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School of Education Focuses on Accreditation

The School of Education has been attempting to put a stronger emphasis on the assessment of teaching and learning while at the same time seeking accreditation for their programs from the Council of Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). In order to facilitate these two initiatives, a new position was created entitled Director of Assessment and Accreditation. Through the search process, the college was fortunate to find a candidate that had been directing similar initiatives and more for Widener University. Brigitte Valesey has been at Drexel for 6 months, but she is already doing some great things. The following are the results of an interview with the new director.

1. What is your background and how did you land in higher education?

I have a background in secondary education with a technology education emphasis, and with ties to higher education.

My involvement in professional associations began while I was a high school teacher and led to many opportunities to work with higher education faculty across the US. These opportunities included participation in funded projects with NSF, NASA and private foundations; collaborating on professional development, and becoming an evaluator for NCATE accreditation visits. Through this work, I was invited by my national association to join their staff and to create a K-16 teaching and learning resource center.

2. What was your role like at Widener?
There are a lot of parallels between my prior position at Widener and my current role in the SoE. The Widnener administration created a new office to support institutional and program assessment of student learning. This meant collaborating with faculty, staff and administrators across campus to advance an assessment culture and to develop and implement sustainable assessment processes for gathering, reviewing, reporting, and using assessment data. I had the required skill set from my other position as NCATE coordinator, so I was recruited for this new position.

Within a few years, my office expanded to include offices for faculty development and sponsored research. I was also involved in strategic planning and in regional and professional accreditation preparations. I became a Middle States evaluator and was involved in developing their recent Middle States self study report using revised standards. I also created a mentoring program where experienced faculty would be paired with new faculty on acclimating to teaching in higher education and Widener

3. Was there an emphasis on assessment and continuous improvement at Widener?
Yes, this emphasis was and still is supported by senior administrative and academic leaders. To be honest, it was difficult at first to get things started. I really wanted to empower faculty to take ownership of assessment, because that would be the only way to make is sustainable. We needed to demonstrate that assessment is not an add-on, but really an effective part of teaching and also important for looking at a program. It took quite a long time a lot of committee work to develop policies and procedures and. The first steps were to develop a common language, so everyone could discuss techniques using the same words.

A faculty governance committee for assessment of student learning was established recently for faculty representatives to regularly discuss and act on assessment findings. With the oversite of this committee, faculty demonstrate commitment to program and university-wide assessment by developing assessment tools, gathering data, and using data to enhance teaching and learning.

4. What attracted you to the job at SoE?
I get truly energized by opportunities to create and advance matters of importance to teaching and learning. Assessment work involves bringing focus to learning priorities and what makes programs distinctive. It was clear to me that the SoE is in a great place to move forward on accreditation and to take assessment to the next level. Here in the SoE, there is a collective sense of commitment to the pursuit of CAEP accreditation and the continuous improvement in learning and teaching. The new SoE strategic plan priorities align with my interests and values. Also, at Drexel there is strong institutional support and resource commitment for assessment and accreditation especially through the Office of Assessment, Accreditation and Effectiveness.

5. What made you a strong candidate for the job?
I think that search committee members would best address this question. But if I had to guess, I would say, that my prior experience and expertise with advancing assessment and contributions to accreditation efforts.

6. What are your main duties now?
I have 2 main parts to my position within the School of Education. The first is preparing the full SoE application for Council of Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accreditation. This process will take some time to complete the self-study and other materials. I will lead this effort while working with SoE faculty and staff to develop an evidence inventory aligned with the CAEP Standards.

My other main responsibility is to revise and implement assessment procedures with the School of Education. I will accomplish this by working with SoE faculty and staff to review and update learning outcomes and program assessment plans for CAEP, PAR and PDE reviews. I will also collaborate with faculty and staff to review and realign assessment measures such as rubrics and surveys. Lastly, I will explore the viability and selection of an assessment data management system

7. What do you like most so far?
Well my perception of the atmosphere hasn’t changed since I have been working here. It is a positive, professional, collaborative work environment, and I am constantly working with very talented people. Added to this is the strong support and commitment from all of the individuals who play a critical role in this work including the dean, chairs/directors, faculty and staff. Perhaps the best part so far has been the receptiveness to using data for innovation and change

8. What has been difficult so far?
I view difficulties as obstacles and barriers to making progress or getting work done. This is not the case here in SoE. If I had to identify a challenge at this time it is the need for an assessment data management system. I am on the university’s Software Evaluation Committee to review possible software applications for university and viability of selected applications for SoE.

9. What are your goals for the job for the next couple of years?
I will be focusing on working with faculty and staff with reviewing and updating assessment plans, tools, and processes related to SoE candidate/completer assessments and the continuous improvement of SoE programs. I would also like to implement sustainable and manageable processes and procedures for systematically gathering data for CAEP accreditation and assessment reporting. Lastly, I will work with the CAEP Steering Committee and SoE faculty and staff to advance the SoE from CAEP application to CAEP accreditation candidacy.