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Conclusion/Executive Summary

In this conclusion, we review and synthesize the evidence presented in the Reflective Essays in terms of the Core Commitment to Institutional Capacity as expressed through the Four Standards. Clearly, the issues of diversity and educational excellence are two that occupy center stage in discussions of the institutional purposes of the Berkeley campus (Standard 1). Often they are seen as opposing forces that threaten to split the campus community, and indeed there are strongly-held views among campus faculty, students, and staff that differ profoundly regarding these issues. Nevertheless, the campus must find a way to advance that adheres to its fundamental mission and adapts to the external realities that impinge upon the campus.

The series of procedural changes that were described in the undergraduate admissions essay illustrate the interplay between forces outside the University and internal principles. The advent of Regental policy SP-1 and a state proposition banning affirmative action coincided with the campus faculty committee (AEPE) decision to do away with formulae and introduce a "comprehensive review" process that parallels that of selective colleges across the country. The coincidental timing of this decision has led some critics to see this as "backdoor affirmative action," although the studies commissioned by AEPE indicated that there would be negligible effect on the admissions rates of underrepresented minority applicants. Moreover, AEPE deemed comprehensive review as "necessary" in order to fully implement the broader policy giving weight to "overcoming disadvantage" that is explicit in SP-1 (Moore, 2002). Of course, with time there may indeed be changes in such outcomes associated with the comprehensive review procedure—whether this is due to "backdoor affirmative action" or the success of the new procedure in identifying deserving applicants will need to be evaluated. The ensuing debates about the "two-tier" admissions procedure and the apparent modifications that, as of this writing, are planned for SAT I are further episodes in this drama, with arguments regarding educational excellence running in parallel with suspicions by some that these are disingenuous attempts to promote diversity under the strong restrictions against affirmative action to which the campus must adhere. Perhaps overriding these concerns is the body of evidence presented by Berkeley to the UC Regents last fall which showed that comprehensive review, without significantly impacting diversity, has been successful in selecting freshman classes that are both better prepared academically and have achieved greater academic success than those admitted under the formulaic approach. [See 1(a). Undergraduate Admissions]

The second essay of Standard 1 looks directly at the diversity landscape across the campus. It reviews programs that have been instituted to address diversity issues under these same strictures on admissions and hiring, which are usually seen as the first means of addressing diversity shortcomings in other educational institutions. The institution of these restrictions clearly caused a significant hiatus in the usual way that such matters were discussed and debated on the campus. Former Chancellor Tien showed strong leadership in quickly directing the campus's attention to address inequities in the quality of education being received by students in California, and in focusing campus efforts to broaden opportunities for underrepresented minority students to prepare for a Berkeley education. This is a problem that is large and long-standing, and the campus has only just begun to learn how to make a real difference. Efforts to increase diversity at the graduate level and with faculty have also had to adjust to the new restrictions; although change has been slow, there has indeed been some progress. Concerns about a deceleration in those changes have led to recent campus changes to the structure of programs addressing diversity with the intent of making them more prominent throughout the campus. [See 1(b). Campus Diversity]

The "core functions" of any educational institution surely include teaching and learning (Standard 2), and the two Reflective Essays related to this Standard are focused on exactly those two topics. The first annotates the many strands that have emerged this decade aimed at fostering a new "mastery" model to guide our efforts to help our students learn more effectively and deeply. This has involved changes in both institutional structures (such as the establishment of the Division of Undergraduate Education), and in programmatic offerings (such as the institution of new educational experiences for our undergraduate students). These represent efforts the campus is making to improve the quality of the learning experience for its students. Each tries in a different way to bring closer to the undergraduate some aspect of the excellence and diversity for which the campus is famous. For example, the Freshman Seminars involve professors from our most senior ranks in direct discussions with our newest students, and the undergraduate research opportunities confront students with the realities (sometimes the drudgeries, sometimes the moments of excitement) of the research programs that abound here. These programs have a "local" nature, involving students in communities and support groups, like the Theme Programs of the residence halls, and the wide variety of programs we have to serve the diverse student body. Not only do these promote effective learning for individual students, but they can also be seen as one response to the common perception that a large campus must be anonymous—each of the programs has a thoroughly unique nature, and offers a local community for our undergraduate students. Unfortunately, we lack data to determine whether many of these programs positively affect learning outcomes for our students. The improvement of support not only for student learning but also for measurement of learning outcomes will be a theme of the Educational Effectiveness Review. The transformation of the College Writing Programs from "Subject A" provides a different perspective, this time in a more standard course-based setting. Its change from being a purely remedial course to a course that helps students develop skills in academic discourse that will assist them throughout their academic studies can be seen as a reflection of the value of a fresh focus on the underlying educational purposes of the campus. [See 2(a). Support for Student Learning]

