Accreditation ABCs

The Two Largest Activites: Self-Study and Site Visit


INTRODUCTION

While accreditation is an ongoing process, every few years you will experience two large activities that will stand out for you as the most important, most valuable, most time-consuming and (if you do them well) most rewarding activities: The Self Study and the Site Visit.

Conducting a self-study has two parts:

Studying your own program, in a systematic way.
Writing a report about your program for your CoA to review.

Conducting a site visit has two parts:

  • Preparing for the visit.
  • Conducting the visit.

To do these activities as smoothly as possible, you must know and follow the procedures outlined by your CoA. Accreditation ABCs offers some tips that apply to almost any self-study or site visit. Some of these tips may save you time, money, effort, and grief.

The most valuable aspect of the self-study is that you (and your colleagues, employees, advisors, etc.) are enabled by the process to look carefully at your program from perspectives that differ from what you experience day-to-day. You are going to review the sum of the past several years along with your plans for coming years, and think about your program and its future from many perspectives including perspectives of your students, employers of your graduates, standards established within your profession for educational programs, and the needs of society. You are going to look at results and ask of yourself what is going well and not-so-well, and what needs to change.

Embrace this opportunity with gusto. Don't give it short shrift; don't dread it; don't shirk it; don't think of it as a burden. It's your opportunity to assure that you are a very well informed leader and a focused director of efforts in the months and years to come.

Writing reports is a chore, to be sure, but writing the self-study report assures that you are articulate about your program and your plans. A well-written report all but assures a useful and valuable site visit because a major goal of the visitors will be to assure the CoA that your report about your program is accurate and that your improvement plans are sensible.

When this visiting team (and your CoA) read your self-study report, they are looking for assurances that Standards are met by your program, and that where the program falls short, you are prepared to make corrections. Don't pad the report with extraneous information; provide what's asked for, be succinct and to the point. And truthful.

The most valuable aspect of the site visit -- besides the obvious that the team is able to say to the CoA and ultimately through the CoA to CAAHEP that they find your program is as your self study describes it and is worthy of accreditation -- is the collegial aspect. The people coming to visit, carefully selected by the CoA (and satisfactory to you or you can ask for a change of personnel), are themselves knowledgeable professionals. They, like you, will be following procedures required by the CoA to assure completeness and fairness of their work. [You can learn a good deal about this from the Site Visitor Quiz on the CAAHEP website, which is a training tool for site visitors that is well worth an hour of your time.] You will have ample opportunity to learn from your visitors, so take advantage of your dialogue with them, and of the informal moments that arise, to gain some new ideas, contacts, professional perspectives or other knowledge that may help your program.