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The Review of Higher Education 1985 Volume 9, No. 1 Pages 101-118 Copyright © 1985 Association for the Study of Higher Education All Rights Reserved ASSESSING EFFECTIVENESS IN HIGHER EDUCATION Kim S. Cameron and Diana Bilimoria Few topics in higher education have generated as much attention and controversy recently as the quality and effectiveness of colleges and universities. Despite the numerous difficulties and paradoxes associated with the study of effectiveness in higher education (see Cameron, in press b), the search for relevant criteria of effectiveness remains a primary activity of college and university administrators and research­ ers. There are theoretical, empirical, and practical reasons why. The­ oretically, the construct of effectiveness lies at the very center of all organizational models. That is, all conceptualizations of the nature of organizations have embedded in them notions of the nature of effective organizations, and of the differences that exist between effective and ineffective organizations. As organizations become more complex and dynamic, the criteria, by which quality and effectiveness are assessed, change to reflect the institution’s stage of development. Faerman and Quinn’s article (in this issue) presents a framework that links institu­ tional changes over time to criteria of effectiveness. Empirically, the construct of effectiveness is here to stay because it is the ultimate dependent variable in institutional research. Evidence for effectiveness is required in most investigations of quality and effec­ tiveness in colleges and universities. The need to demonstrate that one academic program, structure, reward system, administrative style, cur­ ricular design or whatever is better in some way than another makes the notion of effectiveness a central empirical issue. Often, terms are substituted for effectiveness such as performance, quality, success, ability, efficiency, improvement, productivity or accountability, but each implies some measure ofeffectiveness. (Moreover, the terms being substituted for effectiveness are seldom any more precisely defined than is effectiveness). Practically, the need to evaluate quality and effectiveness in higher education is not likely to go away because individuals are constantly faced with the need to make judgments about the effectiveness of institutions. For example, which institution to award a NSF grant, Kim S. Cameron and Diana Bilimoria are at the University o f Michigan. 101 102 The Review of Higher Education which college to attend, or in which department to reduce costs, all are decisions that depend at least partly onjudgments of institutional effec­ tiveness. Whereas the criteria upon which those decisions are made often are difficult to identify, and whereas considerations other than effectiveness are always relevant (for example, political and social consequences), individuals nevertheless engage regularly in personal evaluations of quality and effectiveness. Because effectiveness is a construct, it has no basis in objective reality (Cameron, 1981 a, b). Individuals construct mental criteria upon which to base theirjudgments of effectiveness. In higher education, the criteria have been largely associated with reputation and national visi­ bility, which are accounted for almost entirely by faculty reputation and publication. This issue has attempted to point out that relevant effectiveness criteria are much broader and more diverse than the tra­ ditional narrow focus on faculty. Webster, for example, makes a strong argument for abandoning traditional peer assessments as the criterion of quality of education in American colleges and universities. He sug­ gests that researchers and administrators shift their focus of attention away from the conventional ratings of faculty quality, as these are, at best, only weak approximations of program, much less institutional effectiveness. What this special issue points out, then, is that improvement in the quality and effectiveness of American higher education will require a more cosmopolitan perspective. Focusing narrowly on traditional fac­ ulty reputational and productivity indicators not only limits assessments of effectiveness to 100 or so highly visible institutions in America (thus omitting 95 percent of all colleges and universities in this country), but also it threatens to create a narrowness that may destroy rather than enhance effectiveness. An explortion into other criteria of quality and effectiveness in institutions of higher education is requisite. The articles in this issue provide a broad array of perspectives to be considered by researchers and administrators in evaluating the performance of higher educational institutions. For example, Richardson and Kleeman introduce a bottom-up approach to assessing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1090-7009
Print ISSN
0162-5748
Pages
pp. 101-118
Launched on MUSE
2017-02-01
Open Access
No
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