THE 2013 ACCREDITATION STANDARDS
adopted by AACSB International require business schools to show continuous improvement in terms of engagement, innovation, and impact. But to gather data about such improvement, schools need a system that will allow faculty to reliably document their activities.
At the School of Business at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, we have developed our own Tracking Record that guides faculty as they describe the contributions they have made on all the key measures of the new standards. First implemented in the summer of 2014, the eight-section document also enables us to track faculty activities that go far beyond engagement, innovation, and impact.
In many of the sections, we chose to adopt free-form approaches to allow faculty to create compelling stories about their personal experiences. We believe these stories will enable our department chairs to gather rich, varied examples for the narrative we will put together for our Continuous Improvement Review reports—and we believe that other schools could find it simple to adapt our system.
Section 1: Teaching Effectiveness.
In this section, which relates to AACSB’s Standard 12, faculty are invited to describe their innovative teaching practices. Here they might include comments drawn from voluntary peer classroom evaluations, data about students who have performed well on standardized tests such as the CFA exam, descriptions of course innovations with notable outcomes, and other evidence that their teaching methods are dynamic and innovative.
Section 2: Student Academic and Professional Engagement.
This section relates to Standard 13 and asks faculty to provide specific examples of what they’ve done to facilitate engagement. These examples might include bringing in guest lecturers, getting involved in student internship programs, sponsoring student consulting projects, participating in students’ study abroad experiences, interacting with the companies that employ our graduates, and engaging with campus organizations in professional settings.
Section 3: Faculty Qualifications and Engagement.
In this section, which relates to Standard 15, faculty describe their intellectual contributions. We provide a table where research-oriented faculty can give details about articles they’ve published in peer-reviewed journals (PRJs) and a separate area where they can include bullet points that outline any other scholarly activities. Our Tracking Record includes an appendix that provides our criteria for scholarly academics, scholarly practitioners, practice academics, and instructional practitioners; this appendix makes it easy for each professor to determine which items to include in this section.
Section 4: Innovation.
Here, faculty list innovations they’ve been involved with, such as developing or revising new courses, developing new majors and minors, getting involved with other curricular initiatives, conducting new research, and engaging with alumni or professional organizations. We note that we expect some overlap between innovation, teaching effectiveness, engagement, and impact.
Section 5: Impact–Academic.
Here, faculty are encouraged to provide not just a list of their publications and presentations, but also indicators of how each of these activities has had impact within the time period covered by the Tracking Record. Have their scholarly books enjoyed widespread adoption? Can they supply citation and download/view counts for their PRJ papers? What kinds of reviews or awards did they receive for conference presentations or papers? Have they secured key appointments in professional associations? Have their papers been used by faculty teaching courses at other schools? Have they received grant money for their research endeavors? Have they been appointed as visiting professors or scholars? Such activities all represent tangible measures of impact.
Section 6: Impact–Practice
. In this section, we ask faculty to show how their activities have had an impact on real-world business. Their supporting evidence can include information about media citations, expert witness experiences, consulting projects, articles written for practitioner publications, case studies that have led to business solutions, service on policy or practitioner boards, and research projects undertaken in collaboration with companies.
Section 7: Impact–Teaching.
Here faculty can document what they’ve produced in terms of case studies, textbooks and instruction manuals, articles for pedagogical publications, and instructional software. They also can provide details about grants they’ve received for research that will influence teaching practice, teaching awards they’re received, and mentorship they’ve provided for students involved in research or independent studies.
Section 8: Impact–Other.
Finally, in this section, faculty are invited to focus on activities that have had an impact that extended to the department or school level. They might discuss their involvement with student organizations, participation in School of Business events, service on university or college committees, involvement in joint degree programs, appearances in the media, responsibility for international partnerships, and leadership positions in academic programs. They might provide specifics about the placement success of graduates from their courses, the pass rates their graduates attain on standardized exams, and the number of their students who are recognized by organizations such as Phi Beta Kappa. This is also the place where they can mention their involvement in significant fundraising initiatives or their assistance with business school and departmental events.
Even though some of our faculty are not interested in accreditation-related issues, we require all of them to update their Tracking Records at the end of each year as part of the annual review process. Because we emphasize that this system gives them an opportunity to show how they contribute to our mission, most of them appreciate the chance to write about their accomplishments. Administrators have found this process to be an eye-opening experience that allows them to see how much their colleagues are doing to improve business education at our school.
There has been another benefit: When faculty members see that their activities enhance engagement, innovation, and impact, they realize that accreditation-related initiatives are genuine attempts to improve business education. Since we have implemented our Tracking Record, faculty appear more engaged in the accreditation process and more familiar with the standards than they were during the previous cycle.
Nonetheless, we know it’s vital for administrators to collect the data in a positive fashion. We make sure faculty understand that a wide variety of contributions are valuable and that we don’t expect everyone to contribute in every area. For instance, practice academics and scholarly practitioners probably won’t have as many entries in the section for “Impact–Academic” as scholarly academics will—but scholarly academics will have fewer entries in “Impact–Practice.” It’s essential that faculty realize that our goal is to help them highlight their many positive contributions, not make them worry that they’re not doing enough.
While many universities use systems such as Sedona or Digital Measures to gather accreditation information, we feel that our approach collects a broader range of data and could be useful even for schools that rely on other systems. The Tracking Record could help administrators create custom reports that show how their schools are faring in terms of the critical measures of engagement, innovation, and impact.
Michael S. Wilkins is the Jesse H. Jones Professor Chair of Accounting and director of accreditation for the School of Business at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.