend an average of nine hours a week on campus outside of class, most of this time is spent studying (SNAPS). Twenty percent of the students spend more than eight hours and 51 percent spend more than four hours studying on campus. Twenty percent of students spent more than two hours per week socializing on campus. Seventy-six percent spent less than one hour per week in activities/events, and 6 percent spent more than four hours (SNAPS).

Student Relationships with Students and Faculty - Students are isolated from each other and the faculty. Students were asked about their study habits and interaction with faculty in the SNAPS survey. A majority (59%) indicated that they study in their homes; 18 percent study in the library and 8 percent study alone. Although 66 percent were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with "Accessibility of faculty" and "Availability of faculty out-of-class," 11 percent never meet with faculty outside of class. Seventy-three percent of the students surveyed during CASPER (Spring 1996) never meet with faculty in campus meeting areas. Interestingly, alumni were more positive about student faculty interaction. A majority (61%) noted "The opportunity for faculty/student interaction" as positive or very positive (ACT-Alumni Survey, 1995).

Committee Response to the Data

Committee responses to the data about students suggest that CSUS has impediments that must be overcome in order to assure student participation in the Learning Community.

Questions requiring further study include:

African American students have more negative valenced experiences at CSUS than other students. What are the appropriate actions that the University should take to improve the experiences of African American students on our campus?

Students do not perceive a "sense of belonging" on the campus. What changes need to be made in the Learning Community to enhance the sense of community on campus?

Student interaction with faculty outside the classroom is rather limited. What is needed to expand opportunities for interaction?

Students are perceived as non-receptive to student feedback about the University. How can faculty, staff, and administration encourage student feedback in a meaningful and constructive manner?

Students typically spend a relatively small amount of time on campus outside of their formal classes. Given this characteristic, what can be done to support and encourage student interaction with other students and with faculty?

Almost 75 percent of our students do not participate in campus clubs, organizations, activities, or events. Given the assumption that participation in campus life is important to the development of a sense of belonging, how can students be supported and encouraged to participate more extensively?

 

Chapter 6

FROM WASC SELF-STUDY TO INSTITUTIONAL COMMITMENT:
A CULTURE OF EVIDENCE

Campus leadership must have the courage to set standards, evaluate
results, eliminate outmoded or ineffective programs and search relentlessly
for ways to improve.
--Frank Neuman

 

Rather than end the CSUS story with a report of assessment activities for WASC, itis critical that we describe our ongoing institutional commitment to assessment. It is in this chapter of the report that the major impact of the WASC self-study process is told. Although CSUS had previously begun to document its strengths and weaknesses through assessment activities, it was the WASC initiative that stimulated an institutional commitment to the use of evidence to assess institutional quality and effectiveness. What began as a response to WASC accreditation has become an ongoing commitment to building a "culture of evidence."

In this chapter we describe the transformation of "WASC" into an institutional commitment. Secondly, we describe in greater detail the means by which CSUS is assessing its progress in achieving the goals of the University's Strategic Plan and the critical link between planning, assessment and budget. Finally, we offer selected examples of how CSUS has used assessment to implement change in order to improve the University's ability to achieve excellence in teaching and learning.

The Institutional Commitment to Assessment

The transition from WASC to an institutional commitment is represented by a three dimensional cube (See Figure 2 on the next page) similar to the cornerstone used to describe WASC (Figure 1, page 13).

One dimension of the cube represents the Initiatives. These are the external and internal forces that call for assessment. The second dimension represents the Assessment Resources, the activities and instruments that inform and respond to the Initiatives and the University Planning Themes, the third dimension of the cube. These planning themes from the CSUS Strategic Plan guide and direct our assessment efforts.

The CSUS assessment cube has evolved, and continues to evolve, as a concept that guides and unifies a constellation of campus assessment plans. The plans are generally related to one of the initiatives; for example, assessment plans for Academic Program Reviews are a response to WASC and the CSUS Assessment Policy. Although it is possible to discuss the three dimensions of the cube separately, it is essential to understand that the action, the assessment activity, lies at the intersection of all three dimensions. Therefore, the discussion of each dimension frequently refers to the other two.

