VII. Comprehensive Program Review Policies and Procedures (Committee of Academic Affairs)
Comprehensive Program Review of Academic Programs
Comprehensive Program Review (CPR) of Academic Programs provides a common base for internal review and evaluation of all Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) academic programs. The Faculty, Academic Unit Heads, and the Vice President for Academic Affairs participate in the CPR and incorporate CPR findings in their recommendations for short- and long-range institutional planning.
As a collaborative venture between academic units and the Office of Academic Affairs, Comprehensive Program Review serves four primary purposes:
- To elicit informed judgments about how well an academic unit is performing given its collective resources.
- To make projections about emerging opportunities and the ways a unit may best take advantage of those opportunities.
- To assess how well a unit is implementing its strategic plan.
- To ensure that the unit has a strategic plan and is implementing its plan.
In addition, the CPR process assists academic units in maintaining high academic quality and stimulates change that enhances the unit’s performance. When done well, the process is both an honest evaluation of current circumstances and a candid dialogue about future possibilities and mutual commitments. The discussion and thought invested in the process leads to actions designed to increase the value of the unit’s contributions to undergraduate and graduate education, to the disciplines and professions through the generation of new knowledge, and to society through application of knowledge and outreach.
GSW is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC), and for the university as a whole to meet the requirements of reaffirmation, each unit within GSW must individually meet those requirements that apply to academic programs. A demonstrable relationship between an academic unit’s mission and GSW’s mission is a crucial basis for demonstrating compliance with the SACS COC accreditation principles that apply to academic programs. The specific accreditation principles that apply to academic programs include:
- Programs are of appropriate length for the level of degree, and embody a coherent course of study that is compatible with [the unit’s] stated mission
- The number of full-time faculty members is adequate to support the mission of the unit and to ensure the quality and integrity of its academic programs
- The unit is composed of competent faculty members qualified to accomplish the unit mission and the goals of its programs
- The unit demonstrates that each of its educational program for which academic credit is awarded is approved by the faculty
- The faculty identifies expected outcomes for its programs; assesses whether it achieves these outcomes; and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of those results
- The unit assesses student success with respect to program completion, job placement rates, and state licensing examinations, where appropriate.
- For each major in a degree program, the unit assigns responsibility for program coordination, as well as for curriculum development and review, to persons academically qualified in the field.
- The unit's curricula are designed so that students acquire and demonstrate college-level proficiency in general education and essential skills, including oral and written communication, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical analysis and reasoning, technological competency, and information literacy. Assessment of student learning demonstrates that the unit's students have knowledge, skills, and competencies consistent with unit and institutional goals, and at graduation have achieved appropriate higher education goals
- The unit’s use of technology enhances student learning and is appropriate for meeting the objectives of its programs
- The unit has adequate financial resources to support its mission and learning outcomes
- The unit has adequate physical facilities that appropriately serve the needs of its programs
In addition, units with graduate programs need to demonstrate that those programs also meet the following requirements:
- The unit’s graduate programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs
- The unit structures its graduate curricula (1) to include knowledge of the literature of the discipline and (2) to ensure ongoing student engagement in research or appropriate professional practice and training experiences
Academic Programs in the School of Business, the School of Education, and the School of Nursing maintain external accreditation, and therefore, CPRs for these schools are aligned with the regular accreditation reviews, and follow the format dictated by their accrediting organization. The frequency of these reviews is determined by the external accrediting organization, although none exceeds ten years. Academic Programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Computing and Mathematics participate in an internal CPR process as outlined below. Bachelor programs are reviewed every seven years, and graduate programs every ten; minor programs and single discipline specific certificate programs are reviewed as part of the regular CPR process at the same time as the degree programs in the academic unit that houses them. The General Education Program (the Core) is reviewed every five years at the time of the SACSCOC Interim Fifth-Year Report and the time of SACS COC reaffirmation, and multi-disciplinary certificate programs are reviewed every ten years as part of the SACS COC reaffirmation process. Academic Units undergoing either external or internal CPR are not expected to file annual reports for those academic years in which they are under review.
