Elements of Department Self-Study

September 2008

This is an annotated outline of the elements to be found in a typical department or program self-study. Of course, not all these elements are appropriate for all departments, and it is not expected that every self-study will contain every one of these elements.

While it is not necessary to adhere to this outline exactly, it is a convenient way to organize the information, and if it can be adhered to, the task of the Provost’s office in reviewing the self-study is greatly facilitated. Whether or not its structure is used, this outline may be seen as a checklist providing an overview of the major elements that should be included in the self-study—that is, a list of the important questions which it should answer. Some departments find it convenient to include recommendations in many of the self-study subsections, numbered and in boldface, and then gather these recommendations together in a concluding Summary of Recommendations.

As the department develops its self-study, the intended audiences should be kept in mind: the department itself, college reviewers including administrators, and the external review panel. It is clearly in the department’s interests to present itself accurately and completely to these audiences. Most data requested need only be provided for the previous five years, except for student enrollment data which should look back over the past ten years to provide a better perspective. Much of the data can be provided by the Office of Institutional Research.

1 Introduction

1.1    Mission Statement

This is a statement of the department’s sense of itself and its goals and mission. These should be related to the mission of Queens College and the university. For reference, the current mission statement of the college may be found in the Strategic Plan 2015-2020.

Note that Section 1,1 Mission, and Section 7.6, Future of Department, are connected with one another. The College Strategic Plan should guide the development of these sections. A clear and thorough statement of the department’s mission makes a concrete and achievable plan for the next five to seven years much easier to conceptualize and to write. These “bookends” of the self-study are useful both for external reviewers and for internal constituencies, providing these audiences an understanding of the department’s raison d’être, its place within the curricular and programmatic life of the college, and its planned future development.

1.2    Department History and Structure

This section provides a useful historical summary both for reviewers and for future readers within the department. The description of department structure should list positions of responsibility within the department such as the department P&B, advising and recruiting positions, technicians, and program heads. The individuals currently holding these positions should be indicated. Also list department committees and their functions and current membership.

1.3    Overview and Highlights of the Self-Study

This executive summary of the self-study provides guidance to the reader and allows the department to emphasize key points upfront.

2 Full-Time Faculty

Describe the current faculty, including their number, their teaching and research specializations, their publications and other scholarly and creative activities, and their teaching in the college, graduate school, and elsewhere. Much of this information could conveniently be presented in tabular form. Current curriculum vitae of all faculty should go in Appendix I.

2.1    Number and Historical Trends


2.2    Background and Specializations

Provide brief sketches of faculty members, including their degrees/institutions, and areas of specialization in teaching and research. This may be done in tabular form. Describe thrusts or broad areas of specialization in teaching and research addressed by the department.

2.3    Scholarship and Creative Activity (Publications, Productions, etc)

Curriculum vitae should be placed in Appendix I. This section should give an overview of scholarly production by the department as a whole, and provide a full listing of all scholarly activity completed in the prior five year period.

2.4    Teaching Outside Department

If applicable, describe undergraduate and graduate level teaching performed by department faculty.

2.5    Analysis

The composition and quality of the faculty should be analyzed with respect to the affirmative action goals of the College, overall age and other demographic diversity, and college citizenship contributions.    

2.5.1   Affirmative Action Goals

2.5.2   Age and Diversity Distribution

2.5.3   College, University, Professional, and Departmental Service

This topic has to do with the participation of the department in the life of the college, understood broadly, through service of its members in administrative capacities on committees and governing bodies, and in other capacities that may extend to the university, the profession, and the community.

2.6    Recent Recruitment

Describe recent faculty recruitment activities, including the search process and selection criteria.

2.7    Evaluation

Describe departmental procedures for the evaluation of faculty (and staff, as appropriate) for re-appointment, tenure and promotion. Mention specifically methods used to assess the quality of scholarly or creative work, teaching and other professionally relevant service. Copies of departmental assessment instruments (such as student surveys) should be provided in Appendix III. Knowledge of the criteria for evaluation is important for all promotable faculty and thus plays an important role in the ongoing life of the department. While making those criteria explicit is worth doing on that basis alone, the department should also describe, in Section 2.8, what arrangements are in place to help faculty meet its standards for promotion and tenure.

2.8 Faculty Development Efforts

Describe the department’s efforts to facilitate faculty development, in teaching and in research, including assistance in obtaining external funding. Also describe the College’s role in faculty development as it pertains to your department.

