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Program Review

What is the difference between assessment and review?

"Throughout a program and at significant points of instructional closure, assessment is used to determine how well students are learning.  This indirectly tells how well the program is working, but the focus of assessment is on the students and not on the program.  For example, student assessment data may not tell anything about the effectiveness of a course sequence.  Student outcomes assessment provides data that help in program evaluation and improvement" (Pellegrino et al, (2001).  Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment.  Washington, DC: National Academy Press.), "but it is only one part of the evaluation process, which has a broader perspective. Direct student assessment is based on measurable student behaviors that can be demonstrated by students and objectively observed to assess student learning.  Indirect student assessment is based on student perceptions from evaluations and surveys.  Evaluation [or Program Review] uses these data as part of a larger process." (Faculty Senate Guide for Evaluation of Programs, pp. 14-15.

Program Overview

Numerous resources outline in detail the pieces of a complete Program Review.  All these resources conform to SUNY policy, found in Trustees Resolution 2010-039 and Memorandum to Presidents 2010-02.2.  Three resources are particularly relevant to local users:

Disclaimer: the following overview of the Review of Academic Departments and Programs is not intended to be your only point of reference in completing any part of this process.  Rather it is intended to provide a brief synopsis for those new to the process or those trying to understand how this piece fits within the entire Academic Assessment process.

A Program Review includes three things:

Self-Study by the department or program;
External Review, including site visit and report;
Action Plan

The Self-Study should be completed by the department/program faculty, include broad departmental involvement, and focus on the critical questions affecting the department/program in the future.  The self-study should include an array of factual data (outlined on pp. 4-5 of the SUNY Potsdam Guidelines for Review of Academic Departments and Programs) including the department’s Assessment Plan and Assessment Report.  Additionally, the self-study should “use multiple measures to collect comprehensive sets of data results…[yielding] more valid results compared to a single measure of performance.  A rule of thumb is to use at least three sources to triangulate the data in each area of evaluation.” (Faculty Senate Guide for Evaluation of Programs, p. 20.)

The purpose of the External Review site visit is to “evaluate the overall state of the department/program and its success in fulfilling its mission and to assess its future needs.” (SUNY Potsdam Guidelines for Review of Academic Departments and Programs, p. 6)  The report must be objective and comprehensive as it is essential to the successful evolution of the department/program.

Finally, the institution reviews the self-study and external review report and develops an Action Plan in response.  “The self-study and the site visit report will lead to agreements between the departments and the administration in the form of action plans for improvement.  The Joint Action Plans will be realistic in terms of what can be expected and supported through the resources available within SUNY Potsdam.” (SUNY Potsdam Guidelines for Review of Academic Departments and Programs, p. 7)

In the middle of the 7-10 year program review cycle, the department/program will complete a Midterm Review.  This is an opportunity for the faculty and administration to follow up on the changes recommended in the Action Plan and the progress since the last external review.   This conversation will occur at the same time the department chair (or designee) meets with the Dean to discuss the midway Assessment Report.

What if our department/program has external accreditation?

Should your department be externally accredited, the expectations for your review materials will match the expectations of your disciplinary accreditor.  In other words, you may follow all requirements outlined by the external accreditor in lieu of the guidelines outlined above.  All externally accredited departments/programs must follow the Program SLO Assessment requirements and submission cycle.