Responsibilities for CPR Process
The Office of Academic Affairs oversees the CPR process by setting the schedule of internal reviews, or implementing the schedule set by the external accrediting organizations, and insuring that all parts of the process are complete; however, the process begins within the academic unit under review and places the following responsibilities on the faculty serving each program:
- Development of a self-study that draws evidence-based conclusions about the current strengths and areas for improvement of the program, shows how the program has improved since its last review, and identifies specific areas of focus for future improvement
- Participation in an external review of the program
- Development of a response to conclusions and recommendations of the external review, and of a strategic plan for enacting these recommendations.
Deans overseeing each program under review have the following responsibilities:
- Providing feedback on the self study while in development
- Recommending an External Reviewer to the Vice President of Academic Affairs
- Participation in all external reviews
- Forwarding completed self study, external review report, and unit response to the external review report to the Vice President of Academic Affairs
- Deans may choose to include their own conclusions or recommendations regarding the program under review.
In addition to overseeing the CPR Process, the Vice President of Academic Affairs has the following responsibilities:
- Participation in all external reviews
- Approving and inviting the External Reviewer
- Discussion of review results with the academic unit representatives and the deans
- Sharing the results of all CPRs with the Deans’ and Directors’ Council, the Institutional Effectiveness Committee, and the Administrative Council
- Placing all CPR documents in the CPR Repository on the Institutional Research web site.
Timeline of Internal Reviews
August to November
Faculty complete Self-Study Report
Beginning of November
Draft of Self-Study Report due in Dean’s Office
Beginning of December
External Review Committee selected
Beginning of January
External Review Visit scheduled
By the End of January
Revised Self-Study Report provided to External Review Committee visit.
By the End of March
External Review Committee reports due in Dean’s Office
Response to External Review Committee Report due in Dean’s Office
Beginning of May
Deans forward completed CPR documents to VPAA
June to July
VPAA shares and deposits completed CPR documents
Faculty presents plan to implement CPR recommendations as part of its annual assessment report.
The Self Study
The self-study is intended to help faculty and administrators assess a unit’s current situation, its emerging opportunities, and its plans for the future. The members of the unit itself undertake the self-study in order to take a thorough and reflective look at the unit as a prelude to developing plans for its future. The questions below are intended to guide a unit in its self study and planning efforts. They are also framed to focus the attention of the review team that adds an external perspective to the process. The self study narrative does not need to take the form of itemized questions followed by a specific answers, but each question that applies to the unit should be addressed somewhere in the self-study. Each self study should include an executive summary of the unit’s strengths and areas for improvement, its progress since last being reviewed, and its plans for the future. In addition to addressing the guiding questions, the self-study narrative should contain a brief history of the unit and its programs, descriptions of all degree or certificate programs offered by the unit, and any other information that will enable the review team to make good use of their time on campus. Units are encouraged to provide data and data-driven analyses by making use of reports routinely available through Institutional Research, and their discipline’s professional societies in addition to data collected by the unit.
Programs are of appropriate length for the level of degree, and embody a coherent course of study that is compatible with [the unit’s] stated mission:
- What evidence exists that the unit offers degree programs consistent with its stated mission?
- What evidence exists that the unit’s stated mission is consistent with GSW’s mission?
- How does the unit ensure that each of its degree programs demonstrates coherence in sequencing, increasing complexity, and linkages between and among program components?
- How does the unit demonstrate that its programs are appropriate to higher education?
The number of full-time faculty members is adequate to support the mission of the unit and to ensure the quality and integrity of its academic programs:
- How does the mission of the unit determine the number and type of faculty employed?
- How does the unit determine the number of full-time faculty needed to achieve its mission?
- What is the responsibility of the full-time faculty and do they constitute a sufficient resource for carrying out basic faculty functions?
