Program Review - Advice for Review Committee Chairs
Information and advice for chairs of program review committees, though others involved in the process may find it helpful. The dean or other university official charging the program review committee generally selects the chair of the review committee. The review committee chair should be identified in the memo that charges the review committee. The advice in this KB document is provided to supplement instructions provided in the charge memo.
Preliminary Planning and Communication with the Review Committee
As the chair of the program review committee, you decide on a general plan for the review. In the interest of using review committee time efficiently, you should schedule only as many meetings as are required to validate the information provided in the self-study report. This can typically be accomplished in two 2-hour meetings for the review committee. You, along with members of the committee, may choose to include meetings with program faculty and staff, meetings with students, a tour of program facilities, and/or meetings with other program constituencies. Such activities are not always included and they can be added at the discretion of the committee.
You can and should start making arrangements for review committee meetings as soon as you receive the charge memo. It may be necessary for the meetings to be scheduled several weeks into the future to accommodate everyone’s schedule. That gives sufficient time for members to review the materials. The schedule you set for meetings should also take into account the date the review is due.
At least two weeks before the first meeting, remind committee members to review the documents and prompt them to send requests for any additional information well in advance of the meeting. This action sets the expectation that committee members should be prepared to make the meeting time productive.
Prepare in advance. Review all the materials alongside the charge. Consider if you have any questions that need additional information. You might also consider inviting a program representative to join you for 30-45 minutes.
Agenda for the First Committee Meeting
The agenda for the review committee meeting can take many formats. It is always useful to start with introductions. Often members of the review committees don’t know each other. Because UW‐Madison is such a large university, review committees can be structured without external reviewers.
Following is a sample first meeting agenda:
- Overall discussion of the self‐study. You have already signaled via email the expectation that everyone will have read the materials, so no lengthy description of the program is really necessary. Invite general comments and overall impressions, and any over-arching questions that committee members have.
- In-depth discussion of the self-study. Go through the self‐study page-by-page and invite comments, discussion, and questions. This discussion allows everyone to have their say and to get a good understanding of the program. This approach puts all of the issues, concerns, and positives perspectives on the table without having to get to a resolution on each one. This format for discussion is a good basis for identifying program strengths, concerns, and some ideas for any advice the review committee wants to offer the program faculty for improvement of the program.
- Address the specific questions described in the charge memo. Some of this will be a recap of the earlier discussion. Are the goals and objectives met? Is the program important to UW‐Madison? Has the program achieved a reasonable level of quality, as appropriate to the field? Are there resource implications/issues that will keep the program from continuing at some level of effectiveness?
- If you invite a program representative to join the meeting, include them at this point to respond to questions. If the committee wants additional information, ask the program representative to collect it, and follow up after the meeting with a written request.
- Recap the program strengths and opportunities for improvement. It is helpful to recap from the earlier discussion the main points.
- Next steps. Outline next steps and timeline. The committee may want to interview students or faculty, or tour facilities. If so, make a detailed plan. Make a plan for the next committee meeting. Make a plan for preparing the written report by the requested deadline.
Academic Program Elements
You may find it useful to refer to this list to ensure the review committee has discussed all elements of an academic program:
- Academic program information
- Requirements for each program were provided to the committee.
- Requirements for each program appear to be in order.
- Each program is described clearly and consistently in the range of materials provided to students (websites, handbooks, etc.).
- Each program has student learning outcomes that relate to program requirements.
- Each program engages in efforts to assess student learning with respect to these outcomes.
- The faculty uses assessment data to improve the program.
- The academic program plays a substantive and meaningful role in the department, in clear relation to the departmental mission and purpose.
- The overall department context supports each program. For example: faculty research; departmental service; administration and operations; climate; alumni engagement and/or opportunities for development contribute to student learning in the program.
Preparing the Review Committee Report
As the program review committee chair, you will draft a brief report (2-10 pages) based on notes taken at the review committee meetings. Chairs and committees are strongly encouraged to use the Review Committee Report Template. Any topic that is noteworthy (whether to be celebrated or remediated) should be included in the report. Failure to mention a topic/issue (positive or negative) will be interpreted as the committee’s endorsement of an acceptable status quo. Circulate a draft report for review by committee members and provide a deadline for responding. It may take a couple of iterations of review to satisfy all members of the review committee. If the report becomes more complicated to complete and consensus is difficult to achieve via email, then an additional review committee meeting may be required. After all of the committee members are satisfied with the report, it should be submitted to the dean or other university official (copy to all the committee members), as requested in the charge to the committee. Usually, the work of the committee is completed when the report is submitted. If the committee placed conditions or restrictions on the program, then the committee may have an on‐going evaluative role. Details will be determined on a case-by-case basis.