University Assessment Initiatives

WASC - The added emphasis given to assessment by the new WASC standards, and our decision to conduct an experimental self-study, has, more than any other initiative, encouraged the University to bring assessment into the mainstream of the campus. The WASC document Achieving Institutional Effectiveness Through Assessment(1992) has been and continues to be instrumental in shaping the University's campus-wide assessment efforts.

NCAA- In 1990 the NCAA introduced new reporting requirements and practices. The NCAA now requires "outcomes" data in the form of graduation rates for athletes that are made available to the public.

CSUS Assessment Policy - In 1992 the CSUS Academic Senate recommended, and the President approved, an Assessment Policy that provided the framework for a process to determine in what ways and how well individual units (e.g., departments, schools, student services) and the University were meeting their individual and collective goals. This policy was created in response to assessment initiatives from the CSU System and from WASC.

University policy defines assessment as an ongoing process, required of all units in the University, conducted by the members of each unit, with the primary goal of improving the educational program at CSUS. The Assessment Policy directs each unit to define its goals and evaluate: (1) the interaction among its academic program, student services, and the campus environment; (2) the results/effects of its goals on students; and (3) the progress toward meeting the goals. According to the policy, assessment results cannot be used to determine funding, nor can they be used to compare units with other units at CSUS or at other universities.

Initially the campus focused its assessment efforts at the program level to meet the assessment mandate from WASC. Departments are to prepare assessment plans that include student outcomes assessment. The integration of assessment into the program review process was intended to support planning at the unit level. The Academic Senate approved a two-year interim change in the Program Review process in the Spring of 1994 that required departments scheduled for program review in 1995-96 to prepare an assessment plan as part of the self-study process. The revised policy and format was reapproved for use during the 1996-97 academic year.

Academic Program Review - In 1971 the Board of Trustees of the CSU mandated that an annual performance review be conducted for all existing undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The policies and procedures governing compliance with this mandate have changed over its 25-year history. Recent changes reflect the increased demand for student outcome measures at both the system and campus levels. The Program Review Process became a three-year cycle as a result of the WASC assessment initiative. An assessment plan is submitted the first year, the next year the program prepares a self- study, and the following year the program is reviewed by the University Review Team. Current CSUS policy and procedures require that every program conduct a self-study every six years.

The Assessment Plan should include both a review of current evaluation practices, and consideration of alternative approaches. The primary purpose of the Assessment Plan is to evaluate the results of programs, policies and plans of the unit on an ongoing basis. The process is conducted by members of the unit, which meets the WASC requirement that faculty have a major responsibility for deciding how to assess student learning. The Plan should include the method for evaluating the results of the program, related policies, and a time table for assessment. The methods used for assessment should go beyond grades, and should result in giving information to the individual members of the unit, the unit as a whole, and to students. Departments should consider both qualitative and quantitative sources of data. The Office of Institutional Studies assists the department in determining of the data currently collected by CSUS, what might be useful in evaluating program outcomes. Academic Affairs and the Office of Institutional Studies provide the unit with suggestions on alternative methods of assessment that are program specific. The plan is submitted to the Office of Academic Affairs for approval.

During the 1994-95 academic year, the following units developed their assessment plans:

Biological Sciences
Counselor Education
Foreign Languages (including Educational Administration and Asian Studies)
Policy Studies
Physics and Astronomy
Special Education, Rehabilitation and School Nursing
Electrical/Electronic Engineering
School Psychology
Liberal Arts
Teacher Education
Bilingual Multicultural Education

In 1995-96 the following units were to develop their assessment plans:

Government
Theater Arts
International Affairs
Gerontology
Music
Regional and Continuing Education

This year (1996-97) the following departments are scheduled to develop their assessment plans:

Art
Economics
Journalism
Geography
Learning Skills
Health and Physical Education
Intercollegiate Athletics
Nursing
Computer Engineering

Once the assessment plan is approved, the department proceeds to implement the plan as it prepares its self-study document. Typically the self-study addresses the nine traditional WASC standards, including a standard called "Educational Programs," for which the department is expected to indicate how program effectiveness is being assessed, and how the results will be used to improve teaching and learning. The program is also expected to integrate the goals of the University's Strategic Plan in its planning and self-study process.

