In 1999 Brigham Young University initiated educational support unit reviews for the express purpose of responding to accreditation requirements and also to foster an environment of continuous assessment and improvement. The university currently utilizes a 7 year calendar to assure that each educational support unit is reviewed during a reasonable timeframe. The calendar is updated on an annual basis in response to organizational and leadership changes. Reviews are conducted on a January to December cycle with 7 to 9 units being reviewed each calendar year.
The university has established a committee called the Educational Support Unit Review (ESUR) committee comprised of 20 individuals from various departments across campus. These individuals are generally administrative, high level, seasoned employees with skills in assessment, analysis, interviewing, and writing. Each unit review generally consists of 3 members from the ESUR committee, with one member designated as the team lead. Committee members serve for at least 3 years on the committee and often for 4 or more years.
Each unit review involves a self-study written by unit leaders and others within the unit. The self-study instructions establish specific criteria to be provided for use by the internal and external reviewers. The process is assisted by requesting that unit leaders respond to specific questions within each broad area of focus. There are 6 broad topics covered in each self-study, including an Executive Summary, Mission and Goals, Stewardships and Unit Structure, Services and Processes, Assessment and Evaluation, and Resources and Facilities. The self-study instructions can be seen in their entirety by accessing http://assess.byu.edu/edsupportreviews/instructionsandforms.
An expert in the field is determined from a list provided by unit leadership. This external reviewer is invited to participate in the actual unit review consisting of 2 days of interviews with pertinent individuals. Interviews are conducted conjointly with the internal team from the ESUR committee and the external reviewer during the scheduled two days.
The external reviewer is asked to write an independent report providing his/her insights and recommendations. The internal team writes a separate report, informed by the external report. The internal report is vetted at a monthly meeting of the ESUR committee where feedback is provided from the entire committee of 20 individuals. The report is then sent to the unit leaders for a “fact check,” allowing them to suggest changes of a factual or objective nature. Once feedback is obtained from the unit, the report is rewritten for accuracy, published along with the self-study and external report, and presented in a meeting to the appropriate line Vice President. Copies are then provided to unit leaders.
Line management is tasked with effectively using the external/internal reports to create a plan of action and to make necessary changes within the unit.