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Institutional Effectiveness Plan (IEP)

Purpose of Institutional Effectiveness

This Institutional Effectiveness Plan (“IEP”) is a core component of the Wilmette Institute’s accreditation process with the DEAC (Standard II, Exhibit 6).  Its purpose and implementation aims to create buy-in and input of stakeholders throughout the Institute to ensure understanding of its mission and learning objectives. Working with the Office of the Director, the objective of the Institutional Effectiveness Task Force is to assess and report on how the data documentation demonstrates the outcomes’ effectiveness as shown in Figure 1 in the three central aspects of the IEP, namely, the Mission, Strategic Plan and Strategic Enrollment Plan, in administrative services, student programing and student learning.

The IEP provides the framework for the Task Force to analyze how the Wilmette Institute assesses its data over time, especially in a year time frame. The tool of continuous improvement is designed to measure the phases of planning, action and assessment in the levels of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Change is based on quantitative and qualitative analysis, where systematic improvements can be applied to help meet and exceed the annual learning objectives and operations of the goals and mission of the Institute.

1. Elements of Institutional Effectiveness

Figure 1. Elements of Institutional Effectiveness

The current Wilmette Institute Strategic Plan was launched in 2021 and is designed to be a five year plan to 2026. The Strategic Plan proactively anticipates the mechanisms necessary to respond with agility to meet and exceed the institutional mission and goals of an enterprise. For example, one of the key goals of the Wilmette Institute required the IEP Task Force to become an accredited educational institution. To meet this goal, the Task Force researched various accreditation bodies and decided to use DEAC as its standard. The materials for submission became the basis of the IEP model the Wilmette Institute adopted for standardization. (This began in 2021 and is anticipated to be a two year process.) The IEP Coordinator communicates with all stakeholders, through updates on the website and in monthly newsletters. A project management scorecard is used for tracking all necessary actions to complete the certification submission process and those involved, both individuals and teams, with task assignments to complete in a timeline.

All elements adopted in the Strategic Plan are transmitted to supervisors as experience is gained and the data is analyzed to help to determine where resources to programs and projects require improvement to meet the goals. At the close of the calendar year the Institutional Effectiveness Task Force submits a summary report of the progress on the Strategic Plan to the executive team assessing the results and level of success. Recommendations for continuous improvement are documented for the next year.

2. Operational Performance

The second component of the IEP includes the performance of the day-to-day operational areas, which may not be covered in the specifics of the strategic plan. Providing staff with measurable goals relating to their daily job function improves one’s working position and job processes, in areas such as communication, cross-training, technology learning, collective vision-building, behavior and attitudes, on-going professional training, productive use of time, mental and physical wellbeing, etc. For example, the Wilmette Institute works closely with its HR team in the National Bahá’í Office with goal setting and measurable in this aspect, and reviews annually all staff performance and well-being. 

Figure 2. The Continuous Improvement Cycle (Deming model)

One example focused on the need to measure course effectiveness and instructor performance. Throughout 2020 the Wilmette Institute identified the specific goal to improve student engagement, which led the Institute to measure it and then take action on the outcomes. The Institute procured faculty feedback and then created a Course Assessment Team, articulated processes and created tools to gather data and began training the Registrar and our instructors to implement the plan.

The Course Assessment Team now meets once a month to review the contents of the course assessment folder, to make recommendations for course improvement regarding instructional design, methodology, assessment, and for improvement of instructor performance through written recommendations and conversations. Now in 2022 the Institute can set goals for instructor performance and for course effectiveness, individual and in aggregate, and will follow the Deming model (in Figure 2) which is not only a cyclical process (specific goal), but can be better understood as a scaling spiral of continuous improvement (ongoing objective), set out in Figure 3 Baha’i Learning Cycle, for the Baha’i educational imperatives worldwide, set out in Figure 3. Bahá’í Learning Cycle, for the Bahá’í educational imperatives worldwide.

Figure 3. Bahá’í Learning Cycle

3. Student Learning

One of the main functions of faculty and the support staff is to continuously provide the opportunity to strengthen a student’s knowledge and experience toward their educational objectives. The process includes an annual collection and analysis of data, assessment and feedback. For example, the Wilmette Institute provides an Aggregate Annual Academic Report for each Program Certificate to all stakeholders, with inputs from a Student Satisfaction Survey, Learning Self-Assessment Reports from Students, Course Evaluation Reports from Students, Course Completion Log, Instructor Self-assessment and Student Course Grade Report.

All data reports and survey results are published for the staff and faculty to view on the website page, wilmetteinstitute.org/ie. This means of communication by the IEP Task Force provides stakeholders with transparent access and accountability. The Data reports are further emailed to faculty, staff, and administrators to ensure effective communication of the information obtained so all levels of the Institute can integrate the information.

The Wilmette Institute’s Strategic Enrollment Plan focuses on two educational arenas: the market for certificate programs and the market for extension (non-credit) courses.

Enrollment Plan for Certificate Program: Our current enrollment plan is a five-year strategy and consists of recruiting at least five students per year to our certificate programs. In the first stages of this strategy our goal is to market to seminaries and universities to invite individual students to take individual Wilmette Institute courses through Graduate Theological Union. Finally, we plan on pursuing articulation agreements with like-minded universities for tuition reimbursement and credit transfer. 

Enrollment Plan for Extension Program: We are tracking diversity statistics for our courses, which heretofore have been attracting mostly older white female learners. To attract more people of color and younger people, we have offered courses and webinars on Anti-Black Racism and on Indigenous American religion and spirituality, courses which also help to broaden out the thinking of our white audience. We have also offered a course on Anti-Black Racism in the Persian language to help Iranian American Bahá’ís to understand the situation of their African American co-religionists. Six times we have offered the course “Foundations for Relationships” to 18 to 35 year olds and several courses on transformative leadership for 11 to 17 year olds. All these courses accomplish several goals: (1) they increase our overall diversity; (2) they introduce people to the Wilmette Institute who then become interested in other courses (and a small number of people have gone on to take other courses); (3) anecdotal evidence indicates that they help the older white audience understand and accommodate the increased diversity in our courses; and (4) anecdotal evidence indicates that they have helped white and Persian immigrant Bahá’ís to work more closely and build friendships with people of color in their local communities.

The IEP Task Force is in the process of reviewing enrollment data from 2019-2021 and will work on qualitative and quantitative benchmarks to increase student diversity coherent with our mission in early 2022.

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