One of the key outcomes of Program Prioritization at Boise State University was a complete reinvention of what is typically known as “Program Review,” or “Periodic Review,” which is the process by which academic departments and their programs are evaluated as to their effectiveness and efficiency. Traditionally this process has involved the writing of a self-study by the department, a visit from external reviewers, and the writing of an evaluative report. However, the process was only modestly effective in improving the effectiveness of academic departments.
In Boise State University’s new process, known as Integrated Review of Academic Programs (IRAP), departments are not required to submit a self-study, nor are external reviewers required. Instead, the focus is on an evaluation of department analytics, assessment of program learning outcomes, strategic and action planning, and the implementation of improvements. And a consequence of broad faculty participation in the process is the development of a culture focused on department-wide goal setting and improvement.
IRAP comprises three distinct processes:
Assessment of Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)
Assessment of PLOs is of substantial importance to our regional accreditation body (the NWCCU); therefore it is important that we be able to demonstrate that all of our department effectively engage in effective assessment. It is also important to ensure that departments adhere to the true purpose of assessment of PLOs, the improvement of instructional programs. Our process includes the triennial submission of a Program Assessment Report (PAR), in which departments list the PLOs, describe the plan for assessing the PLOs and discuss the actions they have taken to improve the program. To help ensure the quality of the work underlying the PAR, and interdisciplinary faculty team reviews the PARs using a rubric and provides feedback to departments, who then review and discuss the feedback as a basis for improving their assessment process. A series of workshops sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Office of Institutional Research provides support and guidance for departments in the development of their PARs.
Annual Department Analytics Report
Historically, data about department effectiveness has varied in its accessibility to departments and deans and has come from a variety of sources. In addition, there has been a wide variation in the scrutiny of the data and the degree to which it has been used to evaluate departments. The new Department Analytics Report (DAR) is issued annually and provides a single source of program, department, and college-level metrics. Included are trends over time, ratios of numbers of per faculty line and per expenditure, and comparisons with peers. A number of the metrics were developed during Program Prioritization. The DAR is delivered each fall so that departments and colleges can monitor trends and take action both proactively and reactively in response to these trends.
Department Strategic Review and Action Planning
The necessary elements of this aspect of IRAP are that the department:
- Undergo strategic planning that involves the entire department, that is based on current situation and context, and that results in areas of focus for future, that is strategic goals.
- Undergo action planning, including the creation of a timeline and identification of specific tasks that must be undertaken.
- Implement the actions, resulting in improvement of the department.
- Documentation that the above has occurred.
This component of IRAP is adaptable to the needs and current situation of the department and college. Some departments make use of the Provost’s Office to facilitate planning meetings, whereas others bring in outside facilitators or conduct the planning on their own. Departments have the option of bringing in an external consultant to provide expertise in one or more areas in which the department would like to focus, for example, in developing a new academic program or taking research activity to the next level.