by Dr. Pelham Mead III
When I was hired at the NY College of Osteopathic Medicine to rewrite the Assessment plan for the college and come up with a new assessment program that the students of the college could use. Previously, my boss the Dean of Academic Affairs tried to give an assessment survey at the end of the second year Medical exam. Students were so stressed out after the exam that they tore up the assessment survey.
When I arrived in the fall of 2008, the NY College of Osteopathic Medicine had been cited by COCA the national accrediting agency for 12 different infractions. Most of them involved student due-process and the balance were directed toward a complete college assessment program. I was directed to form a team and rewrite the assessment plan with up to date bench marks which were missing at the time. Along with this major project I helped set up an experimental student volunteer assessment team to evaluate on 13 week course at a time with weekly meetings to discuss pros and cons, concluding with a one to two page Executive Summary for the entire course in a positive and professional tone. I promised the students that if they cooperated, I would make sure their sound suggestions would be acted on by the College Curriculum committee, and that is what I did. We added a soda machine in the basement locker room of the lecture hall building. We modified the teaching day to include more break time other than just lunch. We also had professors make available the course lecture outline available a day or more in advance so students could use it as a study guide.
The most successful change I helped initiate was the volunteer Student evaluation teams. I monitored their progress each week, but they were not allowed to ask me questions, nor was I to make any comments about their discussions. Using a team got a shortened version of how the students felt about the course and it’s instructors in a positive professor manner. I adopted this concept from the Mayo Clinic in Minn.. They had similar problems in student evaluations that made fun of professors and called them names. The professors were defensive regarding the student evaluations and a solution was the volunteer student team approach instead of questioning the entire student body. Keeping the summary positive and professional got a better response from the faculty also. By the summer of 2009, the Volunteer Student Assessment team became part of the incoming Freshman team orientation and put in place in the fall of 2009.