The Dean of the School reviews the department's self-study and forwards the completed document to Academic Affairs for conveyance to the Academic Senate Subcommittee on Curriculum. Specially appointed review teams conduct the University- wide Academic Program Review. The Team examines the department's self-study and other relevant materials, conducts interviews, gathers additional information, and makes recommendations. The Team prepares a detailed substantive report evaluating all aspects of the programs offered by the unit. The department has an opportunity to respond to the report. After the University's Curriculum Subcommittee acts on the report, it is submitted to the Academic Senate and then to the President for approval. Program review documents are available for review, along with the assessment plans, from departments who have completed program reviews since 1995-96.

Academic Program Accreditations - At least 16 professional programs conduct periodic reviews in order to maintain accreditation and/or professional licensing. Consistent with the trend toward assessment, more professional reviews are increasingly placing an emphasis on outcome measures. Generally these activities are governed by the accrediting agency and are conducted by the program undergoing review.

Non-Academic Program Review - A University Non-Academic Program Review policy was approved by the President in February 1991. The policy requires that Non-Academic Programs conduct a performance review every five years. Co-curricular and all other support areas are included within and governed by the procedures set forth in this campus assessment initiative. The policy was modified in 1994, providing guidelines for the scope of the review, stipulating responsibilities for the Review Team and proposing a tentative timetable of review activities, and providing a schedule for review of specific programs. The assessment of non-academic programs, although modeled after academic program review, is conducted independent of the other assessment efforts.

The primary objective of the non-academic program review was to implement a systematic process that will provide the University with information about the strengths and weaknesses of the existing functions of the unit, as well as opportunities for new functions or services. The components of the non-academic program review include the preparation of a self-study, a campus user survey, and a review of the program's management operations.

The following Non-Academic Programs have currently completed their self- studies as of Fall 1996:

Admissions and Records
Computing and Media Services
Procurement and Risk
Research and Graduate Studies
Management

Four additional Non-Academic Programs are in the process of self-study:

Financial Services
Residential Life
Career and Testing Center
Educational Equity and Student Retention

Completed self-studies are available for review.

Assessment Activities and Instruments

The assessment process is an integrated fabric of existing and new activities andinstruments selected to address specific questions and issues. (See Figure 2 on the following page.)

Institutional Data - The University's data base includes standard information on student enrollment, demographics, retention rates, graduation rates, and student/faculty ratio by discipline. Additional data on class size and enrollments over time, faculty workloads and grading patterns are collected and provided to academic programs, especially when they are preparing their self-studies.

Surveys - The University has selected a comprehensive package of standardized campus surveys to assess its overall effectiveness. The package, administered on a regularly scheduled rotation basis, includes the ACT surveys for entering students, continuing students, graduating students, non-returning students, and alumni. The results are used to enrich and inform the themes outlined in the University Strategic Plan. The academic departments currently in the program review process help shape the local questions administered with the ACT surveys. The reports of the results for their majors are available for use during the self-study phase of the Program Review process.

Standardized Surveys - The planned schedule for administering standardized surveys follows:

  1. American College Testing-College Outcomes Survey (ACT-COS) is administered in the Spring of alternating years (odd numbered years) to all undergraduate and graduate students who petition to graduate in the Spring Semester.
  2. ACT is also administered in the Spring of alternating years (even numbered years) to continuing students enrolled in classes of programs in the cycle. Local questions are adjusted to reflect the concerns of the specific programs.
  3. ACT Alumni Survey is administered every summer to the graduates of the programs entering the self-study phase of their program review. Program specific questions are developed in the planning phase of the review. Generally the survey is mailed to all alumni who graduated within the previous five years.
  4. ACT Entering Student Survey is administered in August of alternating years (odd numbered years) to all new undergraduate and graduate students who register for the Fall semester.
  5. ACT Non-returning and Withdrawing Student Survey is administered every five years.
  6. Student Needs and Priorities Survey (SNAPS) is conducted by the CSU Chancellor's Office every four or five years. Since SNAPS is similar to the ACT Student Outcomes Survey, we have integrated it into our overall assessment model, alternating it with the ACT Continuing Student Survey, to provide feedback from continuing students.

