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Newsletter- April 2010

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About MCC - Accreditation/AQIP -  - Newsletter- April 2010

If a teacher told me to revise, I thought that meant my writing was a broken-down car that needed to go to the repair shop. I felt insulted. I didn't realize the teacher was saying, "Make it shine. It's worth it." Now I see revision as a beautiful word of hope. It's a new vision of something. It means you don't have to be perfect the first time. What a relief! - Naomi Shihab Nye

Revision of the Systems Porfolio
by Greg Thomas

If at first you don't succeed... skydiving is probably not for you.
- source unknown

We are currently in the process of revising our AQIP Systems Portfolio. What's a Systems Portfolio, you ask? A full description can be viewed here.

AQIP requires its member institutions to submit a complete description of its operations, known as a "Systems Portfolio" once every four years. The document as a whole is structured around the nine AQIP categories, and within each category there are a number of questions that must be addressed. There are three types of questions: Process (P), Results (R), and Improvement (I) questions.

The Strategic Planning Team (SPT) is in charge of the effort. Ten category review teams, under the overall supervision of AQIP Liaison Greg Thomas have been working diligently to revise and upgrade our portfolio.

This is more than just busy work. It is not just a report we submit and forget about. It is a working tool for our institution that helps us in a number of ways. The first effect we feel from it is a stimulation of our ways of thinking about ourselves. As we start to become conscious of the processes we have in place, it automatically stimulates awareness of the processes we don't have in place or should have in place. These are often the first steps toward improvement.

The second effect we feel from the Portfolio comes from the feedback we get on it. Whenever we submit a portfolio, it is read by a team of peers from other institutions, who draw our attention to both strengths and opportunities for improvement. Those of us who were here when we got the first Systems Appraisal Feedback report recognize how extensive this feedback can be. While we didn't attempt to fix everything that was pointed out to us in the 47 page document (there were far more opportunities than could be addressed at once), we did prioritize them with the intent of the top items becoming the focus for future action projects. The feedback has also led us in the direction of becoming a more data-driven institution. We have started to become better at documenting our processes and results, which gives us a stronger means for targeting improvement. The peer feedback is also integral to our current revision process: it's helping us to determine where we might have misunderstood a question or where we got off track in our answers on our first portfolio.

Continued in next column...

What's new this time through? There are two factors making the revision process a little more complicated than might be normal: (1) the questions have changed and (2) we're moving to an online portfolio format.

(1) In 2008, in response to feedback from member institutions, AQIP issued its Revised Categories guidelines. While the 9 general categories have not changed, the questions asked in each category have undergone some revisions. Some have been removed, others that were overly complex have been broken into two or more separate questions, and some have simply been reworded for clarity. We welcome the changes. Like Papa John's claim that "better ingredients = better pizza," it's clear that better questions = better portfolios.

(2) We are converting our portfolio to an online format, which will be easier to view, review, and revise in the future. The document will have hyperlinks to external documents, cross links to other sections within the document, and be fully searchable. Thanks to talented Webmaster, Terri Eades, this will be an awesome addition to our website.

The Systems Portfolio is more than a description of an institution's inner workings. It is a document that we interact with, containing a set of questions that stretches our understanding of ourselves and provides a means for obtaining valuable peer review. Make no mistake, this is grueling work, but it is making us better as an institution.

The review process will continue through Spring and Summer and the final revision will be submitted to AQIP (and go live on our website) in September.

A...QuIPs of the Month:

"When you write, try to leave out the parts people skip."
-Elmore Leonard

"I can't write five words but that I change seven."
- Dorothy Parker

"A kiss that speaks volumes is seldom a first edition."
- Claire Whiting