Good practice in assessment and measurement begins with a review that identifies what a campus already knows about its students, practices, and outcomes. Among other things, this type of review assures that time and resources are used wisely and ultimately speeds the assessment process. Thus, the Gardner Institute has developed the Current Practices Inventory (CPI) to help each Foundations task force identify what is already known about its campus.
The intent of the CPI is to create an information base that will be useful both 1) to assure that each member of the task force has a campus-wide perspective of the first year, and 2) to serve as an index of first-year elements that will underpin later efforts to measure each of the Foundational Dimensions®.
The CPI is the first assignment that the task force will undertake. Because this task requires the collection of information from various sources across campus, completion of the initial version will take from two to four weeks. Most task forces will discover or create new sources of data during the self-study phase of the initiative; therefore, the CPI is likely to be a “work in progress” across the entire process.
Part I: Inventory of First-Year Structures and Policies
Campuses have a variety of structures (e.g., first-year seminars, advising centers, new student orientation) and policies (e.g., admissions requirements, mandatory advising, registration rules) that define how first-year students experience higher education. The task force will identify the major structures and policies that, by design or circumstance, uniquely impact first-year students.
Part II: Defining First-Year Student Sub-Groups
Because students enter college at various points in time and with differing academic backgrounds, it is not always easy to define clearly who is a first-year student. Once the cohort is defined, the task force will need to also consider the impact of first-year structures and policies on specific sub populations of students. Every campus has its own unique “groups” of students who experience the institution in ways that vary from the experiences of “average” students. Part II guides a campus in defining its subpopulations that will be used to disaggregate data and guide specific task force discussions.
Part III: Inventory of Existing First-Year Data and Assessments
The task force should become familiar with the range of data sources and past assessment efforts that have been conducted over the previous three years as sources of evidence about the level of achievement of the Foundational Dimensions. Please note that the task force may wish to use these data at some point, but for the purposes of the CPI the task is simply to determine what sources of data exist and where they are located (the task force does not need to gather the data or gain permission to see the results at the time the inventory is conducted).