- What are the ways in which members of the unit other than full-time faculty carry out some of these functions?
The unit is composed of competent faculty members qualified to accomplish the mission and goals of its programs:
- How does the mission of the unit influence the determination of the qualifications of the faculty in order to meet its goals?
- How does the unit determine the competencies of members of the faculty and demonstrate that the qualifications of the members of the faculty meet these competencies?
- How does the unit document the qualifications for each member of the faculty?
- How does the unit support faculty professional development?
The unit demonstrates that each of its educational programs for which academic credit is awarded is approved by the faculty:
- What is the process for developing and approving educational programs and who is responsible?
- What evidence exists to demonstrate that the unit places primary responsibility for the content, quality, and effectiveness of its curriculum with its faculty?
The faculty identifies expected outcomes for its programs; assesses whether it achieves these outcomes; and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of those results:
- How are expected outcomes clearly defined in measurable terms for each program offered by the unit?
- What is the evidence of assessment activities for each program within the unit?
- What is the evidence for broad-based participation in assessment activities?
- How are periodic reviews in which programmatic outcomes such as retention, graduation rates, employer and alumni satisfaction, and the like assessed, reviewed, and used for improvements?
The unit assesses student success with respect to program completion, job placement rates, and state licensing examinations, where appropriate.
- Are the three indicators mentioned above appropriate to the mission of the unit?
- If so, how does the unit collect data to measure its level of success?
- If so, how does the unit use analyze and utilize its findings to improve its success?
For each major in a degree program, the unit assigns responsibility for program coordination, as well as for curriculum development and review, to persons academically qualified in the field:
- What evidence exists that the coordinator for each major, curricular area, or concentration in an undergraduate or graduate degree program has the qualifications and credentials for leadership in the development and review of the curriculum?
- What evidence exists that the coordinator provides oversight for assessing the quality of the curriculum for the respective undergraduate or graduate degree programs and for ensuring that the curriculum, as well as the delivery of the curriculum, is educationally sound?
The unit's curricula are designed so that students acquire and demonstrate college-level proficiency in general education and essential skills:
- For what specific college-level competencies within the general education program is the unit responsible?
- What evidence is available to show that students in the unit’s programs have attained these competencies?
- How does the unit demonstrate that it identifies competencies that are college-level?
- How does the unit demonstrate that general education competencies are nurtured within its major programs?
The unit’s use of technology enhances student learning and is appropriate for meeting the objectives of its programs:
- How is the unit using technology to enhance student learning?
- What evidence exists that the unit’s use of technology is appropriate for meeting the objectives of its programs?
- How does the unit ensure faculty and student access to technology and to the training, use, and applications of technology?
The unit has adequate human and financial resources to support its mission and learning outcomes:
- Does the unit make the best possible use of resources it has?
- What is the process that the unit uses to address allocation of workload? How are workload allocations reviewed by the unit and how are decisions to reallocate made?
- Are there areas where other resources could be accessed or developed by the unit? For example, could the unit develop beneficial arrangements with other campuses or organizations? Engage in fund raising or entrepreneurial activities?
- When there are hiring opportunities in the future, what would be the two to three best areas to search for new faculty to increase the unit’s effectiveness in achieving its mission and program outcomes?
The unit has adequate physical facilities that appropriately serve the needs of its programs:
- How do the unit’s facilities contribute to or inhibit current research and scholarly objectives?
- How do the unit’s classrooms and learning spaces, and the technology available therein, contribute to or inhibit the unit’s teaching and learning objectives?
- How do the unit’s teaching laboratories, if applicable, contribute to or inhibit the unit’s teaching and learning objectives?
Questions for Units with Graduate Programs
The unit’s graduate programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs:
- How has the unit clearly defined the content and rigor of post-baccalaureate degree programs?
- What evidence exists that the unit has learning outcomes for post-baccalaureate professional degree programs and its master’s programs indicating that the programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs?
