Strategic Planning is an on-going, participatory process that engages both the internal and external college community in identifying and prioritizing college goals, and determining the means to achieve them. It provides the college with the opportunity to envision the future and chart a course for achieving it while at the same time shaping the budget development and distribution processes which are based on institutional priorities. Strategic planning defines our vision and mission, who we will serve, our role in the community, the kinds of programming and services we provide, and the resources needed to succeed.
Tunxis is committed to strategic planning as a vital part of the planning process that allows us to define our effectiveness as an institution.
Since the Fall of 2005, the Institutional Effectiveness Committee has been responsible for coordinating and overseeing the implementation of a Comprehensive Assessment System. Integral parts of the Comprehensive Assessment System are the Ability Based Education Project , Strategic and Tactical Planning Process, and Evaluation/Institutional Effectiveness.
Ability Based Education (ABE) Project
Tunxis has adopted a campus-wide commitment to ability-based learning and assessment based on an approach which emerged from a close look at the model provided by award winning Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The complex model that Tunxis has developed embraces the notion of a shared responsibility on the part of all faculty and staff for student learning. It has several ongoing efforts at its core. Central to the success of this effort, is a commitment to be explicit at all times. Based on that simple yet important notion, the College has adopted clear statements that define what students are expected to gain, achieve, demonstrate, and know by the time they complete their academic programs.
Ten general education abilities have been established, and rubrics that define levels of mastery of each ability have been defined and finalized. The faculty has identified courses in which each ability is assessed, and all course syllabi indicate which abilities are assessed in the course as well as course and program outcomes. A “curriculum map” has been compiled showing in which courses each ability is assessed and the total number of times each ability is assessed in each degree program.
In the Fall of 2009, 49 of 56 full-time and 48 of 245 part-time faculty conducted ability assessments in their courses and submitted data on those assessments to the Office of Institutional Research. An analysis of the data provided comparative information on score distributions and means among faculty and courses assessing each ability for use in ongoing work to ensure consistency in the assessments. The data also revealed that there is a very close correlation between grades and ability assessments, providing some support for the validity of the assessments and that students most often struggle with the World Cultures and Critical Thinking abilities. All full-time faculty are expected to record ability assessments by Fall 2010; all adjuncts, Fall 2011.
A new software system, Digication, has been implemented that includes a module for compiling ePortfolios and a database system to collect ability scores/assessments. Twenty-two faculty members were actively using Digication in their classes in the Fall of 2009, and explicit plans to expand that group have been formulated. Currently, there are a variety of entry points for students to begin compiling an ePortfolio: First Year Experience, Composition, Integrated Reading and Writing II, Introduction to Computers, and various introductory courses. Business Office Technology, Computer Information Systems, Early Childhood Education, and Dental Hygiene have adopted ePortfolio as a graduation requirement, and other programs are in the process of deciding how they plan to use ePortfolio. A 24 station ePortfolio lab is staffed by advanced students and is open during convenient hours for students to work on their ePortfolios. The use of ePortfolios has two purposes: 1) to give students an opportunity to showcase their best work for potential employers and transfer institutions; and 2) to provide documentation that students have mastered the general education and program abilities or outcomes.
Strategic, Tactical, and Operational Planning Processes
The Institutional Effectiveness Committee oversees and coordinates the Strategic and Tactical Planning Processes. Each member of the committee represents a department on campus and has the responsibility to report to and obtain input from members of the department. In this way, all faculty and staff participate in the process. A student member seat on the committee was established, but to date, we have not filled this slot due to the difficulty of finding a student who could commit to attending the meetings. The Academic Assessment Planner and the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Outreach serve as staff to the committee (the Dean has also served as chair of the committee since 2006), and the other college deans attend meetings as ad hoc members.
