Institutional Effectiveness Planning

The most basic question can also be the most difficult to answer: How do we know? In higher education, we think we’re fulfilling our mission. We’re sure students are learning and growing. We’re confident we’re achieving what we said we would. But it isn’t until we ask and answer “How do we know?” that we can unleash our college’s or university’s promise and potential.

Why do it? Why integrated? Who does it?
When is it done? How is it done? Learn how.

What is institutional effectiveness planning?

Institutional effectiveness planning is a higher education institution’s effort to organize evaluation, assessment, and improvement initiatives so the institution can determine how well it is fulfilling its mission and achieving its goals.

Institutional effectiveness planning may cover1

  • Institutional research
  • Program review (academic and/or administrative)
  • Student learning outcome assessment
  • Accreditation
  • Plan measurement and decision support

Why do institutional effectiveness planning?

Creating an institutional effectiveness plan helps colleges and universities get a clear picture of their performance and use data to inform decisions. It moves institutional effectiveness from an externally focused compliance exercise to a key capacity for success.

Institutional effectiveness planning also helps institutions:

  • Improve student retention and completion
  • Determine and keep competitive advantage
  • Identify possible efficiencies and improve processes
  • Comply with federal and state reporting requirements
  • Support accreditation activities and requirements

Why is integrated planning important for institutional effectiveness planning?

Assessment and evaluation efforts happen in almost every unit on campus. When these efforts are siloed, they are inefficient and more focused on fulfilling external reporting obligations than on using data to improve institutional performance. Integrated planning for institutional effectiveness makes assessment more efficient and more useful to the institution.

Who does institutional effectiveness planning?

Institutional effectiveness planning is often managed by a central office, such as an office of institutional research. While evaluation of programs is also conducted at the unit level, the organization and timing of these efforts is often controlled by the office of institutional research.

When is institutional effectiveness planning done?

Institutional effectiveness planning often uses a yearly cycle with certain activities, like re-accreditation, following a multi-year process. Data are collected in an ongoing fashion, and specific reporting windows are informed by state and federal guidelines.

A review of the institutional effectiveness model or processes usually occurs every five to 10 years but may also be triggered by:

  • New accreditation standards
  • Changes to state/federal regulations
  • Recommendations from an accreditation review
  • Changes to the college or university strategic planning process

How is institutional effectiveness planning done?

Institutional effectiveness planning is often less about starting a new process and more about bringing current, ongoing assessment processes together into an overarching institutional effectiveness model. Typically, it involves:

  1. Identifying what needs to be assessed and evaluated, including:
    • Mission-critical activities (student learning outcomes, research, community engagement, etc.)
    • Strategic plan goals
    • External reporting requirements
  2. Identifying assessment and evaluation initiatives already happening across the institution and aligning them to identified needs
  3. Finding gaps in assessment and evaluation and determining how they will be filled
  4. Designing a model or cycle that aligns current efforts, incorporates new efforts, and schedules analysis so it can inform planning
  5. Providing support needed to implement the plan (software, training, documentation, etc.)
1 Association for Higher Education Effectiveness (AHEE), “Developing the Integrated Institutional Effectiveness Office.”

Learn how.

You’re invited to join the SCUP community toward learning and practicing integrated institutional effectiveness planning in higher education. Check out our related learning resources and upcoming events and courses below.

Interested in becoming a SCUP member? We have a place for you. Learn more and join us.

Join the conversation on the SCUP listserv.