Middle States Updates: Self-Study Complete, Visit Planning Underway

We are a little more than one month away from our Middle States Team Visit.  Here is what you need to know:

  • The Team Visit is scheduled for March 26 through March 29.  The team is being led by Dr. Anne Skleder, Provost and Senior Vice President of Wilkes University.
  • Meetings with a variety of campus constituents and Dr. Skleder and the nine team members are being scheduled over the course of those several days, including meetings with undergraduate and graduate students, members of the Board of Trustees, the Executive Team, Faculty Council Executive Committee, and the Student Learning Assessment Advisory Group.
  • Faculty are invited to attend an open forum on Monday, March 27 OR Tuesday, March 28.  Two meetings are being held in order to provide options for faculty schedules.  Both meetings will be held at 4pm in the Webb Room.
  • The final self-study report is now available to the entire campus community.  Under “Committees” in Campus Cruiser, members of the Widener community will find a link called “Widener Middle States Self Study.”  The PDF may be accessed there, with links to supporting documentation.  Please consider reviewing the report prior to the Team Visit.

As always, please feel free to get in touch with any of the tri-chairs with questions.

Visit from Middle States Team Chair

Last week, on November 10, our Middle States Team Chair came to campus in preparation for the March evaluation visit.  The Team Chair, Dr. Anne Skleder, met with key groups to advance our re-accreditation process to the next stage.  These included Faculty Council Executive Committee, the Student Learning Assessment Advisory Group, members of the Executive Team, members of the Board of Trustees, and student leaders, as well as the Middle States Steering Committee.  Dr. Skleder explained the accreditation process and gave a sense of how the March visit will go and what we can expect.  All in all, those who met with her found her to be a good listener, clear communicator, and experienced evaluator.

Dr. Skleder, who is Senior Vice President and Provost at Wilkes University, will lead a team of eight evaluators; the team arrives on March 26 and will be working with us until March 29.  Meanwhile, we await specific feedback from Dr. Skleder on our self-study.  Another round of revisions will take place based on her comments, before the final report goes to the team six weeks before the visit.

Feedback Welcome on the Middle States Self-Study

The comment period on the Middle States self-study is underway.  An open meeting was held yesterday in Lathem Hall, and the campus community was invited to join members of the Steering Committee to share feedback.  Turnout was fairly good, comments and questions were collected, and the tri-chairs were able to provide some insight into the process.

Feedback, questions, and comments are welcome; the deadline is September 20.  Feel free to send your thoughts to the tri-chairs!

Welcome Back from Widener Middle States!

We hope our colleagues (and steadfast blog readers) have had a productive and restful summer.  The Middle States team has been working all summer on multiple drafts of the self-study report, and we are just about ready to share the document with the campus community.

The Steering Committee met today to provide feedback to the tri-chairs, who will now commence preparing a new version for wide dissemination.  Once all Steering Committee feedback is collected by the tri-chairs (deadline: Monday, August 29th), a newly edited document will then be available to the campus community on September 1.

All members of the campus community are invited to a Town Hall to discuss the draft, to be held on September 8 from 3–4 (location TBD).  Feedback is welcome and encouraged.  Those who cannot make the Town Hall are invited to send any comments and feedback to Janine Utell by September 20.   At the General Faculty meeting tomorrow, August 25, Provost Wilhite will share additional news and updates.

As always, please get in touch with any questions!  Happy new semester!

Middle States and Peer Review

The Middle States Steering Committee has completed its peer review of working group drafts.  Now it’s on to the next deadline:  revisions of working group reports are due April 1.

Peer review has played an important role in the Middle States process up to now.  Each working group draft was assigned primary and secondary reviewers, co-chairs of other groups whose work showed significant linkages to the report under review.  Co-chairs provided comments on drafts, and a wide-ranging and constructive discussion was had over two days as feedback was shared.

Interested in the role writing and peer review is playing in this process?  Much of our direction in this area was taken from our former VP Bob Schneider, who recommended this article to us:  Eloise Knowlton, “Through the Rearview Looking Glass: Collaborative Writing and the Accreditation Self-Study,”  Assessment Update 25:5 (Sept-Oct 2013).  Click here for a PDF.

