Students invited to discuss accreditation claims in town hall

Monday, March 18, 2019 - 10:10pm

Stephanie Kusano, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching assessment specialist, speaks about teaching and learning excellence at the Office of the Provost Accreditation Town Hall in Hatcher Graduate Library Monday.

Stephanie Kusano, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching assessment specialist, speaks about teaching and learning excellence at the Office of the Provost Accreditation Town Hall in Hatcher Graduate Library Monday. Buy this photo
Zachary Goldsmith/Daily

On Monday evening, the Office of the Provost and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching hosted a town hall in the Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery centered around the University of Michigan’s accreditation process. The town hall was one of seven forums aimed at obtaining feedback from students, faculty and staff on aspects of the University’s argument for reaccreditation in 2020. This session focused specifically on student-based discussion about teaching and learning excellence and continuous improvement.

The University hopes the meetings will encourage discussion around campus. Past town halls in this series have centered around the institutional mission and integrity. The University intends to tackle institutional resources, planning and institutional effectiveness next.

Carrie Luke, project intermediate manager for the Office of the Provost, organized the town hall with the intention of sharing the University’s progress on its accreditation argument with the public.

“The town hall is really an opportunity to get input on the draft so far,” Luke said. “We’ve been working on it for about two years or so, and it’s exciting to be able to share it with the broader campus and with students and faculty and staff, and to have sort of a coming-out party for the accreditation argument. I think that in the town halls that we’ve had — we’ve had three so far … we’ve gotten really amazing feedback.”

Leigh Arsenault, higher education doctoral student and accreditation data manager for the Office of the Provost, expressed support for the interactive structure of the town hall.

“I think we’re excited to share with the community the work that we’ve been doing so far to really understand the ways that the University really engages students and faculty and staff in teaching and learning,” Arsenault said. “So it’s really about the heart of the institution and we have our draft so far. This is a chance for people to really get involved and tell us what they think and to really shape how it is that the University is reflected through this process.”

Upon entry to the town hall, attendees were invited to choose a topic that interested them and join the corresponding table. The topics were all based on one of four claims about the University discussed in the draft of the accreditation argument.

The claims discussed were as follows: The institution demonstrates that the exercise of intellectual inquiry and the acquisition, application and integration of broad learning and skills are integral to its educational programs; the institution provides support for student learning and effective teaching; the institution fulfills the claims it makes for an enriched educational environment; and the institution demonstrates a commitment to educational achievement and improvement through ongoing assessment of student learning.

In order to inform their deliberation, attendees were provided with a brief overview of the accreditation process. After the presentation, the town hall transitioned into a more interactive structure. Students were asked to take three minutes to reflect on what it means to them to be a student at the University, while faculty and staff were encouraged to use the allocated time to contemplate the aspects of the University that demonstrate an effort toward excellence and continuous improvement. Both were then provided with index cards and instructed to fill them with their thoughts. Following the period of silent reflection, participants were prompted to share the conclusions and experiences they wrote down with the rest of their table.

LSA sophomore Armen Movsesian, a transfer student and member of Central Student Government’s Transfer Student Resource Commission, felt especially empowered by this portion of the event.

“I love being a Michigan student,” Movsesian said. “Before I came here, it was my dream to be a University of Michigan student, which is why I’m on TSRC, and so being able to input my own personal experiences and to have some sort of policy be affected … is a big deal for me.”

During the final activity of the event, attendees were asked to use their prior discussions to fuel an analysis of the accreditation argument draft. A link to the draft was projected in the front of the room to enable electronic access to the draft, and physical copies were passed out to those without access to an electronic device. Attendees were also provided with forms full of guiding questions to conduct an assessment of the draft. They were instructed to complete one critique based on their own thoughts, and one critique after collaborating with the rest of their table.

Patricia King, professor of higher education, concluded the event by encouraging attendees to spread the word and invite their peers to attend the next town hall which will be taking place on Tuesday, March 19 in Pierpont Commons.