Programme of Study: Assessment of Alignment with Policies and Procedures for Academic Programmes

Original Editor - Stacy Schiurring based on the course by Larisa Hoffman

Top Contributors - Stacy Schiurring

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Professional programmes are expected to perform a self-evaluation on the success of the programme.  This is often done using a quality improvement process:  Planning, Doing, Studying, and Acting.[1]    Applying this process to evaluating policies, means establishing policies, reflecting on implementation of the policies, critically appraising the utility of the policy and revising the policy.

Policy Creation[edit | edit source]

The establishment of policies guides members of the programme and promotes consistency amongst the leaders.  This is especially useful when there is disagreement or conflict between or among faculty members and students.  Creating a process where faculty members collaborate to generate common expectations for students that shape policies encourages members to be adherent to the policies. 

Policies must be shared with both the students and the faculty, such that expectations are clear in advance.  Policies are often published in student handbooks and course syllabi.  

Examples of policies in an academic programme include:

  • programme requirements including technical requirements
  • academic progression, remediation and retention
  • professional behaviour
  • attendance and participation
  • clinical readiness
  • student-faculty conflicts
  • student advising

Ensuring Policy Success[edit | edit source]

Ensuring the adherence to policies, requires the development of processes.  Processes can include establishment of a checklist, reflective questions to guide discussions, actionable steps to guide the development of a plan, and a documentation system to ensure a plan is implemented.  

Real-life example: defining the technical requirements for students can guide the admissions process. If an applicant has a physical or cognitive disability, the technical requirements can guide members of the admissions committee on whether the applicant meets the programme’s requirements.  In this example, a checklist can be created for applicants to complete prior to admissions.  In a similar way, prior to a clinical experience, a student’s readiness for clinical learning should be confirmed.  A list of clinical skills and behaviors can guide a discussion amongst faculty members to determine a student’s readiness. [2]

Policy Evaluation[edit | edit source]

Finally, policies must be evaluated and revised.  The review can be led by programme leaders or a committee of faculty members (such as a handbook committee), but policies should be reviewed prior to admission of a new cohort of students.  Evaluation of policies should include a review of the (1) clarity of the policy, (2) adherence to the policy, and the (3) impact of the policy.  

  1. Clarity of the policy
    • Policies should be clearly articulated along with a statement for the intent of the policy.  For example, a poorly articulated policy regarding academic progression can create confusion amongst students and academic advisors. 
    • Student progression policies usually have three criteria: cumulative grade point average (GPA), pace (course load), and maximum timeframe.  In this example, a student could receive an unsatisfactory grade in a single course and continue to progress in the programme.  Adding clarity to the policy that a student requires a minimum grade of “C+” or better in each course in order to progress in the programme.  
  2. Adherence to the policy
    • Students and faculty members should be able to adhere to policies.  Policies that are cumbersome or irrelevant may not be implemented as intended, and thus identifying barriers to implementation of policies is necessary.  For example, attendance and participation policies are often created with the intent that course instructors will document unexcused student absences. 
    • Without a mechanism to evaluate student participation, it is often challenging to record student engagement in course activities.  Creating simple formative measures (quiz, reflection, or demonstration) in a class can document a student’s familiarity with a topic, which may be one way to document student’s participation.    
  3. Impact of the policy
    • Evaluating the policies impact is important, as policies can have unintended consequences.  For example, a dress code that is based on sex assigned at birth, can exclude students who are transgender, gender–nonconforming, or nonbinary.  Establishing a dress code for all people, can reduce the exclusion of specific groups of students.  

Resources[edit | edit source]

Recommended Reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Brown JF, Marshall BL. Continuous quality improvement: An effective strategy for improvement of program outcomes in a higher education setting. Nursing Education Perspectives. 2008 Jul 1;29(4):205-11.
  2. Francis NJ, Salzman A, Polomsky D, Huffman E. Accommodations for a student with a physical disability in a professional physical therapist education program. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2007 Oct 1;21(2):60-5.