The unit structures its graduate curricula (1) to include knowledge of the literature of the discipline and (2) to ensure ongoing student engagement in research or appropriate professional practice and training experiences.
- How do the learning outcomes for graduate programs reflect expectations that students will demonstrate independent learning skills?
- What evidence exists that syllabi and degree requirements for graduate programs include activities that foster independent learning?
- How does the unit evaluate students’ independent learning skills?
- How does the unit ensure that students are prepared for the independent learning required in graduate programs?
The material in the self-study should reflect continuous and ongoing planning, information gathering, self-review and use of results. The idea is to reflect on these things:
- What are we trying to do?
- How well are we doing it?
- How do we know?
- How do we use the information to improve?
- Do the improvements work?
- What assessment activities were planned? What activities are on-going? What activities were completed?
- What changes (if any) were implemented as a result of assessment? What changes (if any) were proposed but are not addressed yet?
- What curricular and/or degree changes have there been since the unit’s last CPR, and why?
Format of the Internal Self Study
Executive Summary should include (1-2 pages in Times New Roman 12pt or similar font, single-spaced with 1 inch margins all around):
- Major Strengths
- Areas for Improvement
- Key Opportunities
- Key Challenges
- Draft Strategic Plan to address weaknesses, take advantage of opportunities, and meet challenges (to the extent that it is possible, this plan should correlate to GSW’s current strategic plan.).
Self Study Narrative should be limited to twenty-five pages (thirty for units with graduate programs), and should address all the guiding questions that apply to the unit. The narrative should include a brief history of the unit and its programs, descriptions of all degree or certificate programs offered by the unit, and any other information that will enable the review team to make good use of their time on campus, as well.
Appendices should be limited to the material necessary substantiate the claims made in the narrative that are not available on the unit’s or the university’s web site. The appendix must include a current vita for each tenured, and each tenure-track faculty member who has a full or part-time appointment in the unit. Each vita should be limited to four pages covering the period since the last CPR, and should not include personal information, such as home addresses or phone numbers, or cell phone numbers.
The External Review
Since fresh perspectives improve assessment and planning, an external reviewer will be invited to familiarize him or herself with the unit and to take part in the deliberations about the unit’s assessment and planning. External reviewers will be expected to provide candid assessments of the program’s current strengths and weaknesses and their best judgment on where the unit should invest its intellectual and other resources in the future. The external reviewer will head the review team that will also include two GSW faculty members from outside the school or college that houses the academic unit under review.
The external review team will be chosen by the VPAA with advice from the academic unit, and the Dean of the school or college. External reviewers will be established scholars whose areas of expertise represent a diversity of interests coinciding with the areas of importance to the unit and whose programs are regarded as successful, innovative, and effective in managing resources. At least one of the GSW Faculty members on the team should come from an academic unit that is externally accredited and have experience with assessment and planning. For units with graduate programs at least one of the GSW Faculty members on the team should come from an academic unit that also has graduate programs.
To help the VPAA identify appropriate external reviewer candidates, the academic unit provides a list of two to four programs or departments at other institutions that model different forms of excellence to which the unit aspires. To the extent that it is possible, recommended external reviewers should come from programs with roughly the same number of faculty and the similar financial resources; recommended reviewers should be from SACS COC accredited institutions, primarily from outside Georgia. To ensure no conflict of interest, individuals with particularly close relationships to the program (former faculty, former mentors or students of program faculty, research collaborators) should not be recommended and will not be used as external reviewers. The Office of Academic Affairs will identify and contact individual scholars at the institutions nominated and make arrangements with them for travel. The communications with the reviewers should be via the Office of Academic Affairs.
Procedures for the Review
Preparation of Reviewers
In preparation for the external review, the self study will be sent to all reviewers no less than four weeks prior to the review visit by the external reviewer. The reviewers, external and internal may request additional information from the academic unit up to two weeks prior to the review visit. The review team should consult with one another prior to the visit and come to a shared understanding of the primary issues to be investigated during the review visit.
