National and local attention on accountability of institutions of higher education continues to deepen.
Seeking transparency and evidence, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission continues to refine its accreditation process. UH-Maui College is one of 28 Hawaii and California institutions participating in pilot efforts to streamline and improve institutional accountability to students, parents, communities, legislators and other contributors. The process has been self-reflective and includes program advisory committee members from the community. This continuing self-examination will influence positive changes that affect learners.
As part of this new process, institutions are asked to submit four documents: a financial report, an analysis of the college's retention and graduation data, an in-depth and directed self-study, and a follow-up report. Maui College has just submitted the final of four documents in this new process and awaits the April on-campus visit from the accreditation team.
Each of the reports has required a careful analysis of the college and exploration of the evidence presented. It has been an opportunity for program coordinators, faculty, community program partners, and administrators to collectively examine UH-MC institutional outcomes related to our students and community. The central questions from the process have been: What do we expect Maui College graduates to learn? How do we know that they have learned what we expect? What can we do to improve student learning? Where would we like to see the college in the future? How can we plan for these outcomes and goals?
Through this reflective process we have been able to share our strengths as a college, review our assumptions, identify areas for improvement, examine emerging developments, identify near- and longer-term goals, and lay out strategies for achieving them.
In the initial off-site review by the accreditation team last spring, UH-MC was commended by the WASC Sr. team for the college's partnership with its community, the college's ability to voice its unique context, and its process for assessing student learning. It was important for us to highlight both our commitment to the community of Maui County as well as to explain the college's unique historical and geographical context for our accreditors. The college was also recognized for our commitment to an in-depth, campuswide assessment process.
During the past few years, the college began to "close the loop on assessment," which means the college has not only identified areas for improving student learning but has implemented changes and is now seeing and reviewing the results for even more improvement. To begin these discussions of assessment, every program uses examples or evidence of student work to determine how well the program is achieving its goals. Then the program asks, "What are our students learning and are they learning at an acceptable level?" In addition to program coordinators, faculty and administrators, the process includes community members, students, and workforce representatives in the discussion to identify the relevance and effectiveness of specific learning skills. To then close the loop on assessment, programs then make changes in response to these analyses, whether in the requirements of the program, prerequisites of classes or modifications to assignments in current courses. This ongoing loop of assessment helps our college explain what it means to earn a degree or certificate at Maui College and helps our college to continuously improve learning.
In addition to commendations, the accreditation team asked for more information in a few areas, including the college's strategic plans for the future as well as the college's strategies for handling budget shortfalls. The accreditation team framed these as "lines of inquiry" to prompt further reflection, discussion, responses and actions.
As we look to the future, one thing is for certain, our faculty and staff will continue these cycles of reflection and work to continuously improve student learning.
To learn more or to read UH Maui College's Institutional Reaccreditation Report, the WASC Off-Site Review Summary of Findings and to follow the process, visit the college's website at maui.hawaii.edu/accreditation.
* Clyde Sakamoto is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka'ana Mana'o, which means "sharing thoughts," is scheduled to appear on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.