Gathering Information: The Steering Committee and Working Group Members will work with the campus community during the self-study process. This will include compiling and reviewing documents (strategic plans, reports, policies, procedures, etc.) reviewing existing data and analyses (student survey data, student learning outcomes data, institutional effectiveness data, etc.). The Working Groups will conduct interviews with people who have information and expertise relevant to the self-study.
Prioritizing Information: The structure of the relationships among the Steering Committee and Working Groups will vary by institution, but in all cases, it is the Steering Committee’s responsibility to ensure that the self-study process progresses on schedule and that there is effective communication among the Working Groups. The process leading to the Self-Study Report includes the completion of a series of written drafts, punctuated by periods of data collection, analysis, and review.
Under the leadership of the Steering Committee, each Working Group engages in evidence-based analysis, the parameters of which are determined by the lines of inquiry (significant questions that develop a particular analytical focus related to priorities, standards, and outcomes) identified in the Self-Study Design. See alignment below:
When questions arise about how to limit areas of inquiry or opportunity for improvement and innovation to a manageable number, it is often helpful to list them and go back to original questions posed when developing the Self-Study Design, such as the extent to which they directly relate to mission, institutional priorities, and the standards.
Managing Group Work: Well-defined Working Group charges are a prerequisite for Working Group success. If the Self-Study Design has provided clear, well-defined Working Group charges, the Working Group members should have an appropriate roadmap to follow in completing their tasks.
Successful Working Groups are characterized by certain behaviors:
- Be knowledgeable, committed, and provide effective leadership.
- Share responsibility for a task and work confidently toward a solution.
- Communicate intensively about their assigned charges and lines of inquiry while relying on and building trust in their colleagues in the group.
- Meet often to share progress and seek feedback on the results of their analysis.
- Develop a strategy to manage the work and assign sections of the work to pairs so the members can support and encourage each other
- Establish interim deadlines or benchmarks of progress will help the Working Groups stay on task.
Under the leadership of the Steering Committee, each Working Group engages in an evidence-based analysis based on the lines of inquiry identified in the Self-Study Design. From time to time, as analysis of the priorities and standards proceeds, these lines of inquiry may change; however, when they do change, they should address the institution’s intended outcomes and relate to the aligned institutional priorities and standards that were originally selected in the Self-Study Design.
The Steering Committee agenda should include time to discuss the progress of Working Groups and any challenges they encounter. The discussions should focus on the content/findings and analysis of what these findings mean for the institution and its compliance with the standards. One approach that Steering Committees take is to ask Working Group chairs to attend a meeting to discuss the initial draft of the findings and recommendations.
Utilizing appropriate assessment and evaluation information: Effective Steering Committees leverage existing processes or institutional resources to evaluate institutional priorities and to garner documentation to demonstrate compliance with Commission standards for accreditation, requirements of affiliation, policies and procedures, and federal compliance requirements. Some successful strategies are:
- Rely on at least one member of the Steering Committee or one member of each Working Group who understands how to gather documentation in the Evidence Inventory, to label it effectively, and to communicate duplication of information among Working Groups in the interest of achieving efficiencies and to strategize about elegance of presentation.
- Review existing institution-level data (surveys, strategic plan goals and results, academic program review results, academic program assessment results, administrative unit data, etc.) that is appropriate and aligns to the standards. Collaborate with others to use appropriate assessment and evaluation information for the purposes of self-study.
- Include a person on the Steering Committee with expertise in assessment and evaluation who can liaise with Working Groups. This person can address the analytical needs of the missing standards and Working Groups.
- Working Groups, identify duplication of efforts, and suggest ways that Working Groups might work together to address overlapping lines of inquiry.
Developing a comprehensive, representative Evidence Inventory: As discussed in Module Seven of this Self-Study Guide, the Evidence Inventory should be used as an organizational tool that allows an institution to arrange existing institutional documentation gathered for use during self-study by standard, criterion, and Requirement of Affiliation (RoA). We suggest the Steering Committee identify Working Groups whose charges solely include refinement of the Evidence Inventory and management of the Verification of Compliance process to achieve efficiencies in the self-study process. These Working Groups report to the Steering Committee so that it can assist the other Working Groups in addressing lines of inquiry, answer questions about appropriate documentation, and ensure the self-study process is comprehensively managed by the Steering Committee.
The evidence should naturally align with the associated standards, priorities, or RoA. For example, Standard III: Design & Delivery of the Student Learning Experience, criteria aligns to evidence to demonstrate the extent to which an institution meets the standard. Some types of evidence include program and/or annual report analyses, the percentage of full-time faculty, student survey data, teaching (or course) evaluations, outcome rubric results and analyses, or student portfolio results and analyses.
Generally, institutions review the standards and criteria to conduct and develop an initial inventory of the available evidence. Once the Working Groups begin, the evidence inventory may be expanded, refined, or some evidence deemed not relevant.
Achieving efficiencies by leveraging interactions among Working Groups: The role of the Steering Committee is to oversee the progress of the Working Groups. Some institutions have managed this process by either assigning a member of the Steering Committee to liaise with one or two Working Groups or by integrating the leaders of the Working Groups into the Steering Committee. Regardless of the approach, periodic discussions in which Working Groups can share their findings, analysis, and documentation can result in a more cohesive final Self-Study Report.