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Program Review

Recommended by: Academic Senate
Ruben Armiñana, President
Date of Original Issue: March 3, 2006
Current Issue Date: March 3, 2006
Effective Date: March 3, 2006
Contact Office: Academic Affairs

Policy 2006-1

    1. The Sonoma State Program Review aims to maintain and strengthen Sonoma State’s curriculum through a wide-ranging examination of its ideas and institutions. It is a process essential to long-term planning, resource allocation and other decision making within the university.
    2. Some of the principles guiding this endeavor are the following:
      1. Program review is a process which offers a systematic analysis of the objectives and performance of an academic unit, an analysis based on both quantitative and qualitative evidence.
      2. The review process shall be considered interactive at all levels, with open, professional dialogue among all participants.
      3. Successful program review depends on faculty and academic staff’s willingness to engage in a self-study process. The faculty of each department or program will design their own assessment approaches, reflecting the singularity of the discipline, department culture and its students’ needs. (As per Sonoma State’s Assessment Home Page, available at
      4. Successful program review depends on adequate resources to engage in that review.
      5. Program review will be consistent with Sonoma State’s Long-Range Academic Plan, CSU system policies, WASC Standards , and the standards of external accrediting bodies when relevant.
    1. A review of academic programs involves a thorough evaluation of:
      1. program mission and goals, and their alignment with the mission of the Sonoma State University;
      2. assessment of student learning outcomes;
      3. the curriculum through which program goals are pursued;
      4. the quality and diversity of the faculty and staff, and their contributions to the program mission and goals;
      5. the program’s service and contributions to the community;
      6. the effectiveness of recruitment, retention and support practices for all students (addressing issues of quality, diversity, academic advising, mentoring, career development and placement);
      7. the programmatic issues requiring administrative attention and resource issues from the program’s perspective; and
      8. program revisions based on assessment, and plans for future assessment.
    2. Program review is a periodic process that incorporates the findings of ongoing program assessment and focuses attention on specific areas for program improvement. It is mandated by the CSU Board of Trustees and by WASC accreditation standards. Detailed assessment of learning outcomes, however, is an accepted dimension of overall program review, one that may require a higher level of resources than review of traditional input-based quality measures, particularly in the initial cycle. The University recognizes that program review and ongoing assessment, in economic terms, are investments in the future of the University.
      Therefore, departments, working in conjunction with the department chairs and school deans, will identify resource needs, such as the need for faculty time to develop and conduct assessment activities and the need for the use of an outside evaluator of the program self-study, in order to meet the requirements of program review and assessment of student learning.
    1. Academic Affairs will maintain the required schedule of five year reviews for each academic unit, developed in consultation with the school Deans, and will inform the department chair, program chair or coordinator when the time for program review is approaching.
    2. The academic program review process consists of:
      1. The department or program’s preparation of its Self-Study document, using assessment measures determined to be appropriate by the program or department, as per their Interim Program Review
      2. The site visit and report of external reviewers, who will submit a written report
      3. Review of the Self-study draft and external evaluator’s report (or equivalent) by the School Curriculum Committee (or equivalent) and the School Dean, including written summary and response.
      4. Review by the Educational Policies Committee (EPC), adding responses and recommendations as necessary
      5. Revisions by department or program as needed, based on EPC feedback
    3. The final report is forwarded to the Provost for review and action and will be made available to the university community.
    1. A Department’s Self-Study is a structured reflection of its faculty, staff, students and alumni concerning the educational effectiveness of its academic programs. It is important that the self-study engage all of the faculty within the department or program and that input from staff, students and alumni be solicited. The report must be able to substantiate its assertions and conclusions by providing data or citing specific examples.
    2. The Office of Analytical Studies and Planning can provide programs with necessary technical data (admissions, GPA’s, enrollment figures). In addition, the Office of Analytical Studies and Planning and the Faculty Assessment Coordinator (University or school) can provide technical assistance in developing valid evaluation measures (such as surveys) and analyzing data.
    1. Program Introduction and History
      1. Description of the academic program or programs offered by the department or academic unit, with reference to prior program reviews and their highlights. See Appendix A, Basic Statistical Data.
    2. The self-study should document and describe the following elements, for both majors and minors:
      1. A list of learning goals for each academic program (undergraduate and graduate, centers and institutes)
      2. A rationale for learning goals and outcomes (e.g. conceptual frameworks about learning, standards/trends in the discipline, encouragement of diverse perspectives, expectations of equivalent programs at other universities, surveys of students/alumni)
      3. Dissemination of learning goals to students
      4. Structuring of the curriculum to reach expected outcomes
      5. Documentation of effective teaching strategies for helping students achieve expected outcomes
      6. If applicable, departmental involvement in distance and distributed education courses, including their evaluation
      7. If applicable, description of cross-departmental courses and how these serve majors from other departments
      8. If applicable, description of GE courses and how these meet the GE area criteria