Campus Surveys - The campus regularly administers the following surveys:

  1. CASPER Phone Survey - Phone surveys are designed to survey students as they register for classes using Computer Access Student Phone Entry Registration (CASPER). Since this survey is administered every semester, it is used to examine in-depth selected issues that emerge primarily through other assessment activities. Generally the Fall survey focuses on academic issues and the Spring survey focuses on student support issues. Campus Climate Surveys - CSUS conducted surveys of student, faculty and staff perceptions of campus climate. The student survey, administered in Spring 1993, was an initiative of the Campus Educational Equity Committee. Information from this survey was used in the assessment of the "Pluralism" Theme in the University's Strategic Plan and in the WASC study of The Learning Community.

 

General Education

In response to the WASC accreditation standards an assessment plan for the University's General Education program was included in the General Education/Graduation Requirements 1990 Policy Document. Two assessment strategies are described in the document. One is a requirement that courses approved for General Education be reviewed every five years by the General Education Committee to determine whether they meet the GE AREA criteria for which they were originally approved. The second is an assessment by students of whether the courses in fact are meeting the GE AREA criteria.

During the 1994-95 academic year the General Education Committee decided to begin its assessment of General Education by developing an assessment instrument for courses approved as meeting the Race and Ethnicity in American Society requirement. A subcommittee of the General Education Committee, in consultation with instructors actually teaching the courses, developed a survey instrument which was given to students enrolled in Race and Ethnicity courses in the Fall of 1995. Results of the student survey, reflecting their perception of whether the courses were meeting the criteria, were described in Chapter Four on Student Outcomes.

During the 1995-96 academic year the General Education Review Committee decided to assess the course syllabi of instructors teaching Race and Ethnicity in American Society courses to determine if the syllabi provided adequate information to ascertain that the criteria for Race and Ethnicity courses were being addressed in the course. Information from both assessments were shared with the departments offering courses in this category. If the course syllabi did not reflect adequate information, department chairs were asked to address the committee's concerns or risk having the course withdrawn from the General Education Program.

Department Based Assessment Activities - The first step in the Academic Program Review Process is the development of an assessment plan. In addition to providing relevant data from ongoing campus surveys, the Office of Institutional Studies works closely with program staff to develop and implement the department's plan. The expectations for department assessment plans were described in the Academic Program Review Section of the chapter.

Focus Groups - CSUS plans to use focus groups to identify and clarify issues that emerge in its surveys. Initially, focus groups will be used to clarify issues related to the themes of the WASC self-study. Continuing use of focus groups is planned as follow-up to the Graduating Student Survey on alternating years when the Student Outcomes Survey is not administered.
The data acquired through these assessment activities provides important information for internal and external accountability and guides campus planning and resource allocation priorities at the University and academic program levels. In this sense, CSUS is nurturing the development of a "culture of evidence" that is woven into the decision making fabric of the University rather than appended to it. Assessment activities are grounded in the University's assessment initiatives and shaped by the themes in the Strategic Plan.

Assessment of Themes in University Strategic Plan

The long term University Assessment Model grew directly out of the WASC self- study model (Figure 1, p. 13). The WASC self-study focuses on three themes: Teaching and Learning, Student Outcomes, and The Learning Community. The University's long- term model, an extension of the WASC model, focuses on the eight themes presented in the University Strategic Plan. The themes provide a focus for assessing the University's progress toward achieving its goals. These assessment reports are prepared for each of the eight themes, incorporating all relevant assessment data. The goal and explanatory text are the source for identifying the "key concepts" which provide the structure for assessment reports.

Assessment reports on Teaching and Learning, Academic Programs, Campus Life and Enrollment Planning were presented to the Council for University Planning (CUP) in the Fall of 1995, and those on Public Life, Capital Campus, Pluralism and Scholarship were presented in the Spring of 1996. The first four assessment reports were presented prior to CUP establishing the Resource Allocation Priorities and as a result had a profound impact on the priorities established by CUP. In fact, seven of the eight Resource Allocation Priorities for 1996-97 were derived from, or influenced by, the assessment reports. In this way, a critical linkage among planning, assessment, and resource allocation is established. The Theme Assessment Reports established baseline measures for several themes from information that was readily available or recently collected. For example, retention is recognized as a key concept within the "Enrollment Planning" theme, and "retention rates" are recognized as valid measures of retention. The current retention rates serve as the baseline measure for the University's performance. A status report on retention identified a need to establish standards of performance while raising questions that have yet to be addressed. Typical questions asked were, "What should the retention rate at CSUS be?" or, "How does the University interpret the finding that 77 percent of the graduating students are 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with the 'Quality of their program of study'?" For other themes, like "Public Life" the University had very little assessment data available. Assessment theme reports help the University 1) identify areas where there is little or no data and 2) establish priorities for new assessment activities, and 3) establish budget and planning priorities for the University.

