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Conceptual Framework

Self-Regulation through Continuous Assessment, Evaluation and Improvement

The Office of Institutional Assessment and Evaluation (OIAE) operates from a framework of continuous improvement through self-regulation. Self-regulation is a systematic process in which individuals or units voluntarily regulate their actions in order to meet desired goals and objectives. (Schunk, 2004; Zimmerman, 2000). This type of regulation includes making appropriate use of resources including time, the environment and the assistance of colleagues within and outside of their department or unit.

This approach to assessment promotes a measure of autonomy for the various units and departments while simultaneously engaging in a collective effort to increase institutional effectiveness. In order to establish a lasting culture of evidence-based decision- making, the OIAE must encourage as well as assist departments and units to engage in self-assessment and evaluation rather than relying solely on an external unit to stimulate improvement. That said, it must be understood that OIAE is not a policing agent designed to highlight the shortcomings of department and units; rather, the office was established to assist in the development and implementation of tailored-made improvement plans that can be carried out independently and successfully by individual departments and units.


Engaging in self-regulation is beneficial for three reasons:

  1. Continuous Improvement – In order for the institution to remain competitive and effective in this dynamic environment, it must be able to constantly evolve and grow. Continuous improvement involves the recurring development and implementation of innovative and effective actions that occur as a result of repeated self-assessment, self-reflection and self-improvement. The process of continuous improvement, when it is continual and gradual, is therefore less stressful and perceived as less burdensome.

  2. Quality assurance – Self-regulation requires the institution to compare its performance against its unique mission, goals and objectives in order to provide a measure of self-confidence to the students, parents, employers, alumni, members of the community and other stakeholders that it is indeed fit to carry out its intended purpose.

  3. Accountability – Because of the rigorous external requirements set by state and federal governments as well as voluntary standards set in collaboration with professional accreditation agencies, institutions must self-monitor and self-correct in order to avoid repercussions. Self-regulation enables the institution to identify and rectify problems on an on-going basis.

The figure below is a graphic representation of the OIAE’s interpretation of self-regulation in action. This assessment loop is a cyclical process that encourages continuous improvement through self-regulation.

Figure 1: The Self-Regulation Assessment Loop


click to enlarge

Self-Awareness/Self-Knowledge – Prior to the establishment of an improvement plan, it is important for departments and units to be aware of and have an understanding of the University’s mission and goals. This information will enable the departments and units to determine where they stand in relation to the mission and goals and determine the appropriate direction and approach to take in order to align themselves with the mission and goals.

Step 1: Self-Determination

Clearly defined goals are essential to the development of a successful, sustainable improvement plan (Behncke, 2002). By beginning with the end (goals/outcomes) in mind, the departments and units will be able to develop a systematic plan of action that will enable them to achieve their goals. When possible, students, faculty and the administrators should collaborate to set goals and objectives that are aligned with the mission of the University.

Step 2: Self-Monitoring and Self-Assessment

Self-monitoring [is] fundamental to self-regulation (Behncke, 2002). After goals and objectives have been determined and after a plan of action has been established, departments and units must carry out the plan of action and collect information (data) regarding the extent to which the plan is being implemented as well as the apparent strengths and weaknesses of the plan.

Step 3: Self-Reflection and Self-Evaluation

Accumulated data is examined in order to determine: (1) the extent to which goals and objectives have been met, (2) the strengths and weaknesses of the unit, and (3) any other information that provides insight that can be used for improvement.


Step 4: Self-Improvement

The interpretation of the data allows for evidence-based decision-making. Departments and units are able to determine the extent to which policies and practices are working or not working and make necessary adjustments or improvements. In addition, resource allocation, staffing, and other decisions can be determined from the evidence.


This Conceptual Framework serves as the foundation that guides the work of the Office of Institutional Assessment and Evaluation (OIAE) staff and other units engaged in assessment and evaluation at Howard University. The purpose for articulating this framework is to communicate to the administration, faculty, staff, students, and the larger community the OIAE’s modus operandi for increasing institutional effectiveness and ultimately achieving the mission of Howard University.




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