L&S Guidelines for Program Review

This document provides an overview of procedures used in L&S that relate to the mandated review of all formally approved academic programs in the College. All programs at UW-Madison are required periodically to engage in formal reviews. These reviews are convened by the Dean. Program faculty prepare self-study narrative reports that consider the program information and candidly evaluate the quality, viability, and future of the program; these reports are reviewed by faculty peers who prepare an evaluative report to the Dean and Academic Planning Council. The APC reviews all of these materials and makes recommendations to the Dean. A summary of program review activity is reported annually to the Provost. The program review process often leads to recommendations for program improvements, which may take the form of changes in requirements or courses, revisions to materials used to communicate with students, clarification of policy and procedures, and a wide variety of other actions intended to enhance the student experience and student learning. The guidelines below were approved by the L&S Academic Planning Council in December 2015, and have been updated to incorporate new resources that support the program review process.

Contact Information:  Working with the Associate Deans in each L&S division, Associate Dean Elaine M. Klein administers the Program Review Process in L&S. (elaine.klein<at>wisc.edu)

Update Information:  Links updated 8-1-2019; revisions to align with annual memo to programs to be charged with review - emk

Self-Study Process and Documentation 

Documentation for program review focuses on the academic program(s) under review. In general, standard information provides a foundation for discussion, reflection, and evaluation that is synthesized in a Self-study Narrative.

Standard Information

Programs under review should consider the following information as the faculty prepares the self-study narrative:

1.    Current program requirements. (For undergraduate programs, these are published in the catalog and programmed into the Degree Audit Reporting System.)

2.    Department-level information.
3.    Undergraduate Programs:
  • Profile data visualizations are maintained by Academic Planning and Institutional Research, available at http://apir.wisc.edu/students.htm. These include degree and enrollment trends, time to degree by calendar years, enrolled terms and credits, etc.
  • From 2008 - May 2016, Academic Planning and Institutional Research fielded a survey of post-graduation plans; those data are available (https://apir.wisc.edu/pgp.htm) for use in program review reports. In Fall 2016, APIR piloted a new "First Destination Survey" (https://apir.wisc.edu/students/first-destination-survey/), which may also be useful in program review. 
  • Degree Audit data: Academic Information Management uses DARS to generate reports on the number and rate of exceptions to requirements, major declaration and major combining, etc. Contact Associate Dean Klein or Assistant Dean Mike Pflieger for more information.
4.    Graduate Programs: The Graduate School provides data relevant to graduate programs being reviewed. Departments and committees will be contacted directly after reviews/committees are convened. For general program data, consult the Graduate Program Profile information available on individual program pages available through this site: https://www.gradsch.wisc.edu/mas/ .

5.    Other information to consider:
  • If known, time to degree vs peers at other institutions
  • Variation in student performance by demographic group (i.e. “achievement gap”)
  • Faculty support for and student participation in “high impact practices," including such initiatives as First-year Interest Groups, Honors, L&S Career Initiative, capstone and thesis offerings, etc. (Annually reported to the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching & Learning Administration)
  • Advising model, ratio of students to advisor(s)
  • If available, post-graduation placement or survey data
  • For graduate programs, attrition rates, timing of departures, exit surveys
  • Any other resources that support program review, as provided by Academic Planning and Institutional Research.

Self Study Narrative Template (formerly, "Fundamental Questions for Program Review")

The faculty prepare a self-study narrative that responds to the following topics. In general, the narrative should not exceed 25 pages, to which attachments may be added.  The Office of Academic Planning & Institutional Research has prepared a detailed template for producing the self-study, and the L&S Academic Planning Council accepts self-studies produced in this format.  Importantly, the L&S APC asked authors of self studies to address the following four topics in the self study:

1.    Overview. The focus of program review is to evaluate the quality of each program, to sustain and improve excellence. To begin, describe the program(s) being reviewed.  Summarize the program requirements and describe how they serve students (and/or other audiences). Consider the program in relation to departmental mission and purpose, and to disciplinary, college, and/or university goals (e.g., support for the liberal arts and sciences, career preparation, the Wisconsin Experience, the Wisconsin Idea, campus Diversity Framework, etc.)  Include other program aspirations (e.g., addressing under representation in a discipline, remediating achievement gaps in key/introductory courses, promoting civic/social engagement, etc.)  Finally, if directly relevant to the quality of the academic program and the student experience of it, discuss the departmental context (faculty research; departmental service; administration and operations; climate; alumni engagement and/or opportunities for development).

