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New Approach to Planning and Assessment

The 2010-15 Framework continues our institutional diversity planning trajectory, and it is recommended that those seeking a full picture of our diversity planning commitment become familiar with not only this document, but also its two predecessors, the 1998-2003 and 2004-09 Frameworks. These materials are readily available at the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity website.

Given the progress fostered through the previous decade of diversity strategic planning, the seven Challenges established when the Framework was initiated continue to be our best means for guiding multicultural transformation, and they will likely remain so for some time to come. With this Framework, we again note that our work aligns with current scholarship in the field. We continue to draw from the work of Daryl Smith and her colleagues, particularly in regard to "building capacity" for institutional change. 13 We also draw insight regarding organizational assessment of diversity leadership, the key role of faculty, and curricular approaches in a student-centered context from James A. Anderson.14

It is also clear that our approach to planning and assessment can be further refined. In the early stages it was necessary to structure reporting around detailed descriptions that revealed the depth and breadth of unit activity and ensured adequate attention to the multifaceted aspects of each of the Challenges. We are now at a point where detailed description and evaluation of multiple individual initiatives may become counterproductive by obscuring focus on overall progress achieved under each Challenge. Shifting focus away from micro-level reporting in favor of demonstrating macro-level progress in achieving goals for each Challenge represents the next level of advancement.

Emphasis during this Framework period will be on more streamlined planning and reporting. Diversity strategic plans should focus on coordinated goals, strategies, and expected outcomes, utilizing appropriate metrics and performance indicators for each Challenge against which actual outcomes can be measured and reported for the midpoint and final progress reports. The basic approach of the Framework has been strengthened and updated in several important ways:

  • A more streamlined approach to unit diversity strategic plans, with an emphasis on concrete action plans that are clear and succinct. One option would be to structure planning and monitoring through use of a matrix or table format.
  • A more streamlined approach to unit progress updates with fewer assessment questions. This approach will help to condense narrative reporting and allow for greater emphasis on the unit's update to its individual unit plan.
  • A clearer distinction between operational reporting (detailed explanation of all processes and programs) and strategic planning (targeting specific processes and initiatives for improvement), with a stronger emphasis on strategies for future accomplishment and reporting progress toward those specific planning goals.
  • A greater emphasis on assessment, calling for performance indicators and measures of success that focus on achievements that contribute to advancing specific Framework Challenges.
  • Updated language in Challenge Five to remain in alignment with the University Faculty Senate's terminology.

With this model, there will be more emphasis on planning that is intentionally "strategic." This approach focuses on establishing unit priorities under each Challenge that will guide unit activity through the planning cycle, coupled with self-assessment of progress, proven impact, and effective utilization of resources. Units are encouraged to engage in systematic program review to identify programs with the greatest impact or potential impact and to focus resources accordingly.

As indicated above, this model will lead to less emphasis on detailed descriptions of numerous programs and activities and more emphasis on measuring impacts of processes and initiatives, particularly those processes and initiatives that the unit considers most "strategic" in meeting its diversity goals. It will also help to avoid focusing on activity as an end in itself, a phenomenon termed "project-itis" by Smith and the James Irvine Foundation in the Campus Diversity Initiative study.15 Instead, progress updates will emphasize:

  • Updating progress on the unit's strategic diversity goals as presented in the unit's plan
  • Demonstrating progress toward each Challenge by the use of meaningful performance indicators
  • Outcomes assessment of key initiatives and signature programs by means of appropriate metrics (e.g., benchmarks, thresholds for success, and measurement of outcomes against these thresholds)

Under this structure, much of the planning update could be presented in an outline, or a matrix or table format (a basic example of a planning and reporting table is available in Appendix B). Several units have already successfully employed versions of this method. Of course, this technique is only one among many that units can employ, and each unit should develop an approach that most readily meets its reporting needs. Given the improvements in data gathering capability such as the Enterprise Information System (EIS) and Fact Book Plus, units can gather Framework-related data more readily throughout the planning cycle, which will enhance their ability to set goals related to data and provide updates that report on progress toward these goals.

One notable change in the current Framework is that the set of assessment questions is now the same across all Challenges. The questions are designed to simplify update reporting. The assessment questions to be answered for each of the Challenges follow:

  1. Taking into account the unit's and University's history with this Challenge, the targeted areas for improvement as they apply to your unit, and your unit's diversity strategic plan and general strategic plan, what progress have you made toward this Challenge during this reporting period?
  2. What measures of success or strategic indicators gauge your progress toward this Challenge? What specific data in relation to these measures and indicators demonstrate your progress?
  3. Among the strategies you have employed to make progress with this Challenge, which specific approaches are considered your "signature" initiatives and which could be termed "best practices"? (Best practices are processes, programs, and procedures that most successfully lead to the unit's ability to reach the University's diversity goals and can be validated through measurable outcomes.) Describe these signature and/or best practice initiatives, the metrics by which their success is gauged, and the measurable outcomes.

Unit plans under this 2010-15 Framework will be reviewed in spring 2010, concurrent with the review of final updates under the 2004-09 Framework plans. Midpoint and final update reviews will also be undertaken during the upcoming planning period. The timeline of the assessment over the life of this plan can be found in Appendix C.


Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity
314 Old Main,
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 865-5906, Fax: (814) 865-3997