Engaging Stakeholders in the Creation of Self-Studies and New Program Development
Like other portions of this Guide to the Quality Assurance Framework, this section is designed to acquaint users of the QAF to some ways of interpreting and implementing the expectations set out in the Framework.
The material here supplements a chart, drawn from the UPRAC period, which outlines best practices in Creating an Effective Self-Study for Program Reviews. At the Key Contacts meeting in 2015 some presentations and discussion focused on institutional best practices in involving principal stakeholders both in the creation of self-studies and in the development of new program proposals. Building on this discussion, the Guide offers here some examples and illustrations of the ways several Ontario universities have engaged a variety of stakeholders (e.g. students, alumni, employers, community partners) in these key aspects of quality assurance.
It is not expected that the advice or the templates provided here will suit every institution or be compatible with every IQAP, but appropriately customized, the tips and cues here should be helpful to institutions seeking guidance on how best to engage stakeholders in the preparation of self-studies and new program proposals.
Soliciting input from stakeholders through on-line or pre-paid mail surveys can provide valuable insight to demonstrate student demand and interest and societal need or labour market demand for proposed new programs. Such input can also provide feedback to evaluate, for example, the quality, value, and relevance of an existing program. At the University of Windsor, and perhaps at other institutions, the IQAP office has blanket approval from the Research Ethics Board for the administration of surveys that adhere to a pre-defined scope.
Once a bank of questions has been developed, a survey can be readily tailored to the specific respondent group and for the particular need. Links to examples of surveys and questions that might be incorporated into surveys are as follows:
2) Queen’s University Survey Example: Possible survey questions to determine societal need/labour market demand and student demand for a new program.
3) A final model is drawn from a professional accreditation review in the United States, which proposes various questions that might be asked of employers, students and alumni in the course of preparing a self-study: http://www.asha.org/academic/accreditation/accredmanual/section4.htm.
Involvement of Students and Stakeholders in Cyclical Review Processes:
Employing meaningful ways to involve students in the development of the cyclical review self-study is an important, yet sometimes challenging, part of the preparation for the cyclical review. Many institutions seek student perspectives by including students in focus groups and/or as part of the team responsible for leading the preparation of the self-study report. Input from alumni is frequently obtained by conducting surveys of past graduates.
Another way to approach this is to ensure that there is ongoing involvement of students in the academic unit’s governance structures and processes. When students are providing regular input on their courses and program requirements, it is very easy to gather and incorporate that information into a self-study that results in meaningful analysis and reflection. Constant contact with students, through their representation on departmental committees and through their involvement in departmental seminars or workshops, can facilitate their engagement in quality assurance processes.
Curriculum Review Committees are a regular feature of many academic units. They provide an ongoing opportunity for students to reflect on their learning experiences in the program and to provide suggestions for changes as part of a structured curricular review process.
Academic Councils that discuss, advise, and/or recommend policy in the areas of curriculum, practicums, research and professional or community matters often include student representation from across each of the program years. A regular feature of Council meetings can include a report from each cohort of students (such as first-year, second-year, and/or the professional year). Student representatives should be encouraged to use Councils as a way to provide feedback to faculty about their satisfaction with the program and to help inform thinking about future program directions. A collection of student reports submitted over the course of the period covered by the review can provide rich information for the analysis that goes into a self-study.
Student Associations can also provide mechanisms for students to communicate ideas and concerns about the quality of a program from the students’ perspective. A student association can serve as a conduit between students and the faculty or Chair, and often can share valuable recommendations that arise from the students’ perceptions of the learning environment.
Students Evaluation of Teaching and Their Educational Experience: Written comments, if gathered regularly when students assess the courses they take and the instruction they receive, can be a rich source of information about students’ perceptions. Similarly, NSSE or CGPSS data, if suitably disaggregated, can be pressed into service when self-studies are initiated.
Engaging Other Stakeholders in the Self-Study Process:
Some universities choose to involve members of the support staff in the development or review of self-studies. For example, a senior secretary, responsible for the administration of a unit’s graduate programs might well be included on the committee that drafts a self-study.
Student Awards Offices:
Awards offices can be primed to produce data on awards as an index of student scholarship. In the STEM disciplines, NSERC’s Form 100 can also be helpful as a valuable source of information.
When alumni belong to program advisory committees, they can be a resource in the preparation or critiquing of self-studies. Units that are in regular contact with alumni, either through the circulation of newsletters, the use of social media, or regular alumni events, may find it easier to engage alumni for quality assurance processes.