Department and Program Reviews

Overview

A department or program review provides an occasion to re-examine learning goals and course offerings, identify programmatic strengths and weaknesses, envision the future shape of the curriculum, articulate goals and aspirations, and consider the implications of intellectual, technological, and pedagogical developments in a discipline.  One of the central values of the review process comes from extended, collective reflection which results in a Self-Study.  Respected colleagues in the appropriate field, invited by the Dean for Academic Affairs as a consulting committee of reviewers, support the department/program in the review.  The reviewers read materials provided by the department/program and meet with faculty, students, and administrators during a two- to three-day campus visit.  Typically, reviews of academic departments and programs are conducted approximately every 10 years; the specific timing is arranged by the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs, in collaboration with the department/program.

The process begins approximately one year prior to the anticipated review team visit, with the associate dean, department chair/program director and coordinator meeting to determine the desired semester for review as well as outline the process and specific schedule for the review. The chair/director subsequently meets with all members of the department/program to discuss their overall goals for the review.

The associate dean will ask the department/program to recommend colleagues from other institutions to be considered for the external Review Committee.  This list should include those with expertise in relevant fields within the discipline along with demonstrated experience in a distinguished academic setting.  Normally, the Review Committee consists of three members and includes tenured faculty from liberal arts colleges and larger research universities who have attained some prominence in their discipline, and together, represent a variety of disciplinary orientations and viewpoints.  Rather than serving as an evaluative body, review committees are requested to act as consultants to the department/program and the deans, offering critical and empathetic counsel. The Review Committee is formally appointed by the Dean for Academic Affairs. Many details of their campus visit and the itinerary of meetings will be arranged by the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs in coordination with the department/program.

Schedule Overview

Prior to the Review Committee visit:

  1. Associate dean, chair/director, and coordinator determine desired semester for the review and discuss review timeline and process (1 year ahead).
  2. Department/program members meet to discuss overall goals for the review (10 months ahead).
  3. Department/program suggests possible reviewers to associate dean (9 months ahead).
  4. Associate dean invites and appoints members of the Review Committee.
  5. Department/program analyzes data and develops a draft of the Self-Study (beginning 6 months ahead).
  6. Near-final draft of the narrative and table of contents for the entire Self-Study submitted to associate dean (6 weeks ahead).
  7. Eight (8) double-sided copies of final Self-Study narrative and supporting data and materials, bound and labeled, due to associate dean (4 weeks ahead).
  8. Associate dean sends binders and instructions to Review Committee.
Following the Review Committee visit:
  1. Review Committee submits its report to the dean (4-6 weeks following).
  2. Associate dean checks report for completeness and shares the final report with the president and department/program (normally within two weeks of receiving report).
  3. Department/program meets to discuss the report and prepare a written response to the dean (normally within one month).
  4. Department/program meets with dean and associate dean to discuss report and response (within 6 months of visit).

Self-Study (Narrative & Supporting Materials)

To prepare for the Review Committee's visit, the chair/director should convene the department/program members to write a Self-Study (usually 10-20 pages in length) that will be shared with the Review Committee.  This narrative should assess the strengths, weaknesses and needs of the department/program and outline a vision for the department/program’s future.  It should provide comprehensive background for the Review Committee as well as identify key issues for discussion.  Typically, a series of meetings is needed to prepare the narrative and to make the best use of the review process.  This can begin with a summer working group to discuss the important issues in depth, to review historic data of the department/program’s curriculum and teaching and to establish a conceptual framework that will be included in the Self-Study.  A draft of the narrative is shared with the associate dean for feedback. The department/program then finalizes the Self-Study, including the narrative and supporting materials, and submits it to the associate dean, who distributes it to the Review Committee in advance of the campus visit. The dean’s office also provides the Review Committee with institutional information including the academic handbook, viewbook, and campus map.

Narrative

The Self-Study narrative should provide the department/program’s reflections on and examination of: Curriculum, Pedagogy, Student Experience, Faculty Experience, and Future Vision. The narrative should be fully informed by the department/program's historic data on course offerings, enrollments, revisions to the academic program, etc. and should be written with the Review Committee as the primary audience in mind.

Introduction

The narrative's Introduction begins with a description of the department/program's conceptual framework, including overarching curricular, pedagogical, and scholarly/artistic goals. It then poses the 3-5 questions the department/program would like guidance in addressing in each of the following areas: Curriculum, Pedagogy, Student Experience, Faculty Experience, and Future Vision.

Curriculum

The narrative's Curriculum section should examine the following (please begin this section by repeating the 3-5 questions from the Introduction regarding the Curriculum):

  • Goals and rationale for the structure of the curriculum
  • Learning goals for students (majors, minors, and non-majors)
  • Description of the current process for assessing learning goals
  • Curricular approaches to differences in student academic preparation
  • Role of independent studies and honors work
  • Description of courses that serve broader College needs, including college-wide requirements
  • Curricular relationships with other departments/programs (i.e., cross-listed courses)
  • Recent innovations or changes to the curriculum 
  • Anticipated curricular revisions
  • New or emerging aspects of the discipline, methodologies, and/or modes of dissemination (i.e., digital platforms) and how these may be incorporated into the existing curriculum

Pedagogy

The narrative's Pedagogy section should examine the following (please begin this section by repeating the 3-5 questions from the Introduction regarding Pedagogy):