CUP has become instrumental in shaping assessment at the University level by determining the focus of University-wide assessment activities, recommending measurement tools, and deciding how to organize and present information. CUP also helps place the information in context since it is not useful in and of itself. As a result, CUP is actively involved in the process of setting standards and criteria for determining progress toward meeting the University's goals.

The Theme Assessment Reports provide guidance regarding the future direction of the University's Strategic Plan. The relationship between the themes and assessment is a dynamic interaction in which the themes shape the assessment activities, and the assessment reports reshape the themes. For example, based on CUP's work in 1995-96, a new theme is being drafted and several themes are being substantively revised.

While the assessment reports present objective findings, evaluation of the findings requires judgment, and judgment requires standards. The result of this interactive process is the evolution of University themes with University-defined standards and priorities. In this context, outcomes assessment is an integral component of planning, policy, and resource allocation decisions. It is a circular process that promotes continuous review and improvement.

Link Among Assessment, Planning, and Budget

Since 1991 CUP has developed and recommended Resource Priorities to the President for the following year's budget. Once approved by the President, the Resource Priorities are used by the Vice President for Administration in drafting the University budget. In CUP's annual review of the University budget, the Vice President for Administration is asked to explain how the proposed budget responds to the University's Resource Priorities.

In the past two years, the linkage between planning and budgeting provided by the Resource Priorities has been strengthened appreciably. The enactment of the University Strategic Plan provided a framework for the priorities. In planning for the 1995/96 budget, the Resource Priorities were drawn from the various themes of the Strategic Plan. This guarantees that there is a broad consensus behind the priorities and that the various priorities are part of a plan to address the University's mission and goals.

Even with the improvement brought about by the adoption of a Strategic Plan, there was still a piece missing in the planning process--there was no objective evidence on which to choose one set of priorities over another. While we could direct resources toward a variety of Strategic Plan initiatives, we would not know if we had chosen those most in need of attention. Nor would we know when we had made progress toward achieving our goals.

Inspired by the opportunity to model a new, evidence-based accreditation process in our ten-year institutional accreditation, our planning process has now been improved immeasurably by the addition of the missing link--assessment. This critical link manifests itself in the Theme Assessment Reports which use institutional and assessment data to create a snapshot of where the University is in relation to the stated goals of a particular theme. During the 1995-96 academic year, CUP based its Resource Priority recommendations not only on the Strategic Plan but on the Theme Assessment Reports.

Assessment reports for those themes deemed most important to next year's budget are now reviewed by CUP during the Fall semester prior to setting its Resource Priorities. In this way, a picture emerges of the status of the University with respect to these key themes that helps CUP decide what the priorities should be for the allocation of resources. Assessment reports for the remaining themes are reviewed in the Spring semester to provide a context for CUP's review of the proposed budget for the following year.

Assessment also supports planning activities that occur at the level of the academic department. Whereas CUP reviews assessment data at the aggregate level, department and program data are made available to departments participating in the Academic Program Review process. Departments are now required to develop assessment plans and report on student outcomes, pursuant to those plans, in their self-studies. There are no plans to bring this aspect of University planning to the CUP's agenda. However, department and program assessment data will help the schools in determining priorities and allocating resources.

The goal in the planning process at CSUS is to integrate planning, assessment, and resource allocation. Clearly we have made great strides in the last two years with the introduction, first, of the Strategic Plan, and second, of assessment designed to create a "culture of evidence". However, assessment at CSUS is in its infancy, and strategic planning is only slightly more advanced. Much work and discussion are needed to determine how to improve planning and how best to use assessment data in the planning process. The next section describes some of the actions the University has taken in its concerted effort to respond to assessment data.


