Site Visit Schedule
Four Cross-Cutting Themes
NCA Talking Points
An effective self-study process*
Fits the distinctive nature of the organization
Achieves stated goals that guide the design and the conduct of the process
Ensures effective evaluation of the whole organization
Promises to have an impact on the organization beyond the Commission visit
Engages multiple constituencies of the organization
Builds naturally on existing and ongoing self-evaluation process
Has strong presidential and board support
Draws on the expertise and credibility of recognized leaders throughout the organization
Maintains regular and effective communication links with organizational constituencies
Produces evidence to show that the Commission's Criteria for Accreditation are met
Produces a self-study report that meets the Commission's needs
Testifies to the organization's commitment to peer review
Practical Advice for Creating and Conducting an Effective Self-Study Process
Make Good Preparations
Build on the context of the organization and its ongoing planning
Create the stated organizational goals or outcomes for the process; if there are expected priorities for organizational issues, make them clear.
Identify anticipated changes or improvements that need to be integrated into the self-study process or the self-study report (for example, review of a change requiring Commission approval).
Make explicit the organization's values and culture that the self-study process must honor.
Propose the appropriate linkages between the self-study process and ongoing planning endeavors.
Understand the U.S. Department of Education compliance components of the Commission's accrediting activities.
Consult with Commission staff as needed to determine how the self-study process can be used to meet objectives of the organization's leadership.
Determine the size of the committee in relation to tasks that only the members of the committee can achieve.
Use a smaller, more efficient committee charged with creating and working with multiple subcommittees or working groups.
Models to Craft the Self-Study Design
Craft the self-study process around the Criteria for Accreditation.
Craft the self-study process around the themes identified by the Commission.
Craft the self-study process around functional areas of the organization.
Organize the self-study process to fit continuous quality improvement structures and processes (including benchmarking as appropriate).
Structure the self-study process around strategic planning processes.
Build the self-study process around a major mission review process.
Build the self-study process around selected topical headings.
Create the self-study process to support a learning organization.
Develop a customized self-study process in consultation with staff liaison.
Early in the Process
Organization's Leaderships and steering committee must agree on
Establish timelines that fit the time available before the team visit.
The tasks to be done.
The expected outcomes of the process.
The budget for the process.
Involve the Right People in the Process
Experienced with accreditation, including, if possible, a few veterans who did it a decade earlier.
Able to focus on the organization, mitigating against silo-thinking.
Recognized for their credibility within the organization.
Highly visible and influential within the organization.
Keep in Mind
Be very conscious of the risk of task overloading.
Recognize the work being accomplished.
Provide training, guides, and consultant help, if necessary.
Support networking activities.
Establish and Use Effective Structures, Processes, and Techniques
As the steering committee and coordinators plan for the process ahead of them,
Creating structures or processes that involve a broad range of constituencies.
Using technology for data collection, communication, and networking.
Establishing effective coordination of all processes within the larger self-study process.
Providing effective data management.
Overseeing effective use of the budget for the self-study process.
Creating a process check system.
Including ways to have fun.
Plan for Writing the report
Choose one or more writers/editors and clearly define their responsibilities.
Weigh how direct the linkages must be between working papers generated through the process and the self-study report.
Create a timeframe for writing, and create strategies for review and revision.
Develop the strategy for providing data in the report.
The Self-Study Design Should Include
The self-study calendar and timetable.
The organization's goals for the self-study process.
The fit between the self-study process and the self-study report, and how they will meet both the Commission's and the organization's needs.
A working outline that may become the table of contents for the self-study report.
Hallmarks of an Effective Self-Study Report
Substance over graphic design
A brief evaluative profile of the organization, including special qualities and distinctive programs
A summary of significant changes that have occurred since the last comprehensive evaluation
A brief summary of the organizations accreditation history
A brief evaluation of the thoroughness of the self-study process
A summary of the organization's understanding of and response to the major issues identified by the last team(s)
An explicit evaluation of how the organization fulfills each of the Criteria for Accreditation through meeting the Core Components
Teams also find the following very helpful
A clear explanation of the purposes of and audience for the report
A clear explanation of how the report is organized
Identification early in the report of any requests for change that are included
A useful table of contents
Effective cross-referencing with the report
Indexed citations in the report corresponding to appendices to the report and exhibits in the resource room
Use of information and data to create evidence to support the organization's self-study
Thoughtful analysis of evidence
Easily identified and succinctly stated institutional priorities for improvement
Honest evaluation, not public relations, characterizes the tone and content of the report
* All information quoted from The Higher Learning Commission Handbook of Accreditation, version 1:10/03