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.

What is institutional effectiveness planning?

Institutional effectiveness (IE) 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.

IE planning may cover1

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

Why do it?

Centralizing IE efforts helps institutions get a clear picture of the institution’s performance and allows data to inform decisions. Many institutions have these efforts in siloed departments or scattered across the college or university.

IE 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

How to do it?

IE planning is often less about starting a new process and more about bringing current, ongoing assessment processes together and empowering them. 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.)

When to do it?

IE 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 IE planning process 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

Why integrated?

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 obligation than on using data to improve institutional performance. Integrated planning for institutional effectiveness makes assessment more efficient and more useful to the institution.