Back in the early 2000s, my husband graduated from MCTC with an associate degree in Graphic Design. He had a well-organized professional portfolio that highlighted only his best work and he was soon hired as a junior graphic designer at a local advertising agency.
That’s one kind of a portfolio process, where only the best work is shown. MCTC’s accreditation process requires a different kind of portfolio. The Higher Learning Commission accredits MCTC using the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) pathway. The AQIP process requires that AQIP colleges and universities create a portfolio every four years that details how processes in six key areas are working. It also demands that where things are not working based on results, there is a plan for improvement. But why describe what isn’t working? Why don’t we just provide information on all the things that we do best, like my husband did in his professional portfolio? Because, luckily for us, the AQIP portfolio process is not about perfection – it’s about continuous improvement.
Continuous improvement can only work if we know how we are doing in the first place. In AQIP, the cycle of improvement involves having a Process, collecting Results and making Improvements. By knowing our results, we can understand our process, and by doing improvement projects we can begin to shift the process to get better results. As an example, I recently created a survey to better understand the experience of employees who serve on AQIP action projects teams. By gathering participant feedback using a short survey, I will be able to improve MCTC’s action project process this year. I didn’t try to make the survey perfect – in fact I only took 15 minutes to create it. But I’ll get some data relatively quickly that can lead to changes right away. AQIP – and continuous improvement in general – is about getting information in order to act. In SPA we like to say, “Don’t collect data if you aren’t using it to make a decision or a change.”
Are there important results you have access to that have not been acted on? Is there a tiny thing you could do today to act on those results? Remember: your plan of action doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to make things better than they are today.
To learn more about Continuous Improvement, contact Jessica Shryack or look for a fall 2015 Continuous Improvement Calendar in a future edition of InsideMCTC!