ATD’s 2018 Cohort Colleges Prepare to Use the Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool, Joining More than 160 Colleges

The newest 20 colleges that have become part of the Achieving the Dream national Network soon will join more than 160 other ATD institutions in using our Institutional Capacity Framework and companion assessment tool. The Framework and tool, known as the ICAT, enable colleges to pinpoint their strengths and areas for improvement across seven institutional capacities that are needed to facilitate change. This framework, based on research and informed by the knowledge and experiences of ATD institutions, integrates and aligns efforts that the colleges may have already begun to implement and assesses readiness for other large-scale change work. Since September 2016 when ATD unveiled the framework and tool, nearly 22,000 individuals have used the tool.

After well over a decade of experience, ATD has learned that improving student success on a substantial scale requires colleges to engage in bold, holistic, sustainable institutional change. The Institutional Capacity Framework provides a comprehensive framework to identify strengths and capacities institutions will need to plan, design, and implement this change successfully. It facilitates reflections about an institution’s trajectory, provides a common language to discuss institutional issues and shared concerns, identifies strengths and helps the college develop priority actions for improvement. Colleges have leveraged their ICAT results to inform their strategic planning process, support accreditation efforts, and to assess their readiness to undertake large scale reform work such as guided pathways.

Davidson County Community College, an ATD Network college since 2010 and Leader College since 2012, has used the ICAT tool to identify strengths in the capacity areas and develop a foundation for strategic planning and future student success efforts.  Margaret Annunziata, their vice president for academic programs and services, said “The ICAT provides a structure for stakeholders from all areas of the college to collectively examine critical elements necessary to support student success and determine how we are doing in relation to these elements…The capacity areas within the ICAT provide a framework for strategic planning, with mechanisms in place to ensure widespread engagement in identifying strategic priorities for improvement and advancement related to building and sustaining a thriving culture of student success.”

Greenville Technical College, in the ATD Network for 9 years, observed in an ICAT usability study that “Overall, the ICAT has many great uses. For us it has served as a great tool for assessing organizational mindsets as they relate to the capacities. Also, having our coaches facilitate the Café helped with transparency and open discuss[ion]. For our institution, this was the best method, an external viewpoint often encourages more depth in the conversation."

Other ATD institutions have reported similar outcomes after using the ICAT. South Central College notes, “[The ICAT] provides the tools through the ICAT to have crucial conversations that should move an institution forward towards an evidence based decision making process and broader engagement from the college.” The College of the Muscogee Nation reported that “CMN's experience with ATD has been positive and has sparked conversations about institutional improvement for both staff and students. The ICAT has been a positive initiative for employees as it allows everyone to have a voice in student success and ways to improve as an organization.”

The assessment is most useful when it is administered to a broad group of stakeholders, including representatives from the board of trustees, president’s cabinet, administrators, full-time and adjunct faculty, staff and student success teams. A discussion of the results with a cross-section of the college community as well as ATD Leadership and Data Coaches helps create a common language to discuss institutional issues and shared concerns and develop consensus for future action.

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