Using Evidence to Build Institutional Effectiveness: Actions Taken in

Response to Assessment Findings

 

During the last two and a half years, CSUS has made a concerted effort to use theresults of its assessment efforts to achieve the goals of the University's Strategic Plan. Our first attempt was to respond to the results of SNAPS. Significant findings from other surveys, including data from the WASC self-study, have been used to assess the eight themes of the Strategic Plan. Actions taken in response to the Teaching and Learning and Campus Life Theme Assessment Reports are included in this chapter because they are most closely related to the themes of the WASC self-study. We believe they illustrate the University's commitment to build and respond to its "culture of evidence."

Teaching and Learning Theme

New Scheduling Initiatives - Students who responded to the SNAPS survey indicated that they were dissatisfied with the scheduling and availability of courses. In the Spring of 1995, we decided to use CASPER, the student phone registration system, to solicit more information from students on their concerns and preferences. We learned that the majority of the respondents preferred to schedule all of their classes on two days a week. In response the Academic Senate developed an alternative to the traditional MWF and TTh scheduling of classes that had governed the offering of most lecture classes on the campus since time immemorial. By the Fall of 1995, the Senate recommended, and the President approved, a new scheduling pattern, which was implemented in the Spring of 1996.

In response to concerns about the availability of classes, the President requested that Academic Affairs investigate the feasibility of changing the academic calendar from a two-semester to a trimester system. A group of faculty representing the Academic Senate and each of the Schools, along with selected administrators, met to consider the issues involved in such a change, and an outside consultant was hired to conduct an analysis of the fiscal impact. After much discussion and analysis, a different alternative, the Extended Semester, was recommended to the campus. In the Extended Semester departments can offer courses, funded by general fund dollars, during the months of January, June, July, and August and include them as part of their fall and spring semester offerings. Numerous administrative hurdles needed to be overcome in order to implement this program. During the summer of 1996 a cohort of graduate students in Educational Administration began a program of study that allows them to enroll in one three-unit course per month on a year- round basis as part of the regular offerings of the department.

Learning Communities - In the Fall of 1995, the Dean for General Education, in consultation with the General Education Committee, initiated a Learning Communities program on a pilot basis for first semester freshmen. In the program 25-30 students enroll in two or three General Education classes as a group; the courses complement each other and are linked by a common theme. Faculty are encouraged to integrate the courses, promote group interaction and provide academic study sessions. In addition to providing some structure to the General Education program, the Learning Communities provide students with a "sense of belonging" to an academic community, a concern noted by students in the ACT-COS.

The retention rate for Learning Community participants is 85 percent which is higher than compared to the University's retention rate of 70 percent. The program, in its second year of the pilot phase, has also grown from 100 students to 300 in the Fall of 1996. Of the 100 students who participated in the Fall of 1995, 85 returned in the Fall of 1996. While the program is open to all students, during the second year, some Learning Communities were designed for Educational Opportunity Program students admitted under special contract.

Technical, Communication and Research Skills - While a significant majority of students who responded to the ACT-COS and the Alumni Survey are very satisfied with the academic programs of the University, the CASPER phone survey in the Fall of 1995 revealed some dissatisfaction with the provision of technical, communication and research skills. Since the survey, the number of computer workstations, lab hours, lab assistance and computer training opportunities for students have increased. In addition to expanding its library instruction program, the University Library has increased its staff hours to help students with on-line and traditional research methods. Reference librarians have designed a series of lectures entitled, "Demystifying Library Databases" to meet student needs for information literacy.

Technology - Both the ACT-COS and the Fall 1995 CASPER surveys indicated that only 28 percent of CSUS students perceive that they have made significant progress in "using technology effectively." A large number of students indicated that they were either "interested" or "very interested" in word processing, library access, spreadsheets, databases, multimedia and/or presentation software. In addition to providing more computers and computer labs, more training programs are now available for students to develop their computer skills in a variety of areas.

In a 1994 Teaching, Technology and Scholarship Faculty Survey a majority (88%) of faculty indicated that they use computers to do work formerly done by clerical staff; fewer use computers for instructional or scholarly work. Only 36 percent indicated that they were skilled in "using information technology to enhance instruction."