  • The range of pedagogies represented in the department or program
  • The teaching strengths of the faculty as well as areas in need of greater support
  • Pedagogical approaches to differences in student academic preparation
  • Access to/use of campus resources in the service of high quality teaching (i.e., Library, Academic Technology, Museums, McKeen Center, Center for Learning and Teaching, etc.)
  • Mechanisms within the department/program for providing student academic support (i.e., tutoring, study groups, etc.)
  • Recent innovations to teaching methods
  • Anticipated pedagogical revisions

Student Experience

The narrative's Student Experience section should examine the following (please begin this section by repeating the 3-5 questions from the Introduction regarding Student Experience):

  • Areas of strength/weakness in the student experience
  • Revisions undertaken since the last review to improve the quality of the student experience
  • Analysis of data gathered on the student experience in the department/program
  • Identified patterns and rationales for student course-taking
  • Co-curricular opportunities affiliated with the department/program (i.e., guest speakers/lecturers, fieldwork, trips, etc.)

Faculty Experience

The narrative's Faculty Experience section should examine the following (please begin this section by repeating the 3-5 questions from the Introduction regarding Faculty Experience):

  • Roles of various categories of instructors (tenure-line, lecturers, laboratory instructors, visitors, etc.)
  • Forms of communication and support among instructors, especially for new members
  • Plans for mentoring
  • Departmental/programmatic efforts to support instructor professional development 
  • Kinds and forms of intellectual/artistic engagement
  • Opportunities for interdisciplinary work (teaching, scholarship, etc.)
  • Departmental/programmatic efforts to engage with new modes of publication (i.e., digital or non-static formats) and the influence of these modes on existing understandings of rigor, scholarship, and evaluation
  • Events (lectures, speakers, symposia, etc.) that connect the department/program to a broader college audience

Future Vision 

The narrative's Future Vision section should examine the following (please begin this section by repeating the 3-5 questions from the Introduction regarding Future Vision):

  • Where the department/program is moving in each of the above areas  
  • Specific and general questions the department/program would like the Review Committee to address

Supporting Materials

In the course of preparing the Self-Study narrative, chairs/directors will gather supporting materials from a variety of sources to be provided to the Review Committee. 

The supporting materials should include (but not limited to) and be organized in the following order:

  1. Faculty information:
    a.  A list of current faculty indicating dates of employment at Bowdoin (indicating visiting status when applicable), PhD institutions and dates, and principle research and teaching interests
    b.  Faculty Staffing Profile including projected personnel actions and future leaves (provide by the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs)
    c.  Curriculum vitae of current faculty and instructional staff

  2. Requirements for the major and minor, its honors requirements, policies concerning off-campus study for majors, and learning goals

  3. Academic Data Profile (issued every spring from the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs and prepared in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Research, Analytics, and Consulting, and the Registrar's Office) to include historical data on:
    a.  Majors & minors; double & coordinate majors
    b.  Course history
    c.  Course enrollments
    d.  List of independent studies
    e.  Advisee counts

  4. Three-year curriculum plan

  5. Career paths of graduates

  6. Invited guests (lecturers, performers, in-class speakers) for the last five years

  7. Department/program's End-of-Year report for the last five years

  8. Report from prior external review and department/program response

Finalizing and Submitting the Self-Study

The chair/director submits a near-final draft of the narrative and a table of contents for the entire Self-Study to the associate dean six weeks before the Review Committee's visit. (All data cited in the self-study narrative must correspond to the data provided in the Academic Data Profile reports.) Within two weeks, the associate dean reviews the document with the chair/director, and suggests revisions.  

The department/program submits a total of nine binders to the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs four weeks before the Review Committee's visit:  eight binders to include double-sided copies of the final Self-Study (including all supporting material except the course syllabi); and one binder to include a double-sided copy of all the syllabi of courses taught over the past 2-3 years. Syllabi should also be saved electronically in individual pdf formats and sent to acadaffs@bowdoin.edu.  These materials will be made available to reviewers by the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs.

Structure of Review Committee Visit

The Review Committee visit typically takes place over a two-day period. The scheduling of meeting times for individual faculty and staff is arranged by the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs in consultation with the department chair/program director (who shares it with departmental/program colleagues).  Among other possible meetings, the schedule will include:

  • Meetings with all faculty members in the department - ideally on an individual basis. While it may be necessary that meetings include more than one faculty member, individual meetings with tenure-track (junior) faculty are a priority.
  • Meetings (if possible) or phone conversations with faculty on leave
  • Group or individual consultations with other members of the instructional staff
  • Consultation with students (majors and minors)
  • Meetings with relevant faculty from other departments or programs
  • Exit interview with all department/program faculty
  • Consultation with the president and the academic deans

Follow-Up

Following the on-campus visit, the Review Committee prepares a written report (usually within four to six weeks) and submits it to the Dean for Academic Affairs. The associate dean checks the report for completeness and shares the final report with the president and the department/program (usually within two weeks). The department/program meets to discuss the report’s findings and formulate a response. A written response is submitted to the Dean for Academic Affairs (normally within one month).  Finally, the report and the written response form the focus of at least one meeting between the dean, associate deans and the department/program faculty to discuss the report and its implications (normally within six months of the campus visit).  Departments/programs and the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs will maintain an archive of the reports that serve as formal records for College planning.  This is an important record that will guide and inform future decisions about the department/program, its curriculum, and its staffing.