The flip side of student learning is the culture of teaching on the campus. Here too, there has been restructuring to focus institutional attention on teaching. The changes described in the Reflective Essay are designed: (a) to signal the importance of teaching across the campus; and (b) to concentrate the attention of administrators with substantive interests in improving teaching. One means of measuring the importance of teaching on the campus is through the existence of formal avenues for recognition and monetary award to exemplars of teaching excellence. As noted in the Reflective Essay, the campus has had several such programs of long-standing, which have been recently upgraded and which have been augmented with new efforts. The provision of teaching resources through the OED and other campus offices is also useful in helping faculty and other instructors become better teachers. Programmatic efforts in this essay also relate strongly to criteria under Standard 4, especially the efforts to improve the evaluation of teaching, and to foster a culture of reflection and improvement in teaching. The campus is currently engaging in serious reflection on the ways to evaluate teaching and promote reflection and improvement among faculty, but these current efforts are still in their early stages, with follow-through to observable improvements still to come. [See 2(b). Teaching Effectiveness]

One of the major resources of the campus (Standard 3) is our teaching staff, composed, as described in detail in the Reflective Essay, of many types of instructors beyond the stereotypical image of the faculty member. Although Berkeley does indeed lead its sister institutions in the University of California in its concentration of faculty-led classes, the maximization of this is not seen as the sole goal of the campus's plans for delivering instruction. Instead the aim is to develop an appropriate mixture of types of instruction and types of instructors for the many purposes that classes are designed. The essay surveys the "layout" of some of the broad categories of instructors and classes. The essay also reviews current and predicted constraints that the campus must cope with in its provision of instruction. It concludes by reviewing some issues that are currently the focus of attention, including the position of courses and students in interdisciplinary programs, which have in the past slipped under the usual departmental scrutiny. [See 3(a). Delivery of Education]

Another major category of resources discussed under Standard 3 is the utilization of technology in the educational program of the campus. As with many other campuses, there have been and continue to be examples of innovative excellence, and indeed national leadership in this area. Several such are featured in the essay. However, the campus is now recognizing that it must go beyond examples of excellence and seek ways to use this technology more broadly. This has begun with (a) the recruitment of motivated and knowledgeable faculty and staff onto a coordinating committee, and (b) a restructuring of the support services available to students and faculty. The intent of these changes is to ensure that every class (and hence, every instructor and student) has a meaningful minimum access to appropriate technology, and that there is readily available support for those who wish to make fuller use of these resources. The financial resources needed to bring this about will be significant, not only in terms of hardware and software, but also in instructor training and implementation time. [See 3(b). Educational Applications of Technology]

An institution as complex as Berkeley must find ways to examine its successes and failures through the use of monitoring and review processes (Standard 4). The collection and timely provision of data is one of the major bases upon which an institution can build its processes of self-examination. In the Reflective Essay, the decentralized nature of data gathering is described. This structure enhances responsiveness of the data gatherers and analysts to decision-makers and leads to a greater probability that decisions can be data-driven, but limits opportunities to develop a campus-wide perspective. New web-enabled databases provide central sources of information and tools for analysis. The Data Stewardship Council will tackle policy and technical issues, seeking to balance centralized and decentralized efforts and to align our multiple data systems better. We see a need for centralized planning, especially in support of widespread areas of campus effort such as the assessment of student learning outcomes. [See 4(a). Institutional Uses of Data]

Departmental program review has historically been a major tool for focusing attention on the performance of our departments. In this last Reflective Essay, we have documented a case study (SIMS) of one such review, which resulted in a major re-alignment of the program's purposes and composition. The case study illustrates the deliberateness and far-reaching nature of such reviews. Fortunately, most reviews do not result in changes of such magnitude; most result in "course adjustments" rather than "turn abouts." But the procedures have been under some scrutiny of late—they have been seen to be too far apart and too slow moving to provide the sorts of useful feedback that might forestall the need for major reform through evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. In the past, program reviews have focused primarily on the graduate programs of each unit. To redress this imbalance and put the system of reviews on a more reliable footing, the campus has already had a Task Force consider the current situation, and, armed with their recommendations, the Educational Effectiveness Review will devote a portion of its efforts to bringing about reforms. [See 4(b). Program Review]

These Reflective Essays paint a portrait of the progress of the Berkeley campus towards the Core Commitments detailed in the WASC documents. The Preparatory Review has documented many excellent steps along that path, but has also noted several points where the campus needs to do more. Of course, many other "stories" remain undocumented within these few pages—perhaps one positive effect of the Preparatory Review Report will be to foster discussion and shed light on other issues. The Educational Effectiveness Review has been structured to address many of the challenges that we have listed, and will, over the next year, lay out strategies to make concrete steps towards addressing them.

 

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