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The Purpose of Academic Program Review

Academic program review (APR) within the Division of Academic Affairs is common practice in most colleges and universities and is an essential component of institutional and program accreditation processes. A national movement toward promoting outcome assessment has shaped how faculty members approach the review of their programs, particularly in relation to student learning outcomes assessment.

To improve the quality of teaching and learning, APR should increase faculty members' awareness of their educational goals and practices. It should encourage identification of successful areas of the program as well as those requiring change.

To be effective, an APR requires:

  • a clear specification of desired educational outcomes
  • evidence of achievement
  • documentation of strategic planning and its implementation

James Madison University firmly believes that periodic structured reviews are necessary for thoughtful reflection on program outcomes and for possible external consultation on key program issues. The APR process should not be initiated or viewed solely as a response by administrators to external constituencies or a crisis situation, but to the ultimate goal of improving the program.

APR at JMU

James Madison University (JMU) recognizes the need for APR to demonstrate program effectiveness for students, to require data necessary for allocation of resources and to be responsive to constituents throughout the university community. Each area within the Division of Academic Affairs conducts an APR; the type of APR depends on the type of unit conducting the review.

Degree Granting and Other Academic Areas

Degree Granting and Other Academic APRs are reviews conducted internally by undergraduate and graduate degree-granting academic programs or programs driven by student outcomes. Degree Granting and Other Academic APRs follow the guidelines in the Internal Self-Study Report. This comprehensive review seeks assessment and/or evaluative information about the entire program or unit. Degree Granting and Other Academic APRs must be conducted every eight years with an interim report due every four years. The intent of this report is to update program status and examine programmatic issues as outlined in the Internal Self-Study Report.

External Accreditation

External Accreditation APRs are reviews conducted by outside agencies. A review by an accrediting agency may be substituted for the Degree Granting and Academic Support Areas Review if it is outcome-based, demonstrates substantial JMU faculty involvement and includes an on-campus visit from the accrediting agency. Student learning outcomes and assessment must be part of the External Accreditation APR. Use of an external accreditation review (in place of a Degree Granting and Academic Support Area APR) must be approved by the Provost.

The External Accreditation APR must meet all the requirements for a Degree Granting and Academic Support Area APR to be used in place of the traditional comprehensive APR. For requirements not covered in an accreditation report, the program will provide supplemental documentation.

Academic Administrative Areas

Academic Administrative Area APRs are reviews conducted on programs in the Division of Academic Affairs that support academic programs but do not offer degrees or are not driven by student outcomes. These guidelines are negotiated prior to the start of the self-study by the involved administrative unit and representatives chosen by the provost from the supervising vice provost, director and others. Recommendations by national organizations/professional bodies should be considered in developing guidelines. The schedule for Academic Administrative Area APRs is determined by the Division of Academic Affairs and the individual administrative unit, and they must be conducted on a five-year cycle.

APR is a continuous process that recognizes the importance of faculty reflecting on the effectiveness of how they advise and teach, resulting in continual modifications to courses and programs. This continuous process is reinforced at JMU through:

  • University mission, vision, values and performance measures  as documented in the JMU-Star tool
  • University six-year plan and Institutional Performance Standards (IPS)
  • Core Qualities
  • Academic unit and college annual planning and reporting processes
  • Student outcomes and Assessment Progress Template (APT)
Questions about APR?

If you have questions about the APR process, contact Dr. Jeanne Martino-McAllister.

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