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Moravian College
Dana S. Dunn

Using Quality Benchmarks for Assessing and Developing Undergraduate ProgramsUsing Quality Benchmarks for Assessing and Developing Undergraduate Programs


Using Quality Benchmarks for Assessing and Developing Undergraduate Programs, a new book co-authored by Dana S. Dunn, Moravian professor of psychology, Maureen A. McCarthy of Kennesaw State University, Suzanne C., Baker of James Madison University, and Jane S. Halonen of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of West Florida, offers a realistic, developmental approach for assessing academic programs at undergraduate institutions.

The book has garnered advance praise from distinguished reviewers such as George D. Kuh, chancellor's professor and director, Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, and Pat Hutchings, former vice president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

"The idea is to develop benchmarking criteria that are authentic," notes Professor Dunn. "Every school says it strives for excellence. Well, what does this mean exactly? We try to go beyond the hyperbole and make suggestions for how to develop a local matrix for assessment." The book suggests that academic departments focus on what they do well, while funding ways to improve other areas over time.

Educational activities in eight domains are covered: program climate; assessment, accountability, and accrediatation issues; student learning outcomes; student development; curriculum; faculty characteristics; program resources; and administrative support. Within each domain, performance can be rated as underdeveloped, developing, effective, and distinguished. "Even the most well-resourced program is not going to be 'distinguished' at every level," points out Dunn.

Benchmarking, a form of ongoing program review and assessment, allows academic departments to concretely demonstrate their strengths internally and externally. Using benchmarking data allows departments and institutions to strategically allocate resources to improve underperforming areas. "And on a broader level, you can demonstrate to the public the strength of your academic program against the programs of peer institutions," says Dunn.

The book grew from a 2007 American Psychology journal article by the four co-authors on using benchmarks for assessing psychology programs. It is available through and directly from the publisher, Jossey-Bass, an imprint of John Wiley and Sons, Inc.