The Strategic Planning process is a three year cycle that begins with an internal and external environmental scan. Information gathered from the scan and input from all constituencies are used by the committee to identify potential Strategic Initiatives, which are shared campus-wide and undergo a second round of input from constituents. The committee makes additional adjustments based on the second round of input, and the final Strategic Plan is approved by the President’s Cabinet and the college’s governance group, the Professional Staff Organization (PSO). In the second and third years of the plan, the committee reviews assessment and outcome data and makes adjustments as needed in the plan.
Tactical Planning is narrower in scope and has shorter time frames, usually a year or less, than Strategic Planning. It is the process of making detailed decisions about what to do, who will do it, and how to do it to accomplish the goals set forth in the Strategic Plan. Tactical Planning provides the specific ideas for implementing the Strategic Plan.
Each department is required to compile a Tactical Plan to advance the Strategic Initiatives and enter that plan into the Plan-O-Matic, customized software developed by the Office of Institutional Research. The Plan-O-Matic was introduced in the 2009-2010 academic year after a previously used system, the Department Planner, was deemed too cumbersome and inadequate to be fully effective. Each department leader, usually a dean, is notified by email once a plan from his/her area has been submitted and has the option of approving the plan or requesting modifications. In the college’s Tactical Planning Process, work groups identify and implement departmental initiatives to address and advance the college’s Strategic Initiatives. A Strategic Initiative Fund is available to provide resources to support the departmental initiatives, and available discretionary funds from the operating budget for the coming year are also allocated based on priorities established in the Strategic Initiatives.
Operational Planning is short term and deals with the day-to-day work of the department. It can support the department’s tactical plan, but usually includes tasks and processes that maintain the department’s operations rather than extend those operations to accomplish new or more ambitious goals. It can, of course, include strategies to continuously improve a department’s operations. While operational planning is considered a departmental rather than an institutional process, a module of the Plan-O-Matic for operational planning is available for departments that choose to use it.
The following graphic representation of the Tunxis Community College Strategic and Tactical Planning Process and the Annual Calendar: Integrated Strategic Planning and Budget Development Process were developed by the Office of Institutional Research and approved by the Institutional Effectiveness Committee and the President’s Cabinet.
The graphic is “simplified” in that many steps are omitted in order to show the cyclical, data-driven aspects of the system.
“Institutional Effectiveness Outcomes and Data: Student Success and Institutional Measures”, an annual report, includes effectiveness data for all college functions, and this data is used extensively for evaluation and continuous improvement in the Planning Process. Sections of this report include: Employment Preparation and Placement; Transfer Preparation; Developmental Education; Student Persistence, Goal Attainment, and Satisfaction; Workforce Development; Community Service; Student Services; Decision-making Processes; Resource Management; Academic Excellence and Quality of Instruction; Disclosure and Integrity; and Quality Work Environment. The Institutional Effectiveness Committee uses this report, as well as data from the assessment of the General Education Outcomes, and assessments of departmental initiatives in the Plan-o-matic to evaluate the institution’s performance in accomplishing its mission and to recommend initiatives to improve performance and institutional effectiveness.
Each department is required to assess the results of their Tactical Plan in the Plan-O-Matic by June 30. The same process used by supervisors to approve Tactical Plans is used to approve the assessment of the plan. Departments can choose to continue a department goal into the next year, indicate that the accomplishment of a goal did not meet expectations, expand the activities of pilot projects to a wider group, continue the activities of goals that have been successful, and other options. Departments also identify which of the Strategic Initiatives each of their goals supports and advances.
The college also administers a number of outcome surveys to monitor and improve performance. Every two years, three surveys are administered. The Personal Assessment of the College Environment (PACE) is completed by faculty and staff and provides ratings on many different aspects of the college climate in terms of productivity, job satisfaction, communication, and overall organizational climate. The Student Assessment of the College Environment (SACE) is administered to a “quasi-random” selection of students. The 58 items on the survey are organized into five factors or domains including Instructional Services, Communication, Administrative & Physical Services, Student Focus, Social & Cultural Services, Student Focus. Respondents are asked to rate the five climate factors on a five-point Likert-type scale. Both surveys were developed and validated by the University of North Carolina and have national norms for comparison purposes. The third survey, “Evaluation of Non-Instructional Services”, was locally developed and gives faculty and staff the opportunity to rate the service and responsiveness of all non-instructional college departments. The college also administers a Graduate Survey. Data from all these surveys are used by the Institutional Effectiveness Committee in the planning process. The results of the PACE survey resulted in one of the college’s major goals, “improve internal cooperation.
