2 Articulating the Successes of your Academic Program
Part 1 of the self-study template (v. 2021/2022) is titled Context for Current Cyclical Program Review, and as the title suggests, it can be an effective starting point for orienting your readers, the reviewers, to the current context of the program. The section includes four sub-sections:
1.1 How have recommendations and concerns raised in the most recent Cyclical Program Review been addressed?
1.2 What areas for improvement have been identified in the process of developing the Self-Study?
1.3 What areas hold promise for future enhancements of the program?
1.4 What challenges does the program face within the next 7 years?
Addressing these prompts means reflecting on the past, capturing the program’s current state, and articulating a vision for the future of the program. The four sub-sections are interrelated. Here’s a guide and some suggested strategies to each section, including facilitative questions you might reflect on or use to guide community conversations (many questions are adapted from Stavros & Hinrichs, 2009):
Section 1.1 Recent Recommendations
Turn to the previous CPR self-study, review team report, internal responses and the Final Assessment Report (FAR). These documents, particularly the FAR, include recommendations and action items arising from the previous review. Since the last review, there’s an expectation that programs have worked to address past recommendations and have engaged in continuous program improvements that address identified concerns. Some programs have remained focused on this continuous improvement process year-to-year, while others have faced reasonable challenges keeping continuous improvement at the fore of their work. In the self-study report, you should aim to provide reviewers with some context, addressing questions such as: since the last self-study, what has happened and changed? What’s the current landscape?
- What recommendations were made as a result of the previous CPR?
- What actions have been taken to address past recommendations?
- What concerns were raised during last CPR? How have these concerns been addressed and/or are the concerns still relevant to the program?
- What recent achievements are we most proud of?
- What has changed about the program since the last CPR?
1.2 Areas for Improvement
Focusing on the current self-study, what areas of improvement have been identified through the process? As members of the program have engaged in the self-study, they have likely identified ideas for how the program could be improved into the future. While this section starts by identifying challenges, shortcomings, constraints, or difficulties, it sets the reviewer up for appreciating what the program needs into the future and why.
- Which recommendations from the previous CPR, if any, continue to be areas of ongoing action and improvement?
- Where or in what ways are we currently noting challenges, constraints, or difficulties?
- How can we acknowledge challenges and also frame these challenges as opportunities for future enhancement?
1.3 Future Enhancements
Similar to section 1.2, this section can be used to highlight current strengths of the program and comment on how these strengths will be or can be maintained and/or enhanced into the future.
- What are we known for? What makes us unique?
- What future opportunities exist for the program? (such as new specializations or pathways, partnerships, course offerings, modes of delivery?)
- What are the key areas of untapped potential and/ or collaboration?
- What are students, employers, and/ or other community members asking for?
- What does our preferred future look like?
- What would we like to be known for?
1.4 Future Challenges
Various influences continually affect an academic program: The landscape of higher education shifts. Global challenges and institutional priorities inspire future directions for academic work. Students face new and different challenges each year. Resources fluctuate. What have your challenges been? What might they look like in the future?
In this section, you can help reviewers understand what challenges you face so that in their review and in making their recommendations, they can be your partners and advocates of realistic, contextualized solutions.
- What changes in demand do we expect to see over the next years?
- What external forces or trends may affect the program?
- What challenges do we foresee or anticipate?
- What imperatives do we see arising from these noted challenges?
Stavros, J. M. & Hinrichs, G. (2009). SOAR: Building strengths-based strategy. Thin Book Publishing Co.: Bend, OR.