3 Adjunct Faculty, Teaching Assistants, Visiting Professors

Describe how adjunct faculty and, if applicable, graduate student instructors, graduate teaching fellows, and visiting professors (fractional only, full-time visiting professors should be listed in section 2) are recruited, selected, supervised, and evaluated. Also describe in section 3.1 approximately how many individuals in each of the listed categories taught in the department in the most recent semester.

3.1    Notable Individuals and Their Contributions

In many departments, adjunct faculty of long standing, or with distinguished backgrounds, contribute in special ways to the education of undergraduate or graduate students. This section describes the contributions and accomplishments of these individuals. The role of graduate student instructors and teaching fellows may also be described in this section.

3.2    Recruitment and Selection


3.3    Supervision and Development

Particularly if a significant fraction of the teaching in the department is done by adjuncts, it is important for the department to explain how teaching by adjuncts is supervised and how their teaching can be improved and otherwise developed.

3.4    Evaluation

Normally teaching evaluations by students and faculty classroom observations are required for adjunct faculty. The procedures by which the department does this, and the results, should be presented here. This may be a particular concern when the adjuncts are mostly graduate students, who are normally selected for their research or scholarly potential, not for their pedagogical skills. 

4 Curriculum and Enrollments

This is perhaps the most important section of the self-study, as it is here that the department analyzes and assesses its curriculum, the means by which it achieves what is arguably its main mission: the education of its students.

4.1 Enrollments and Teaching Hours

Present and analyze the history of enrollments for the past ten years, based on data provided by the Office of Institutional Research (OIR). This should include data on FTE student enrollments (overall and for each regularly offered course) and on the number of undergraduate majors (plus minors if applicable) and graduate students in each program (e.g., masters, post-masters, certificate, and PhD programs). Discuss trends in each of the areas below and compare to the college as a whole.

4.1.1 FTE’s and Course Enrollments

4.1.2 Majors and Minors

4.1.3 Graduate Programs

4.1.4 Teaching Hours

The analysis of teaching hours should include a table showing the number of hours per instructor for each of the previous ten semesters (fall and spring) taught by tenured faculty, by untenured faculty, and by all other instructors. In a second table, show the total number of hours taught annually by tenured, untenured, and other instructors in evening classes, in the Macaulay Honors College, in the Weekend College, and on Fridays. Provide a quantitative description of the number of hours taught by tenured faculty in introductory (i.e., lower division) undergraduate courses on an annual basis for the prior three year period. OIR will provide much of the requested data, as well as college-wide averages. Discuss, with quantitative detail, the amount of course release time available to the department, and how release time is distributed.

4.2 Curriculum: Contributions of Department to College Programs

Outline the contribution of the department to the liberal arts and sciences goals of other departments in the Division and the College, both generally as well as specifically for those courses qualifying as General Education (GenEd) requirements or designated as Writing Intensive. Include a description of how GenEd and Writing Intensive courses are reviewed in order to ensure that the goals of the GenEd and English Composition requirements are being met.

4.2.1 Liberal Arts and Sciences Goals of the Division and College:

4.2.2 GenEd

4.2.3 Writing Intensive

4.2.4 FYI (Freshman Year Initiative)

4.2.5 Evening Division

Describe evening, weekend, and summer session courses the department offers. Include a discussion of how its offerings in these areas are monitored for quality and academic integrity.

4.2.6 Weekend College

4.2.7 Summer and Winter Sessions

4.2.8 Other Teaching Contributions

Discuss contributions the department curriculum offerings make to majors in other departments, including where applicable the following: LEAP, ACE, Honors programs, external master’s and PhD programs, interdisciplinary programs, College NOW, Early College, curriculum supporting in-service teachers and NCATE.

4.2.9 CUNY Graduate School Master’s and PhD Programs

Explain the academic, administrative, and financial roles played by departmental faculty in the programs of the CUNY Graduate School, and describe the impact of these programs on the department and the College

4.2.10 Special Programs

Describe the range of “special programs” offered to matriculants, non-matriculants, and students with “special” needs. This includes, but is not limited to, remedial and developmental programs for academically disadvantaged students, programs for the physically challenged, tutorial (including web-based tools), and immersion programs.


4.3 Curriculum: Programs for Undergraduate Majors and Minors

Outline the department’s program(s) for majors and minors, and describe typical path(s) of majors and minors, gathered from transcripts as well as from current students. The requirements for the major should be analyzed with respect to the college’s GenEd and general degree requirements and the expectation that students should study more advanced and cumulatively integrated subject matter as they progress toward graduation, and with respect to the diversity of talents and ways of learning in the student body.

