Book by: Michael F. Middaugh
Review by: Jamie Reynolds
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati

Various entities, including accrediting bodies, state legislatures, students, parents, alumni, institutional partners, and donors, have pressed colleges and universities to be more transparent, accountable, and responsible. Information related to student learning, student engagement and satisfaction, and resource allocation is commonly requested of institutions. Assessment data should “be translated into usable and useful information that informs the institutional planning process and provides the basis for making better decisions, particularly about the allocation of human and fiscal resources in support of activity related to student learning” (pp. 20-21). Middaugh focuses on three critical functions that are also emphasized in the standards of regional accrediting bodies; “assessment of student learning outcome, assessment of overall institutional effectiveness, and ongoing strategic planning activity that is informed by those assessments” (p. 10). Planning and Assessment in Higher Education: Demonstrating Institutional Effectiveness provides insight into the implementation of assessment strategies to promote institutional effectiveness. Middaugh’s extensive career in institutional research is the source of the real-life situations which exemplify the manner in which assessment strategies assist in the management of departments and institutions.

Throughout Planning and Assessment in Higher Education: Demonstrating Institutional Effectiveness, Middaugh stresses that assessment data should inform planning. As Middaugh states, “assessment activity is meaningless unless the results of those assessments are used for planning and resource allocation decisions” (p. 46). The interpretation and communication of assessment data can have a tremendous influence on how the information is used by key decision makers and strategic planners. Institutions must have a clear understanding of their purpose conveyed in their institutional mission statement. The mission statement should serve as a compass for the institution, providing the necessary framework for strategic decision-making through the attainment of relevant and useful data. Colleges and universities must identify who they are as an institution, who their target audience is, who their competitors are, and how they are going to reach their target population through branding.

Middaugh acknowledges that the purpose of this book is to “deliver a tool box to provosts, deans, department chairs, and administrative directors that will help them more effectively and effectively manage their institutions” (p. 20). From the perspective of an academic advisor, this text provides an introduction into the potential impact of assessment on resource allocation and strategic planning. It also provides an overview of assessment strategies. Assessment is typically viewed as a cumbersome process. However, Middaugh demonstrates how academic and nonacademic areas can effectively employ assessment strategies to make well-informed and data-driven decisions. One of the most beneficial aspects of this book is the guidance Middaugh offers regarding the effective transformation from assessment data to information that could be used and communicated to appropriate stakeholders. A grave mistake commonly made during the assessment process is to equate assessment data with information. Assessment data is optimally effective when “massaged, manipulated, and interpreted to render them into a form of information that is readily digestible and is used for planning, decision making, and the allocation of resources” (p. 173). This text is recommended for persons charged with conducting assessment and planning initiatives.   

Planning and Assessment in Higher Education: Demonstrating Institutional Effectiveness is not grounded in the theoretical foundation of assessment. Rather, this book offers insight into the manner in which assessment data can be used to improve the programming and functionality of an institution. Placing attention toward planning and assessment will assist in the continuous improvement, efficiency, and effectiveness of an institution.

Planning and Assessment in Higher Education: Demonstrating Institutional Effectiveness. (2010). Book by Michael F. Middaugh. Review by Jamie Reynolds. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 256pp., $42.00 (Hardback). ISBN 978-0-470-40090-6

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