Each institution generally has the flexibility to define its administrative and support departments as it sees fit. A good starting point is to define administrative and support departments based on the institution’s organization chart. If you choose to define administrative and support departments differently than those shown on the organization chart, just be sure to have a good (and documented) rationale for doing so – your peer reviewers will probably ask about it during your reaccreditation process.
Just as with academic programs, each administrative and support department should have defined outcomes relevant to the mission of the department. The departments will need to track their results, and document the action plans they have developed for continuous improvement. And, just as with academic programs, the administrative/support departments’ outcomes, results, and continuous improvement action plans can be tracked using the Assessment module of SPOL.
In some cases, especially for support services/departments, the outcomes may be related to student learning; for example, the Financial Aid department may have an outcome such as “70 percent of students applying for a student loan will display appropriate financial literacy.” The Financial Aid department would then need to devise a way to measure students’ financial literacy (with the help of the Institutional Effectiveness office in most cases). Their continuous improvement plan would likely involve some means of helping students to improve their financial literacy, such as online tutorials or face-to-face seminars.
In many cases, the outcomes for an administrative/support department will be focused on the internal workings of the department, or how well the department serves its constituents. For example, an Accounting department may identify two of its outcomes as “80 percent of accounts payable transactions will be processed within one week,” and “85 percent of internal customers will be satisfied or very satisfied with the service they receive.” These example outcomes state a clear target for success, and from how they are stated it is pretty straightforward to see how the department would measure them. In other cases, there may be several different ways in which to measure the outcome – the important thing is, the outcome must be measurable. Just as with student learning outcomes, it does no good to identify an outcome with no way to assess it.
Because the work done by an administrative/support department is often quite different than the work done by other departments at the same institution, the outcomes will often be quite different from department to department. The important things to consider are:
(1) are the outcomes directly related to the mission of the department,
(2) are the outcomes measurable, and
(3) is improving the outcomes under the department’s control.
While the outcomes for administrative/support departments will usually look quite different from student learning outcomes, the overall assessment process is the same. Identify outcomes and targets; measure how close you are to your target; develop and implement an action plan for continuous improvement; measure again.
SPOL’s Assessment module works just as well for administrative/support departments as it does for academic programs, so a powerful tool is just a few clicks away.