Several departments have worked with Institutional Research to develop their own customized service outcome surveys. They include the Academic Success Center, Academic Advising, the Library, and Information Technology.
Each academic program completes a comprehensive program review every five years that includes data on student success. Each program has an advisory committee that meets regularly and participates in the program review process.
The college also recently began participating in the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and the Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE). The results of these surveys are shared with the Dean of Academic Affairs and Dean of Student Affairs who use the results to determine areas in need of improvement. The results of these surveys will also be used by the Institutional Effectiveness Committee in formulating the next Strategic Plan.
The Strategic Plan, the Institutional Effectiveness and Outcomes Data: Student Success and Institutional Measures report, the Ability Based Education report, results of the SACE, CCSSE, and SENSE surveys and licensure test performance are accessible to the public on the college’s website. Those documents as well as minutes of the Institutional Effectiveness Committee, environmental scanning data, ad hoc studies and other related information are also posted on the college’s Intranet.
As discussed above, the college’s Strategic Planning Process undertakes long-term planning through a three year cycle that also includes processes for short-term planning each year. The data from the Student Success and Institutional Measures are systematically compiled and analyzed as part of the process as well as data from external sources, General Education Abilities assessment and surveys. Because this carefully designed comprehensive process includes input from all stakeholders and guidance from college leadership, the priorities and course of action that emerge are both feasible and realistic. The Strategic Plan and the data described above is made public on both the college’s internal Intranet and on the website. The allocation of resources, both in the operating budget and the Strategic Initiative Fund, is consistent with planning priorities.
The institution has sufficient staff to guide and support the planning and evaluation process, including a Dean for Institutional Effectiveness and Outreach, Institutional Research Specialist, Academic Assessment Planner, Coordinator of Administrative Information Technology, and Institutional Research Secretary.
External perspectives are provided by academic program advisory committees and the college’s Foundation and Advisory Board, Inc.
The Institutional Effectiveness Committee, which includes representation from all campus constituencies, evaluates the planning and evaluation process on an ongoing basis. The process is also evaluated on the “Evaluation of Non-Instructional Services” outcomes survey.
The process is cyclical and systematic in that it repeats and builds on itself each year to ensure that the planning system promotes continuous improvement focused on critical issues. Progress of work groups and task forces are assessed each year and initiatives are continued if further progress needs to be made. In other words, this system is much more than a document; it is a living process focused on action and results.
The system for planning and evaluation at Tunxis Community College aligns well with the NEASC criteria for Standard Two: Planning and Evaluation and has been effective. Accordingly, the college will continue to use the system in the future.
While the system has worked well, participation in the use of the Plan-O-Matic has been uneven and needs to be improved. For 2009-2010, 10 of 25 departments completed the process of developing a plan, having the plan approved, and then subsequently assessing the plan. An additional nine departments submitted plans but did not assess them, leaving six departments that did not submit plans. For 2010-2011, 17 of the 25 departments have submitted plans and three have plans “in progress”, leaving five departments who have not begun working on their plan as of this writing.
Participation in the use of the Plan-O-Matic will be improved in the future.
While there is a “slot” on the Institutional Effectiveness Committee for a student, it has never been filled, nor has the plan been presented to students except for making it available on the website. In the development of the next Strategic Plan, more student involvement will be facilitated.
While external data is extensively reviewed in developing the Strategic Plan, external perspectives from a representative group have not been utilized. In the development of the next Strategic Plan, we will involve the college’s Foundation and Advisory Board, Inc.
For more information, contact Dr. Qing Lin Mack, Director of Institutional Research, at 860.253.3008.