The University's Center for Teaching and Learning and the Computing, Communications and Media Services (CCMS) sponsored a two-day faculty workshop "Integrating Technology Into the Classroom" during the January 1996 intersession. To meet the demand for training in the use of technology for instruction, CCMShas quadrupled its training programs for faculty. CCMS also received a lottery fund grant from the University to establish a Multi-Media Fellows Program during the 1996-97 academic year. The program is designed to provide training, resource tools and personnel support to a cadre of faculty which will help them develop the basic knowledge, skills and experiences to, not only create instructional multi-media modules, but to become mentors for other faculty. Academic Affairs provided travel grants ($150 each) to faculty who participated in instructional computing workshops and a limited number of grants for operating expense ($5,000) to departments for developing and implementing a plan for integrating instructional technology into the curriculum. The University has established a Teaching, Learning and Technology Roundtable to involve faculty in campus planning for the use of information technology.

Campus Life Theme

Student Centeredness - A review of assessment data indicated a number of areas where improvement was needed in the quality of services provided to students. In response, Academic Affairs made "student centeredness" its highest priority during the 1995-96 academic year. The Academic Deans and other administrators developed new activities or expanded existing ones that put the needs of students at the center of their plans for the year. Deans, in turn, sought additional information and ideas from the students, faculty, and staff in their schools. Already a number of new programs and activities have been put in place, including:

a service manual for students was developed in one school containing all forms and necessary program information; special events at graduation that accord recognition to students for program- and club-based accomplishments;
the use of students in the recruitment of new students;
a complete evaluation of the academic policies in one school with a commitment to rewrite policies to be clearly understandable from a student viewpoint;
an e-mail advising system in one school whereby students can obtain academic advising services in a very convenient manner;
a new automated telephone answering system in one school to make it easier for students to reach the desired office;
the administering of "customer satisfaction" surveys to students for purposes of improving student support services;expanded opportunities for internships, cooperative education placements, and service learning experiences to respond to student desire to more closely connect their coursework to the world of work;
peer advising;
an evaluation of all regular correspondence from Academic Affairs units to students to achieve "student friendliness"; the initiation of a comprehensive review of all academic policies (University, school, and department levels) to ensure that they best meet the needs of students;
the holding of open office hours by all school deans for purposes of being available to meet with students;
an increase in social activities designed to increase student/faculty contact outside of the classroom.

Attention to "student centeredness" continues to be at the top of the University's agenda and the term has been incorporated into the vernacular of the campus. In addition to the above activities, the expansion of opportunities for student development outside of the classroom, for department-based activities to improve student retention, and for student/faculty interaction have been identified as priorities for the allocation of funds for next year's budget.

Student/University Relationship - To address the concern that students did not have a "sense of belonging" or did not feel connected to the campus (SNAPS, ACT-COS), a larger student life component was added to the University's outreach, orientation and new student programs. Students who participated in our Summer Orientation Program were able to register for classes while on campus. Continuing students were hired to counsel and advise new students, and more faculty participated in the summer program. Summer Bridge, a summer transition program designed to assist underprepared students develop skills in writing and mathematics, was expanded to include more students.

The Fall 1995 CASPER survey indicated that more than half of our students did not feel adequately informed about campus events. The University Union Programming Board worked with the "State Hornet," the student newspaper, to increase student reporter awareness of the importance of timely and complete coverage of campus events. A section of the "State Hornet" is now dedicated to campus-wide programs and events. The Office of Student Activities, increased the production of its publication The Campus Calendar by 34 percent, in an attempt to increase the awareness of scheduled events by all members of the campus community.

In addition to providing information on student life and campus programs to prospective students through the mail, information is also made available electronically through the CSUS Home Page. Information on campus clubs and organizations and opportunities to participate in student and faculty governance are now regularly shared with students. Electronic kiosks, a 24- hour computerized information line, which provide students with information on more than 250 campus topics, made its debut in the Spring of 1995.

To address the student perception that the University does not use student feedback (SNAPS, ACT-COS), President Gerth invited students and other members of the campus community to nominate any policy, procedure or rule which might be considered cumbersome or unfair. Since its inception the program has produced changes in parking policies, improved the grade change policy, modified signs in the Library and increased student accessibility to campus computer labs.

Student participation in the life of the campus was a also a major consideration in the decision to affiliate with a larger, more comprehensive, more prestigious athletic conference. In a general election students gave the University a clear message that they value a viable athletic program.

