University to become assessment institution

Florida A&M University is in the process of transitioning into an assessment institution. After being cited for not being in compliance with assessment standards during previous accreditation reviews, FAMU is getting help from the Institutional Level Assessment Committee.

“This committee was established to provide leadership in the implementation of the university’s assessment system,” said Uche Ohia, director of the office of assessment. “Upon our next accreditation, the university should fare much better in the area of assessment.”

Former Provost Larry Robinson instituted ILAC after reviewing recommendations provided by Ohia to measure the quality of service, support services, learning, instruction and any aspect of the university that contributes to the educational process.

“We must not equate assessment to testing,” said Ohia. “Assessment is an ongoing process. It is indeed the way we do business – constantly monitoring student development and the outcomes of our educational activity.”

The university had assessment activities, like professor evaluations surveys, in place prior to the ILAC. But little was being done with the results of the surveys.

“The results would just sit in the office,” said Ohia.

“We already fill out surveys but we don’t ever know if anything is done with the results,” said Raven Roberts, a junior business student from Long Beach, Calif. “It’s fine to fill out surveys, but the results and what happens after that is most important.”

With the implementation of ILAC the assessment process for the university is becoming more formal and centralized.

“What is new is that this has become a formalized and organized activity such that the use of the information to force improvements is now a requirement that must be documented,” Ohia said.

The committee and university will use assessment activities like professional exams taken in class, survey instruments, focus interviews and supervisor evaluations from internship experiences.

By using those activities, they will be able to determine how well students are progressing along expected learning outcomes, their knowledge of the skills needed in their field of study and their compatibility and marketability in the workforce after graduation.

Surveys are given to first year students and graduating students in an effort to “close the loop”.

“I don’t remember taking a survey,” said Nathifa White, a first year health studies students from Stuart, Fla. “If it was optional I probably didn’t take it; I’d be more likely to take it if it was mandatory.”

“I took a survey in spring 2005 and if this is the same document in question, I think it is important for the university to be able to track what works well and what does not work well,” said Malcolm Glover, a spring 2005 graduate of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communications.

Graduates are given surveys to complete at graduation practice.

“The timing is wrong; students are either not at practice or their minds just are not focused on filling out a survey,” Glover said.

The results of the surveys are compiled by the Institutional Research office, sent to the office of assessments and then sent to ILAC.

ILAC then reviews the data, creates and presents corrective recommendations to the respective colleges and schools, faculty and university administration.

The recommendations are intended to provide a template for changes that need to be made in the department.

After getting the recommendations, the departments are to meet and eventually submit a proposal to ILAC addressing issues summarized in the recommendations.

Recommendations can include a number of things from changes in the curriculum and teaching methods to improvements of facilities and student services.

“The driving force and impetus for engaging in assessment as an institutional activity is to use the results for improvement of the curriculum, instructional and student outcomes,” said Ohia.

ILAC committee members include professors, faculty and students of the university. Members were selected from all academic programs and administrative support service units and include the chairperson for each program/division of study assessment committee.

Each college, school and the Faculty Senate President nominated representatives. Upon the recommendation of the provost, the Student Government Association President, a graduate student, a student from nursing and Activities and Services also serve on the committee, Ohia said.

Robinson received the recommendations in 2004 soon after the creation of the office of assessment. Prior to 2004, there was not an office of assessments at the university.

“There was a need to embrace assessment campus-wide, and so a director was hired,” said Ohia.

Essentially the assessment process will aid in the restructuring and improvement of the quality of services and education FAMU provides.

Contact Constance Rush at