An effective self-study process.*
- Fits the distinctive nature of the organization
- Achieves stated goals that guide the design and
the conduct of the process
- Ensures effective evaluation of the whole organization
- Promises to have an impact on the organization beyond
the Commission visit
- Engages multiple constituencies of the organization
- Builds naturally on existing and ongoing self-evaluation
- Has strong presidential and board support
- Draws on the expertise and credibility of recognized
leaders throughout the organization
- Maintains regular and effective communication links
with organizational constituencies
- Produces evidence to show that the Commission's
Criteria for Accreditation are met
- Produces a self-study report that meets the Commission's
- Testifies to the organization's commitment to peer
Practical Advice for Creating and Conducting an
Effective Self-Study Process
Make Good Preparations
Build on the context of the organization and its ongoing
- Create the stated organizational goals or outcomes
for the process; if there are expected priorities
for organizational issues, make them clear.
- Identify anticipated changes or improvements that
need to be integrated into the self-study process
or the self-study report (for example, review of a
change requiring Commission approval.)
- Make explicit the organization's values and culture
that the self-study process must honor.
- Propose the appropriate linkages between the self-study
process and ongoing planning endeavors.
- Understand the U.S. Department of Education compliance
components and ongoing planning endeavors.
- Consult with Commission staff as needed to determine
how the self-study process can be used to meet objectives
of the organization's leadership.
- Determine the size of eh committee in relation to
tasks that only the members of the committee can achieve.
- Use a smaller, more efficient committee charged
with creating and working with multiple subcommittees
or working groups.
Models to Craft the Self-Study Design
- Craft the self-study process around the Criteria
- Craft the self-study process around the themes identified
by the Commission.
- Craft the self-study process around functional areas
of the organization.
- Organize the self-study process to fit continuous
quality improvement structures and processes (including
benchmarking as appropriate.
- Structure the self-study process around strategic
- Build the self-study process around a major mission
- Build the self-study process around selected topical
- Create the self-study process to support a learning
- Develop a customized self-study process in consultation
with staff liaison.
Early in the Process
Organization's Leaderships and steering committee must
- Establish timelines that fit the time available
before the team visit.
- The tasks to be done.
- The expected outcomes of the process.
- The budget for the process.
Involve the Right People in the Process
- Experienced with accreditation, including, if possible,
a few veterans who did it a decade earlier.
- Able to focus on the organization, mitigating against
- Recognized for their credibility within the organization.
- Highly visible and influential within the organization.
Keep in Mind
- Be very conscious of the risk of task overloading.
- Recognize the work being accomplished.
- Provide training, guides, and consultant help, if
- Support networking activities.
Establish and Use Effective Structures, Processes,
As the steering committee and coordinators plan for
the process ahead of them,
- Creating structures or processes that involve a
broad range of constituencies.
- Using technology for data collection, communication,
- Establishing effective coordination of all processes
within the larger self-study process.
- Providing effective data management.
- Overseeing effective use of the budget for the self-study
- Creating a process check system.
- Including ways to have fun.
Plan for Writing the report
- Choose one or more writers/editors and clearly define
- Weigh how direct the linkages must be between working
paper generated through the process
- Create a timeframe for writing, and create strategies
for review and revision.
- Develop the strategy for providing data in the report.
The Self-Study Design Should Include
- The self-study calendar and timetable.
- The organization's goals for the self-study process.
- The fit between the self-study process and the self-study
report, and how they will meet both the Commission's
and the organization's needs.
- A working outline that may become the table of contents
for the self-study report.
Hallmarks of an Effective Self-Study Report
Substance over graphic design
- A brief evaluative profile of the organization, including
special qualities and distinctive programs
- A summary of significant changes that have occurred
since the last comprehensive evaluation
- A brief summary of the organizations accreditation
- A brief evaluation of the thoroughness of the self-study
- A summary of the organization's understanding of
and response to the major issues identified by the
- An explicit evaluation of how the organization fulfills
each of the Criteria for Accreditation through meeting
the Core Components
Teams also find the following very helpful
- A clear explanation of the purposes of and audience
for the report
- A clear explanation of how the report is organized
- Identification early in the report of any requests
for change that are included
- A useful table of contents
- Effective cross-referencing with the report
- Indexed citations in the report corresponding to
appendices to the report and exhibits in the resource
- Use of information and data to create evidence to
support the organization's self-study
- Thoughtful analysis of evidence
- Easily identified and succinctly stated institutional
priorities for improvement
- Honest evaluation, not public relations, characterizes
the tone and content of the report
*All information quoted from The Higher Learning Commission
Handbook of Accreditation, version 1:10/03