Professors Krouse and Utell will be sharing updates on our process at today’s faculty meeting.  Can’t make it?  Here are the slides:

And here’s some peer review in action:
Tim Cairy, Director of Student Success and Retention and Co-Chair, Working Group IV
Tim Cairy, Director of Student Success and Retention and Co-Chair, Working Group IV

Working Group Draft Reports Are In

All of the Middle States Working Groups have submitted their first drafts.  These drafts are undergoing peer review by members of the Steering Committee. Committee members have been asked to comment on drafts, as well as consider these guiding questions as they read:

  • Are all self-study design questions for the standard answered sufficiently? If not, which questions need to be addressed?
  • Is sufficient evidence provided to affirm compliance with all criteria of the standard? If not, where is more evidence needed?
  • Are there any conflicting statements in the draft report with your own Working Group report?
  • Is the draft report reflective of all pertinent areas of the institution (eg, undergraduate, graduate, schools of law, or faculty, staff, and administration)?
  • Is the rationale for recommendations in the draft report sufficiently detailed in the report?
  • Does the draft report provide sufficient discussion of how assessment results are used in relation to the standard?
  • Are there additional exemplar examples that you would recommend adding to the narrative to reinforce compliance with the standard criteria?

The Steering Committee will be meeting in the several weeks before midterm break to share feedback on these draft reports.  Revisions to the Working Group reports are due April 1.  Members of the campus community will have ample opportunity to share feedback starting in August, once the first draft of the entire self-study is completed over the summer.

In the meantime, Professors Krouse and Utell will be giving a quick update at the General Faculty Meeting on February 22 — feel free to ask questions then, before, after, anytime!

PS: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is working on putting together our evaluation team.  Interested in how that process works?  Read more here.

A New Semester, and a Deadline

Happy new semester!  We hope the holidays were restful for all.

The winter break continued to be a productive time for those of us working on Middle States.  Meetings for the tri-chairs and the working groups have been calendared, and we are looking forward to our next major deadline:  first drafts of reports from the working groups.  These are due on February 1, and we’ve got a pretty busy schedule of meetings through February so that those teams can get revisions done by April 1.

Interested in the process?  Here’s a closer look (grabbed from our self-study design):

The working group reports are essential for crafting the final self-study report. They provide vital input in terms of analysis and recommendations; however, they are not the final self-study report. The final self-study report is crafted through collaboration among the working groups and steering committee, and finally synthesized by the tri-chairs. The working group report drafts will be subject to extensive feedback from the steering committee and tri-chairs, and the final drafts will be edited for consistent style, voice, and format.

The working groups should see their purpose in writing to be analyzing the relevant documents to determine how well we are doing in achieving our mission and gleaning evidence thereof; and making recommendations which are connected to strategic priorities, and which are finite and manageable. The purpose is not to describe everything at the institution related to the standard, nor is it to provide a history. The strongest evidence and most representative examples should be chosen to illustrate how well we are doing in meeting the standard under consideration. We might think of the process of writing the working group reports and the final self-study report as analyzing evidence and drawing conclusions the way one might for a research article, and the drafts will be subject to a similar kind of “peer review” and editing process.

Once the working group drafts have been submitted, they will be read in a form of “peer review” by the steering committee. The steering committee is responsible for making sure the standards are addressed, solid evidence and examples are selected and interpreted, and that appropriate analysis and recommendations are included. The steering committee will make suggestions, note connections across reports from different groups, and review the strength of the analysis and the quality of the recommendations.  The working groups will then work on revisions, to be submitted to the steering committee for final review. The tri-chairs will then work on synthesizing the working group final reports, making any necessary revisions, and editing to create the self-study report draft.

Members of the campus community should, as always, feel free to get in touch with questions, either online or off — we’ll be available at the General Faculty Meeting on February 22 for updates and questions, too.  Have a good spring!