What are administrative and educational support unit goals and outcomes?

 Administrative and Educational Support Unit Goals

Goals are broad statements about primary aims of a unit. The goals are a step in between the unit's mission statement (a current, accurate description of the primary purpose of the unit) and operational outcomes (specific, measurable statements about improvements a unit would like to make to its programs or services to help achieve its goals).

Goals should give people who may not be familiar with the unit a general sense of the unit's purpose. Ideally, all staff within a unit should be aware of the unit's goals and be able to easily communicate the goals to others.

While there are no strict rules about how many goals a unit should have, units should have a reasonable and manageable number of goals with three to six goals being typical. The set of goals should represent what is most important to the unit and should be reflected in the unit's programs and services. Goals should also be related to the mission and strategic directions of Appalachian State University.

Some common operational goals:

  • Increase use of services or enrollment
  • Increase retention
  • Increase student satisfaction
  • Reduce time to graduation
  • Improve efficiency
  • Reduce response time

Administrative and Educational Support Unit Operational Outcomes

Operational outcomes are specific, measurable statements about improvements a unit would like to make to its programs or services.

Each outcome should flow directly from a more general goal of the unit. For example, if an administrative or educational support unit has a goal of increasing efficiencies, then the unit might have separate outcomes addressing space utilization, paper consumption, or increasing unit use of technologies.

In addition, units undergoing the Periodic Comprehensive Review process will complete an executive summary of the major findings from the self-study. This summary will include a continuous improvement plan stating specific outcomes for the unit to strive for over the next five to seven years. The progress towards completing these outcomes serves as the basis for annual continuous improvement reporting.

Important Points about Operational Outcomes

First, do not confuse outcomes with continuous improvement or action plans. For example, writing a unit policy manual is not an appropriate outcome even though it may be part of the unit’s action plan in regards to streamlining the unit’s processes. One common problem with assessment reporting is that a unit might list tasks accomplished like a check list rather than focus on goals for continual improvement.

Second, it's okay to set lofty goals and outcomes. Always remember that assessment is about continuous improvement. If the unit is constantly setting outcomes that are immediately attainable, then the unit probably has not set expectations high enough. Units are encouraged to set goals that may be a stretch and will take some time to achieve. What is important is that the unit can show that they are making progress on achieving that which is most important to the unit. Following the S.M.A.R.T. acronym, outcomes should be: 

  • Specific:          States exactly what is expected using concrete action verbs
  • Measurable:   Requires a measurable result
  • Attainable:     Is achievable yet reasonably stretches the unit
  • Realistic:         Is reasonable and appropriate for the unit's services/work
  • Timely:             Incorporates current professional/disciplinary expectations

Inappropriate Goals and Outcomes for Administrative and Educational Support Units and Academic Departments

There are many tasks that an administrative and educational support unit or academic department might accomplish during the year that are not necessarily assessment goals or outcomes. Assessment is about continual improvement and involves setting targets that might not be immediately attainable. Here are some examples of tasks that typically do not qualify as assessment outcomes (but they might be appropriate action plans when assessment targets/criteria are not met):

  • Hiring a staff member
  • Regular job tasks
  • Professional development opportunities, workshops, etc.
  • Course approval or curriculum review
  • Anything involving a faculty/staff vote
  • One and done tasks
  • Any outcome for which the unit or department cannot provide a numeric criterion or metric

Hint: If you have to say “Yes/No” as a numeric criterion, then it’s not an appropriate outcome. These examples may be shared in the “Additional Comments” section of the Continuous Improvement Report as a success or challenge rather than force it into an assessment outcome.