Review of academic programs at Southwestern is based on the continuous improvement cycle of learning and development.

For programs under review, the process starts with assembling a team and collecting and evaluating an array of information, and ends with action planning based on the team's findings.  While each academic program serves a wide range of students to meet the needs of our complex community in a dynamic social and economic context, the guiding questions in the program review processes can be summarized simply:  What is happening? What does it mean?  Now what?

These resources provide a snapshot summary of what to expect when, and detailed guidance to help the Program Review Team decide the information to include in the review and how to find it.  As no two students are alike, neither are the academic programs here at Southwestern.  Consequently, the detailed information in each review will vary according to the program.

Why conduct programs reviews?  Program review is one method to estimate how well academic programs and operational units meet their goals that are necessary to accomplish the overall college mission.  Leaders of instructional and operational programs examine practices and data that measure indicators of student learning and success.  Based on the analysis, the team identifies priorities and new goals that will improve the program, and develops an action plan to guide implementation of new initiatives, and to accompany budget requests when new resources are required.

Program Review occurs every four years for most programs.  The culminating report includes data and reflections that illustrate program context, resources, activities, outcomes, and the effectiveness of the unit/department.  Program reviews include five major sections:

  1. Context describing external conditions that influence the program
  2. Major changes describing developments since the program was reviewed most recently
  3. Comprehensive evidence to examine the program curriculum and activities, students, faculty and staff, resources and supports, and community
  4. Reflection and strategic analysis to synthesize the key findings, and to identify internal and external strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges
  5. Action plan to set goals for changes and developments that the team will accomplish prior to the next program review in four years

The comprehensive review includes quantitative and qualitative data as well as policies and procedures.  The evidence enables the Program Review Team to answer questions such as:  What are we doing well?  What could we be doing better?  Whose needs are we meeting especially well?  Whose needs could we be meeting better?  The answers drive strategic goals at the program level, and provide the evidence to set annual work plans and budget requests.   

For assessment to be effective, it must be meaningful, reflective, and self-regulated. The purpose of program reviews and assessment are to use the results, positive or negative, to stimulate meaningful dialogue and action that modifies programs and services to engage students in the learning process and to sustain institutional effectiveness.