The Accreditation Process
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
- Understand the U.S. Department of Education compliance components of the Commission's
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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