Final Assessment Reports, Implementation Plans, and the Executive Summary (Section 5.3.2)

The Final Assessment Report (FAR), Implementation Plan (IP), accompanying Executive Summary and subsequent monitoring report(s), are the critical outcomes of a Cyclical Program Review. These documents represent the institutional synthesis of the external evaluation of the program and the public posting of the Executive Summary, Implementation Plan and monitoring report(s) is the means by which the university makes transparent its strategy for continuous improvement of a particular program.

The following represents advice from the Quality Council on things to consider when developing the FAR, IP and Executive Summary. It additionally reflects related recommendations and suggestions that were made as part of the first cycle of audits.

Overall, it is very helpful to:

  • Ensure that all relevant stakeholders have a clear understanding of the purpose and importance of these documents.
  • Ensure institutional consistency of format and approach.
  • Carefully consider the oversight role of the Senate (or equivalent) Committee responsible for Cyclical Program Reviews. Does it explicitly have a role in verifying that the FAR/IP is an accurate and transparent synthesis of the program’s review and if so, what documents does it receive in order to make this judgement?
  • Format and write these with an external reader in mind – a prospective student, faculty member, or perhaps another institution interested in the program. Ultimately, these should be as succinct and clear as possible, while providing sufficient transparency so that anyone reading these documents has a good sense of the program’s review process and its outcomes.
  • Treat budget-related matters consistently.
  • Consider that while the Executive Summary and Implementation Plan must be published on a public and easily discoverable section of the university’s website, publication of these documents on the program’s own website is also highly recommended (see below).
  • Ensure that, for programs offered by an affiliated institution, the Executive Summary and Implementation Plan are also publicly posted on their website in an easily discoverable place.
  • Ensure that the stipulated internal and external reporting requirements for the FAR and IP are met in a consistent and timely manner.
  • Ensure there is a clear and common understanding of any and all requirements associated with the monitoring and reporting on the actions detailed in the approved IP.
  • Ensure timely monitoring of the implementation of the recommendations and appropriate distribution of the scheduled monitoring reports, including web postings.
  • Ensure that all active FARs, IPs and subsequent monitoring requirements and reports are a required part of the transition process for any changes in key leadership roles (e.g., the Program Chair, Dean, and QA Key Contact).
  • Carefully consider how the new requirement of Section 5.2.1 v. of the Framework will be treated in the FAR and IP in that the external reviewers must now “make at least three recommendations for specific steps to be taken that will lead to the continuous improvement of the program, distinguishing between those the program can itself take and those that require external action.”

The Executive Summary should:

  • Provide a succinct, yet clear and accountable synthesis of the outcome of the cyclical review and the plans to improve the program.
  • Provide a timeline for the key elements of the program’s review process. For example, list:
    • The timing of when the review was launched;
    • The date the self-study was submitted/approved;
    • The site visit dates;
    • When the external reviewers’ report was received;
    • When the program’s response was received; and
    • When the Dean’s response was received.
  • Summarize the groups and individuals (by role) met with during the (in person or virtual) site visit.
  • Summarize the outcome(s) of the review. For example, consider detailing:
    • That the Senate (or equivalent) QA Committee has approved the FAR and IP
    • When a monitoring report(s) is due
    • When the next Cyclical Review of the program is scheduled to take place, with an expected timing for the associated site visit (e.g., Fall of 2027)
  • Summarize the program’s strengths and opportunities for further improvement and enhancement.
  • Summarize the number of recommendations received, potentially by theme.
  • Not contain any confidential (or controversial) information. Again, consider the potential reader of this document.
  • Minimally, and along with the Implementation Plan, be publicly posted on the institution’s website in an easily discoverable way. Ideally, the Executive Summary (and IP) would also be posted on the program’s website to improve accessibility and transparency for current and potential students, among others.

The Final Assessment Report should:

  • Include the names and affiliations of the external review team.
  • Address each of the elements detailed in Section 5.3.2 of the Framework, aim to be less than 10 pages and avoid repetition.
  • Address all recommendations made by the external reviewers, separately by the program and the Dean.
  • Clearly prioritize the recommendations. For any recommendations that are not being prioritized for action, an explanation for why should be included.
  • Ideally, provide evidence of critical reflection on the recommendations and how best to implement programmatic change.
  • Consider grouping recommendations together by theme (e.g., “curriculum”, “learning outcomes/assessment methods”, etc.). This can be a helpful tool to show how the “pieces” of the review fit together.
  • Provide a brief indication of the previous review’s key recommendations and how these have been implemented. These can reinforce the steps being taken to continuously improve the program.

The Implementation Plan should:

  • Contain specific timelines (e.g., not “ongoing”) for action
  • Specify the role(s) that will be responsible for each action item (e.g., “Program Chair” versus “Program”). When recommendations are assigned to a generic office or non-specific role, it becomes very challenging to assure accountability for action and to monitor accordingly.
  • Similarly, avoid vague priorities, timelines and / or responsibilities as these reduce the opportunity for meaningful follow-up and accountability.
  • Have primary ownership of the approved Plan lie with the leadership of the program (at the program or departmental level).
  • Be clearly communicated to stakeholders, including the program’s faculty, staff and students, as well as the public, once approved.
  • Minimally, and along with the Executive Summary, be publicly posted on the institution’s website in an easily discoverable way. Ideally, the IP (and Executive Summary) would also be posted on the program’s website to improve accessibility and transparency for current and potential students, among others.