Campus Environment - More than 50 percent of the respondents in the SNAPS survey indicated that safety was an important factor influencing their choice of a university. The topic of campus safety is an ever present concern of parents who attend the University's Parent Orientation program each summer. The University has taken a proactive approach to safety on the campus. With the support of the Division of Student Affairs, the Department of Public Safety instituted police bicycle patrols in an effort to increase officer visibility and approachability. In response to concerns about lighting on the campus, Public Safety initiated a complete lighting assessment of the campus each month. The Office of Housing and Residential Life provided funds to support a Public Safety Officer to provide in-service training and consultation for residence hall staff members on a part-time basis. A night shuttle service was re-instituted by University Traffic and Parking Services. Each of these initiatives is designed to make CSUS a more responsive, safer campus for students.

Student Support Services - While students are very satisfied with the University Library services (SNAPS, ACT-COS), respondents to the SNAPS survey indicated a low level of satisfaction with the University's Financial Aid Office. A Voice Response System and three electronic kiosks were installed in the Spring of 1995 which permit students to access their Financial Aid documents, award status and disbursement information. A Satisfactory Progress Computer Program was implemented in the Spring 1996, which notifies students of their status immediately after grades are posted. All-Calc, a software program designed to provide timely eligibility estimates, was placed in service during the 1995-96 academic year for prospective students. In addition to extending hours of service, the Financial Aid Office hired peer counselors and additional professional and support staff to improve service to a increasing number of financial aid applicants. A Financial Aid Management System, which will link the University's Student Information System (SIS) with financial aid records, will improve the ability of the Office to process financial aid applications in a more timely manner. Finally, efforts are underway to upgrade the infrastructure in the Financial Aid Office with an electronic document imaging system.

Commuter Campus - Both the SNAPS survey and a Housing Needs Assessment survey conducted in 1992 indicated that there was a market for apartment style housing on the CSUS campus. Since that time a housing plan has been approved which will include one and two bedroom apartment-style units with private baths.

Evening services, and hours of operation, for both undergraduate and graduate student were expanded during the 1995-96 academic year. A system was also put in place whereby evening students could virtually request any service on campus and be guaranteed a response from that office within 24 hours of their request. In the Fall of 1995 the University worked with the Associated Students, Inc. to establish a Student Access Center on the first floor of the University Library where students can receive information on a broad range of University programs and services.

Student/Community Relationships - The University considers its location in the capital city of California and its proximity to state government a real asset for students. The number of internship opportunities has increased significantly over the past several years. Students have increasingly indicated a desire to become involved in community service. The ACT-COS indicated that learning is generally limited to the classroom. CSUS has become a member of Campus Compact established to assist universities in forming partnerships with local community service agencies to expand opportunities for students and, at the same time, provide much needed volunteer hours to the community. The Office of Student Activities created the Community Service Volunteer Agency to collect information and coordinate volunteerism on behalf of more than 250 registered student organizations. A faculty/student affairs partnership fostered the development of a Service Learning Program at CSUS with the goal of integrating community service into classroom activities. In the Fall of 1996, Academic Affairs established the Office of Community Collaboration to expand opportunities for students and faculty in the community. These new initiatives will provide the opportunity for students and faculty to use the community as a laboratory for learning.

Concluding Remarks

The words in this self-study document cannot begin to capture the passion, thoughtfulness,care and dedication of the members of the University community who have engaged in the WASC re-accreditation process. Nor does the document come close to describing the changes that have occurred at CSUS because the institution undertook this innovative self- study approach. A "ripple effect" has influenced the deliberations that occur in the collegial governance activities of the University. A review of the agendas and recommendations of the standing committees of the Academic Senate reveals that the use of evidence has become a standard feature of discussion. The Senate's Faculty Policies Committee has, for example, just completed a proposal to use assessment as a key element in promotion, tenure, and post tenure review evaluations. Other proposed changes to the Program Review process include the use of a campus-specific questionnaire on teaching and learning as part of the Academic Program Review process.

The ambitious nature of the undertaking, while clear from the beginning, has often been daunting. And, certainly, change in a University this large, with its history, complexity, and diversity will require persistence and commitment. Nevertheless, the WASC self-study represents a genuine commitment on the part of CSUS, its faculty, staff, students, and administration to become a student-centered, publicly accountable institution of higher education serving the people of the Sacramento region.