Tech makes changes to its accreditation process

HOUGHTON – Michigan Technological University will undergo a variety of changes to its accreditation and assessment processes, as well as its core general education offerings.

Associate Provost Christa Walck gave an overview of those changes in a presentation to the University Senate Wednesday evening.

All 37 slides of her presentation can be found at the Senate website:


The Higher Learning Commission recently established new accreditation criteria for higher education institutions, and with added emphasis on teaching and learning, Tech has opted to switch from being evaluated through the Academic Quality Improvement Program to a program called Open Pathway.

“When I met with you in the fall we said we would stay on AQIP. Well, I’ve been writing the systems portfolio (a 125-page document due every four years, this year due June 1), and it’s become clearer and clearer just how much more work staying with AQIP is than going with the Open Pathway,” Walck said. “So, gratefully, a decision was made to switch.”

Open Pathway requires an “Assurance Argument and Evidence File” due in the fall of 2015, and it requires about half the amount of documentation, with a greater focus on compliance, instead of documenting all processes of improvement.

Also by switching to Open Pathway, the comprehensive accreditation evaluation will not take place until 2021, allowing Tech to implement a set of eight University Student Learning Goals.


Walck emphasized that regular assessment is important for external accountability (outcomes-oriented learning to the U.S. Department of Education, state legislatures, etc.) and internal improvement (process-oriented learning).

“As we move more through this assessment process with the full institution, we’re really trying to develop a culture of assessment and shift our mindset, particularly as faculty, to thinking in terms of a set of courses to a set of competencies,” Walck said. “The courses enable the competencies to be met.”

Six of the eight USLGs include: disciplinary knowledge, critical and creative thinking, communication, information literacy, technology, values and civic engagement. Changes are proposed to the other two, changing knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world to knowledge of mathematics and physical science; and changing global literacy to global literacy and knowledge of human culture.

The learning goals will be evaluated through both general education and degree programs, as well as at the course level. All degree programs will be required to submit an annual assessment report due to Tech’s Assessment Council by Sept. 30. A particular learning goal will be emphasized each year, with a better method of reporting.

“We’re really emphasizing direct embedded assessment, looking at student work and seeing what the students actually know, as opposed to indirect assessment where you’re asking them what they think they know. There’s a big difference,” Walck said.

General Education

The university will be removing the current four core courses – Perspectives on Inquiry, World Cultures, Composition and Institutions – and replacing them with Composition (moved to the first year), Global Issues and choices from a list of Humanities/Fine Arts and Social/Behavior Sciences for the final two.

“The implications are that all Michigan Tech students should hit that level three proficient in all the goals, through Gen Ed, pathways that you might develop in degree programs and what student affairs might be able to provide in terms of co-curricular learning opportunities,” Walck said.

The new core classes will be implemented this fall, while new “Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences” and “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” requirements will be discussed through the Curricular Policy Committee, likely established this fall and implemented by 2015-16.

In other business at Wednesday’s meeting, the Senate:

unanimously approved a proposal to modify search procedures for college deans.

unanimously approved a proposal for a Master of Geographic Information Science degree program.

introduced a proposal for a spin-off from “B.S. in Management” to a “B.S. in Management with a Concentration in Entrepreneurship” to be voted on at the March 27 Senate meeting.

heard from Senator Nancy Barr a fringe benefit survey is currently out to faculty, with a current response rate of about 50 percent. It’s being conducted anonymously.