Self-Study

The self-study (both the process and the resulting document) is a significant undertaking.  It should include a discussion of the department/program’s mission and history, a review of recent enrollment trends, an assessment of student learning, thoughts on future goals within the context of the discipline and the college.  It should discuss both the details of its curricular structure and offerings while assessing their strengths and limitations using multiple measures including a review of recent enrollment trends and perspectives from students (including former students where possible) as well as all faculty and staff related to the academic unit.  The study should pinpoint the kinds of questions, issues, and problems that the academic unit wants to communicate to the external reviewers, the CAP and the CPC.

Each unit’s self-study may be organized in whatever manner best allows it to highlight the most relevant information for the CAP, CPC, and external committee.  The following list may help in planning the unit’s discussions of the elements that should included in the self-study (though not all categories will be equally relevant for all units).  Samples of self-study documents from units that have recently completed a review are available from the Dean of Faculty’s Office.

Department/program perspective:

  • How would you describe the role and value of your discipline or interdisciplinary field for a liberal arts college education?
  • Describe the shape, goals, efficacy of the curriculum offered to majors, concentrators, and non-majors/concentrators.  Do you have departmental or program-wide learning objectives?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum offered?  Are students learning what you want them to learn, and how do you know?
  • How much choice do students have in shaping the curriculum to suit their particular interests? What drives their choices (intellectual interests? other forces?)
  • How is the curriculum staffed?  How stable is the staffing?  Have there been changes over the years?  To what do you attribute these changes?
  • How many courses/faculty contribute from within the unit?  Outside of the unit?  How do you assess this balance?
  • Are there particular elements of the curriculum that require particular consideration (such as labs, studios, and rehearsals)?
  • What students (and how many) are served by core courses?  Does this match your goals for which students (and how many) you aspire to serve?
  • Are there particular trends in how students proceed from the core courses to more specialized courses in terms of timing, numbers, demographic shifts…?
  • How many majors/concentrators are there?  How has that changed over the years, and why?
  • Describe other co-curricular elements of the program (seminars, academic support, social activities…)
  • Provide a summary of faculty scholarly activity.
  • What kinds of opportunities do you offer students to conduct research with faculty?
  • Are the budget, administrative support, and infrastructure/facilities appropriate and adequate?
  • What do your majors/concentrators go on to do?  Can you say anything about what those who don’t major or concentrate but take courses in your unit go on to do?
  • Discuss internal dynamics in the department/program: how does the unit conduct mentoring of newer faculty? How does the unit prepare faculty members to assume leadership roles in the unit or the college more broadly?  Has there been effective leadership and mentoring in the unit—if so, what are its main features; if less so, how might it be improved?
  • Overall, what could be improved?  Can you articulate a strategy for those improvements?  That is, if you work to strengthen one area, how will your priorities in other areas shift?
  • What specific questions would you like the reviewers to consider about any of the above topics?

Disciplinary perspective:

  • How does the curriculum offered relate to the broader discipline or field?
  • What choices have been made historically about the curriculum with respect to the broader discipline or field?  Will/should those change in the future?
  • What could be improved?
  • Can you articulate a strategy for those improvements?  That is, if you work to strengthen one area, how will your priorities in other areas shift?
  • How well are your majors or concentrators prepared for continuing on in the discipline of field, and how do you know?  To what extent is this a goal in your unit?

Institutional perspective:

  • Describe the role of the unit and area of study within the college
  • Describe the unit’s specific contributions to other departments or programs.
  • Describe the unit’s contributions to college-wide curricular objectives such as QFR, WI, EDI, and the tutorial program.
  • Describe the unit’s contributions to other college-wide objectives such as increasing faculty and student diversity, contributing or participating in campus-wide discourse.
    • What challenges does your department face in achieving diversity goals?
    • What strategies have you adopted in order to increase the diversity in your courses/major.  Have these been successful
    • If you need to limit enrollments in courses, what criteria do you use to do this?
    • What forms of distinction are available for students in your unit, and how do you select students for these distinctions?

Addenda:

  • CVs for all members of the department.
  • Sample syllabi, if desired.
  • Any other information that the department chooses to compile.  This might include: relevant sections of the course catalog, a schedule of department events, equipment lists, tables of enrollment data, staffing data, questionnaires fielded…)