Arrangements for Reviewers
The Office of Academic Affairs will make the necessary arrangements for the consultants. The usual visit will last 2 ½ working days. Typically reviewers arrive Wednesday afternoon and leave Friday in late afternoon. The Office of Academic Affairs will develop an itinerary for the visitors in consultation with the unit and the Dean of the school or college. A campus visit is intended to foster conversations and observations that enable the reviewers to complete the job we ask of them. Time will be provided for the review team members to work together in private in order to complete at least a rough draft of the review report prior to departure from GSW. If requested, laptop computers will be provided during the campus visit to assist the team in drafting its report. The review team will be asked to share their preliminary observations with the VPAA and the VPAA’s invitees in an exit interview.
The Office of Academic Affairs covers the cost of duplicating the self-study for the reviewers; mailing of the self-study; travel, meals, and housing for the reviewers; and reviewers’ honorarium. The Office of Academic Affairs also covers the reasonable expenses of the internal members of the review team. Expenses for travel, meals, and housing will be reimbursed as quickly as possible after the necessary receipts and vouchers are provided. Once the final report is received by the Provost, the external reviewer will receive the honorarium.
The Review Report
After reviewing all the pertinent information, the team will prepare a final report addressing how the unit’s strengths can be maintained and improvements made in the future. If there are choices to be made, for example, among sub-disciplines for a unit’s focal point, the alternatives should be outlined and critiqued. Obviously, if the University invested more resources in a program, the University would reap additional benefits. What the University asks of reviewers is a much more crucial task; they are asked to provide advice about the quality of what the unit does, how current resources are used, and how they might be used better to achieve the unit’s aspirations.
The team should agree during its visit on a plan for preparing a single, consolidated report (typically about five pages of single-spaced text). Use of bulleting for items is acceptable. The report should address the items highlighted in the Self Study Executive Summary, as well as any other issues deemed pertinent by the review team. The report should conclude with recommended strategic priorities for the unit and GSW designed to improve the effectiveness of the unit’s programs.
Disposition of the Reports
The review team should forward their report to the VPAA no later than three weeks after the visit is completed. Copies will be forwarded to the unit, and to the unit’s Dean, who each will have three weeks to respond in writing to the document, sending their responses to the VPAA. Final Reports from External Accrediting Agencies should also be submitted to the Vice President of Academic Affairs for review and will be distributed and responded to in the same manner as review team reports generated by the internal CPR process. The VPAA's Office will prepare the Office of Academic Affairs response and send it, along with copies of the consultants' report, unit's response and Dean’s response, to the President. Copies of this packet and of the Self Study will be posted in GSW dedicated CPR area of the university web site, which is accessible to Deans, the unit, and others within the University who have been involved in the evaluation process. The VPAA will share the results of review with the Deans’ and Directors’ Council, the Institutional Effectiveness Committee, and the Administrative Council. Units will report progress on meeting the goals of their strategic plans as part of their annual assessment reports, as well as at the time of their next CPR.
Typical Schedule for Review Visit (beginning in evening, then through two days)
This list is intended to be neither exhaustive nor prescriptive; only the first two and last two items must occur in the order presented on list:
- Organizational meeting (agenda, logistics, university overview) – VPAA and Dean of School or College
- Unit Overview with unit head
- Undergraduate program overview with program coordinator and assessment committee
- Graduate program overview with graduate program coordinator and assessment committee, if applicable
- Meetings with subgroups of faculty (junior faculty, senior faculty, etc.)
- Meeting with undergraduates – undergraduates selected by unit (can be current students or alumni)
- Meeting with graduate students , if applicable–graduate students selected by unit (can be current students or alumni)
- Meeting with dean of unit – dean, which may include some of dean’s staff
- Tour of facilities – organized by unit
- Review team meeting – private meeting to draft review report
- Debriefing with unit head and program coordinators
- Debriefing with VPAA and the VPAA’s invitees