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Annual Campus Conversation centers on ‘Closing the Loop’

Chancellor Lowe reminds campus that continuous improvement, and documenting it, needs focused attention for 2015-16

Wednesday Sep 02, 2015

Indiana University Northwest faculty and staff kicked off the official start of the 2015-16 academic year with its annual Campus Conversation.

In his opening remarks, Chancellor William J. Lowe emphasized the need for the campus community to focus ever more closely on continuing improvement in the coming year, and more specifically, on documenting evidence of our systematic approaches to continuing improvement in our daily work.

“We have not done nearly enough to intentionally use continuing improvement thinking and methods, to address our Strategic Priorities or even to help us to organize and accomplish the daily work that, cumulatively, results in the achievement of our important campus goals,” Lowe said.

Fortunately, Lowe said, there is a formal process that institutions of higher learning use to remain accountable and continuously improve. By way of IU Northwest’s regional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, IU Northwest participates in a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) framework known as the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP).

Lowe said that everyone’s involvement is needed if the campus is to benefit from the tools and guidance that AQIP provides. Continuous improvement thinking must be embedded more deeply and practically in our daily work, he said, and that even though we are continuously improving, there needs to be more attention focused on documentation.

Hence, the slogan of this year’s conversation: “Keep Calm and Close the Loop.”

“When we think about the improvement work that we, pretty routinely, undertake, documentation (typing up the loose ends or closing the loop) is often the missing piece,” Lowe said.

In keeping with the “Close the Loop” theme, the presentations that followed Lowe’s introduction centered on various activities being done throughout campus to continuously improve, but also document that improvement.

A quality student body

Representing the student body at the Campus Conversation was Victoria Morales, vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA).

Morales, a pre-med student and psychology major, told the faculty and staff about the latest achievements of the SGA, which include: the implementation of Student Officer’s Forums and Town Hall meetings for students; changes made as a result of survey results; and a new communication tool for students known as the RedHawk link.

“I know that everyone here has been working hard to improve all aspects of IU Northwest,” Morales said, “and I really just want to thank everyone here because if it weren’t for you all, I wouldn’t be able to follow my dreams, and definitely wouldn’t be able to watch this campus flourish as it has been.”

Closing the loop on General Education

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Institutional Effectiveness and Research John Novak, outlined a successful action project that had been completed through IU Northwest’s accreditation process recently.

Novak said the project serves as a good example of how IU Northwest closed the loop by finding ways in which various academic units could make improvements to the General Education curriculum.

The action project, led by Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Support Cynthia O’Dell, outlined the creation of a General Education Curriculum, which began with a plan in 2009, followed by the creation of an assessment process.

O’Dell said that once the curriculum was presented to the Institutional Effectiveness Committee and the Northwest Council, it was determined that improvement was needed in “Helping Students Learn.”

To accomplish this, faculty members attended workshops and an assessment institute in Indianapolis over a couple of years. Then, they made presentations to faculty governance for multiple years, and finally assessed student learning outcomes and published the data on a website. Improvements were documented in the areas of chemistry, modern languages, education and communication.

By spring of 2014, the first complete cycle of the General Education assessment was complete, O’Dell said. The key to this project’s success is to continue this cycle, which will be done each spring by reviewing results, creating a summary report, and making recommendations to the campus leadership during summer retreats.

Eight dimensions of quality service

School of Business and Economics Professors Andrea Griffin and Demetra Andrews discussed the results of focus groups that were prompted by the 2014 Conversation.

Andrews and Griffin identified 136 ideas for improving service that came out of last year’s conversation and categorized them into eight dimensions of quality service, including: responsiveness, listening, servant leadership, teamwork, empathy, assurance, reliability and tangibles.

Over the course of the last academic year, the professors then conducted focus groups with students, and again with faculty and staff, which revealed a need for increased and better quality information, servant leadership, responsiveness, assurance, empathy, and listening.

A hands-on, documentable way to teach students quality

Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Mark McPhail led an exercise that addressed how to document the quality of students’ work and better help them improve their own work in a very hands-on way.

Using his own teaching experiences to aid his presentation, McPhail discussed the value of using a detailed rubric to evaluate a student’s improvement over the course of a semester.

The hands-on activity of documenting the student’s improvement after watching videos of a student’s performance at three different points during a semester, provided data for how the improvement was achieved and how she was evaluated.

McPhail illustrated that rather than communicating subjective opinions to evaluate the student, a rubric provided the student with specific and achievable goals.

‘Involve me and I learn’

Ida Gillis, director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Employment Practices, reminded the campus of a notable quote by Benjamin Franklin that serves as a powerful reminder for how we all can strive for continuous quality improvement: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

“We need everyone’s commitment and involvement to this journey of Continuous Quality Improvement,” Gillis said.

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