    3. Diversity
      1. Explain how your department, program or unit:
        1. Addresses the cultural, ethnic and social diversity of the Sonoma State student body in the curriculum
        2. Accommodates differences in student preparation and access to educational opportunities
        3. Shows leadership in recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and students, without reliance on discriminatory preferences
        4. Addresses diversity issues in its advising, mentoring, and career development
    4. Student body
      1. Provide a profile of your student body with an overview of their educational needs. Include an assessment of academic advising and its role in meeting those needs.
    5. Faculty
      1. Evaluate the quality and strengths of your faculty in relation to program goals and university goals. In particular discuss the following elements:
        1. Pedagogy: Faculty development for teaching in the major and, when relevant, the teaching of GE courses
        2. Participation: Faculty participation in governance of the Department, School and University
        3. Professional Contributions: Document evidence of leadership in the discipline, outstanding teaching, scholarship and creative activity, external funding for individual or collaborative projects, and responsiveness to changes in the discipline. Consider how these are reflected in the program’s RTP policies.
    6. Institutional Support and Resources
      1. In consultation with each Department or Unit, describe and assess how the following integrate and contribute to student learning objectives:
        1. Library
        2. Computer technology
        3. Student support services
        4. Faculty development and support services
      2. Describe and assess the adequacy of the following:
        1. Physical facilities
        2. Financial resources
        3. Human resources (include workload analysis for both faculty & staff)
    7. Assessment & Findings
      1. Description of the Department or unit assessment plan (as proposed in the Interim Program Review)
      2. Analysis of the educational effectiveness of the program, using appropriate assessment data
      3. Discussion of changes necessary to improve effectiveness of the outcomes of the program
      4. Description of dissemination of findings, including outside evaluation, to faculty and staff
    8. Action Plan
      1. Action plan based on findings and recommendations
      2. Description of proposed program revisions in the following areas, as applicable:
        1. Teaching-learning methods
        2. Course content
        3. Learning objectives
        4. Recruitment and mentoring
        5. Assessment
        6. Advising and mentoring in the major, in GE (if applicable)
        7. Other areas deemed to be of importance
    1. The purpose of external review is to provide an independent and broader perspective on the program. The process requires at least one external consultant, and the academic unit will nominate its potential reviewers. Consultants should either hold faculty rank (or the equivalent) in the same or similar programs, be individuals of significant professional reputation in the field, or (in the case of an existing external accreditation board) be an official representative of the accrediting body.
    2. Letters are sent to nominees inviting their participation and requesting a curriculum vitae. After deliberation, the review team submits a list of potential consultants to the School Dean for approval. Upon the Dean’s approval, the review team can formally invite the potential consultant(s) and establish dates for a site visit. The consultant should be provided with a copy of the Self-Study document and other relevant materials for their visit.
    3. The consultant is expected to submit to the department a written report of his/her findings and recommendations within two weeks of the visit. Copies of these reports will be included in the final program review document. See Appendix B: Guidelines for External Reviewers
    1. In the case of a Department with both an undergraduate and graduate component, the two programs may be reviewed concurrently or separately. If reviewed concurrently, the Department shall so prepare its report that the two components can be separated, with the graduate program portion being forwarded to the Graduate Studies Subcommittee for evaluation. The Graduate Studies subcommittee shall prepare an evaluation report that will be forwarded to the EPC for incorporation into its evaluation of the Department’s total program review.
    2. In the case of a review of a freestanding graduate program, the Graduate Studies Subcommittee shall act in lieu of the EPC in formally reviewing the Program Review and supporting documents. The Graduate Studies Subcommittee shall prepare an evaluation report of no more than 5 pages, which shall be forwarded to the EPC, with a copy to the department.
    1. Any currently accredited academic unit which is separately accredited by an external agency or accrediting body may request, with the approval of the school dean, consent from EPC to substitute an accreditation report as the basis for a program review, if the program documents that its accreditation process clearly addresses all or most of the areas of concern to Sonoma State’s process (as articulated in the Self Study Template). By agreeing to accept such a report in lieu of a program review, it is understood that certain questions or sections unique to the Sonoma State review process may be required in addition. At a minimum, the program may coordinate the time frame it uses for its separate accreditation process with its SSU review.

* Academic unit may refer to a degree-granting program as well as other programs related to academic life (e.g. certificate programs, library, counseling services and so on). The EPC (Educational Policies Committee) will determine which academic units should undertake program review following this policy.
* As per Standard Four of the WASC Accreditation Handbook: “The institution conducts sustained, evidence-based and participatory discussions about how effectively it is accomplishing its purposes and achieving its educational objectives. These activities inform both institutional planning and systematic evaluations of educational effectiveness. The results of institutional inquiry, research and data collection are used to establish priorities at different levels of the institution and to revise institutional purposes, structures and approaches to teaching, learning and scholarly work.”

Updated March 3, 2006 by