Enhancing Student Success in Colleges and Universities through an Integrated Institutional Effectiveness (IIE) Approach – Part #2 of 3
Christopher Shults, Ph.D
The Integrated Institutional Effectiveness Model
As noted in part one of this blog post series, AHEE represents the professionals and staff who lead offices responsible for the planning, assessment, evaluation, research, and accreditation activities at their institutions. The integration of these functions within an office that falls under the leadership of a senior/executive administrator better positions the institution to engage in actions that are more likely to improve student learning and the environment for student success. Part 2 of this blog post details the importance of an integrated approach to institutional direction.
While colleges and universities have engaged in the process of strategic planning for decades, it is only in recent years that most have actively engaged the college community in the process of operationalizing the strategic plan. It was relatively common for institutions to develop what amounted to a glorified showpiece. Over the past 15 years, however, and as a result of changing accreditation requirements, institutions have moved from the strategic plan as a checklist to a document that clearly defines institutional goals, contains strategic objectives, and is operationalized through annual processes to document and assess progress in achieving identified strategic objectives and priorities. An area of continued struggle, however, is the use of this information in comprehensive, systematic, and student-focused planning efforts. An integrated approach to institutional effectiveness (IIE) is rooted in a philosophy and results in the development of an action-oriented, improvement based framework designed to guide decision-making and direction setting.
The more comprehensive and actionable strategic plans emanating from an IIE process lend themselves to the development of operational planning reports. It is the role of the IE professional to work with college leadership, governance bodies, and the faculty, staff, and students to develop the strategic objectives, targets to be achieved, and a list of actions to be undertaken. In an IIE model, however, these professionals are also responsible for working with the leadership in academic programs and AES units to gather and analyze data associated with the achievement of objectives, integrate the information into institutional reports, track progress, provide suggestions, and modify institutional strategies for achievement of the strategic plan. The role of the IE professional within an institution committed to an IIE model is equal parts support and leadership and the positioning of this individual as the chief planning or institutional effectiveness officer ensures that the strategic plan and operational planning processes are established as foundational to institutional improvement. Operating from an IIE approach also significantly increases opportunities for organizational learning and significant, rather than incremental, improvements to student success and learning outcomes. The office responsible for institutional, academic, and AES planning, with a senior leader at the helm, is positioned to provide targeted guidance, identify and establish organizational learning communities, and increase effectiveness through reduction of redundancies and sharing of good practices across the institution.
Another key benefit of operating from an integrated institutional effectiveness approach is the ability to guide and enhance long-range planning. While this term may seem unfamiliar, it can include:
- Academic Plans,
- Development Plans,
- Information Technology Plans,
- Strategic Marketing Plans, and
- Infrastructure Master Plans.
While higher education institutions often have these plans, the degree to which they are aligned with institutional goals, strategic objectives, and other divisional efforts is often uncertain. Additionally, without oversight through an integrated institutional effectiveness approach, it is less likely that these plans will have measurable objectives, key performance indicators, benchmarks, and annual assessments of progress. As is the case with the strategic plan, failing to operationalize these plans prevents them from being used to gather information that can be used to continue, modify, or discontinue policies and practices that directly impact student success. Also failing to maintain an office with intuitional responsibility for support AND leadership over an integrated approach to planning increases the chances that these planning efforts remain siloed and essentially guide disjointed and insular efforts. Without an integrated institutional effectiveness model, planning lives within institutional enclaves and, as a result, leads to inefficiencies, redundancies, and an inability to fully leverage potential sources of learning.
Christopher Shults is Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Planning and MSCHE Accreditation Liaison at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Vice President of the AHEE Board. He has served on/led self-studies in three regions, authored/coauthored numerous publications and presentations on effectiveness, assessment, and leadership, provided regional accreditation workshops, and is currently working on a book designed to help community colleges build student focused business models.