2.    Aspirations. What are you trying to accomplish with your program(s)?  Describe your goals for student learning in the program. What outcomes do you intend students to achieve? Discuss how these outcomes relate to program requirements, what assessment strategies are used to evaluate learning with respect to these outcomes, and how this work enhances program quality.

3.    Evaluation. How successful is the program?  Using the best available evidence (student demographics, enrollment data, data on program completions and time to degree, achievement gap, participation in “high impact practices,” results of assessment studies, comparisons to on- and off-campus peers, etc.), please candidly evaluate the program's strengths, weaknesses, and whether it is meeting its intended goals with respect to student learning and other outcomes. Please remember to attach any data that supports these reflections on program success.

4.    Conclusions and Recommendations.  Based on the preceding efforts to evaluate the program's success, what actions should be taken to improve deficiencies or build on strengths? What other recommendations would you make concerning the future of the program?

Finally, to ensure that review committees have the information they need about the program, please include the following attachments:

  1. Program requirements, as they are conveyed to students via advising materials (including, but not limited to, catalog statements, program brochures, advising grids/templates, student handbooks, newsletters, etc.)
  2. Current assessment plan (on file with Provost’s Office) and summary reports of assessment activities and recent actions taken as a result of these activities (e.g. changes in requirements, course array, procedures).
  3. A brief description of the review process, which should include consultation with faculty and staff who are responsible for the program; consultation with students; consultation with the faculty; and formal review and approval of the Self-Study by the curriculum, program, and/or executive committee.
Focused Review.  From time to time, the Associate Dean or program faculty may propose to use the program review process to foster program-wide discussion of issues related to academic strategic planning, departmental restructuring, or comprehensive realignment of curriculum.  If this approach to review is approved, the standard information and questions found in the Self-Study Template should inform discussion of the larger issues.  In cases where the Focused Review leads to a proposal for change, each program should be discussed in a summary report and the program documents should be attached for the committee’s review.

Committee Review

The Associate Dean and Dean convenes a review committee appropriate to the size and disciplinary focus of the program. Wherever possible, committees composed of L&S and UW-Madison faculty will be convened to examine the reports submitted. If deemed necessary by the deans, committee members external to the university will be appointed to provide expert consultation on focused questions related to the program.  When Graduate Programs are reviewed, the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee will appoint a member to serve as its representative on the committee.  Committees are provided with Self-Study and other materials related to the review.  Review committees meet with program faculty, students, and others who may offer insight into how and how well the program is functioning.

Review committees are empowered to conduct additional inquiries to allow better understanding of the materials.  If the review committee identifies issues requiring the immediate attention of the Associate Dean or other administrators, the committee should contact the Associate Dean.

The committee produces a brief memorandum evaluating the programs and their effectiveness in promoting student learning. Committees may comment on recommendations proposed in the Self-Study, and they are expected to offer additional evaluative commentary, advice, insights, and recommendations.  (APIR also provides a template for review committee reports.) 

Prior to APC discussion, program faculty are afforded an opportunity to review the committee’s memorandum and correct factual errors.

Associate Deans’ Review

The Associate Dean(s) will review the reports will consult with the Dean and Senior Staff.   If necessary, the Associate Dean(s) will meet with the committee and with the department chairs) or program director(s).

Academic Planning Council Review

The Academic Planning Council will review the Self-Study, Committee memorandum, and any corrections offered by the program faculty.  In the course of APC discussion, members provide consultation to the Dean and Associate Deans concerning recommendations and future progress for programs. Based on APC recommendation, a review may be considered complete or may be returned for further clarification or revision.

Approved by the L&S Academic Planning Council on 12/2/2015
Clarifying revisions 12/10/2015, link updates and clarifications 10/1/2018 

See Also:

Keywords:APC accreditation assessment "academic program review"   Doc ID:24812
Owner:Elaine K.Group:L&S Administrative Gateway
Created:2012-06-21 16:26 CDTUpdated:2020-06-16 14:51 CDT
Sites:L&S Administrative Gateway
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