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Beyond the accountability -improvement debate: A case study analysis of institutional response to assessment

Kathryn P Doherty, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study is to identify institution-specific variables that impact assessment on campus and to determine the ways in which these variables influence campus approach to assessment. The importance of this study lies in its ability to inform assessment policy, to influence assessment practice, and to support assessment research. Results from this study provide broader parameters within which to discuss assessment beyond the traditional accountability or improvement model. Results also offer a systematic three-step process for campus self-analysis using institution-specific variables as a means of identifying campus response to assessment. This process facilitates focus on those campus variables that promote or prevent effective assessment, while informing potential changes in policy and practice tied to those variables, and providing an opportunity for an intentional review of assessment to optimize institutional effectiveness. Research for this study was conducted using case study analysis of three institutions to collect and classify data, to describe the data, and to make inferences about what the data reveal. From the results of this study it is fair to conclude that assessment on campus is shaped and influenced by an interplay of variables unique to each college or university. This research also suggests that a campus's response to assessment is directly impacted by the nature and focus of the interplay of these campus-specific variables. The findings from this study point to significant policy and practice implications wherein a campus may identify the forces that push the campus closer to accountability or closer to improvement and develop interventions to make assessment more effective vis a vis the institution-specific framework in which assessment evolves.

Subject Area

Higher education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Doherty, Kathryn P, "Beyond the accountability -improvement debate: A case study analysis of institutional response to assessment" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3163663.