4.3.1 Structure and Goals of the Major and Minor

4.3.2 Typical Student Paths Through Major and Minor

4.3.3 Analysis of Major

Describe the General Education requirements, and the requirements for the degree or degrees. (Note that the department’s Bulletin pages are typically attached in Appendix II.) Also describe opportunities for advanced or integrated study, and how diversity of talents and ways of learning are addressed. Finally, analyze the relationship between the department’s major and specialized and pre-professional programs, particularly those subject to certification or accreditation by external agencies.

4.3.4 Advisement and Student/Faculty Contact

Describe how majors and minors are advised, and include the frequency and quality of faculty-student interactions, for example, in student clubs for majors, at department functions such as colloquia, major days, or other special events.

4.3.5 Course Offerings

Provide an overview of courses listed in the appendices.

4.3.6 Comparison with Other Institutions

Provide comparisons of the department’s major(s) with those at other comparable institutions This information is useful for both internal and external audiences and gives substance to the department’s appraisal of the quality, etc. of its major. The department should specify the criteria used to choose the institutions with which to compare its major—select institutions both within and outside CUNY. The other majors should be analyzed and compared to that of the department.

4.3.7 Projections for Increases or Decreases in Enrollment

4.3.8 Plans for New or Revised Programs

4.4 Curriculum: Graduate Programs

The PhD curriculum should be described only if the courses are offered primarily on the college campus, rather than at the graduate school.

4.4.1 Master’s, BA/MA, Certificate, Post-Master’s, or Other Programs

4.4.2 Typical Student Paths through Graduate Programs

4.4.3 Analysis of Programs

Describe the admissions requirements, and the general degree or certificate requirements.

4.4.4 Advisement and Student/Faculty Contact

4.4.5 Course Offerings

Provide an overview of courses listed in the appendices.

4.4.6 Comparison with Other Institutions Inside and Outside CUNY

4.4.7 Projections for Increases or Decreases in Enrollment

4.4.8 Plans for New or Revised Programs

4.5 Curriculum: Programs for Non-Majors

Discuss the participation of non-majors in the department’s courses. If appropriate, describe typical paths of non-majors as they use the department’s offerings.

4.6 Assessment of Effectiveness of Curriculum

Describe the methods by which the department assesses the quality and viability of its courses and programs and determines how well they meet the objectives of the curriculum. Outcomes assessment is increasingly emphasized nationally as such assessment provides important guidance to program improvement. Indeed, both Middle States, our regional accrediting agency, and the Department of Education of the State of New York mandate that we engage in ongoing curricular assessment. Departments should strive to enhance their current assessment plans. The first step in this, with regard to students majoring in a department, is to articulate what a graduate should know and be able to do; this is normally part of a department’s mission statement in Section 1. In this Section, 4.6, the department should then explain the procedures it uses to determine whether the curriculum is effective in achieving the outcomes sought by the department. Depending on the mission of the department, these methods (“instruments”) may include in-course evaluations of student achievement, capstone courses, and measurement of student attitudes and learning through surveys. Effectiveness should be measured for both majors and, if possible, for non-majors, and should study both currently registered students (for example, sophomores and seniors) as well as alums of the program. Help in contacting alums can be provided by the Alumni Affairs Office (Director , Joe Brostek, 997 3930), which can, for example, supply names and addresses, and even mailing labels, for recent graduates, and the Provost’s office can help with mailings. In addition, faculty perceptions of the program should be included. Assistance can be provided for web-based surveys. If surveys are used, examples of typical surveys can be supplied by the Provost’s office; these should be revised to be appropriate to the department’s curricular goals. Copies of the surveys or other instruments used should be included in appendices.

4.6.1 Methods and Instruments Used

4.6.2 Measured Effectiveness in Achieving Desired Objectives

Consider students currently in the program, alumni of the program, and faculty.

4.6.3 Use of Assessment to Improve Programs

One of the most important aims of outcomes assessment is to use the information obtained to identify and correct deficiencies in the department’s programs. Describe how the assessment information obtained is used to improve the department’s programs.

5 Students

5.1    Undergraduate

This should be a summary and analysis of the career choices and perceptions of a random sample of recent graduates from the major, derived from mail or telephone interviews, discussions, or focus groups. This section should not be confused with Section 4.6 above. The goal here is to determine whether the curriculum successfully meets the needs of the department’s students. To do this, the department should identify those alums who have professional aspirations and find out from them which features of the department’s curriculum (and pedagogy) helped prepare for their current positions; which knowledge and skills continue to be of use; and what the graduates did not receive from the department, when they were its students, that they now find they should have had. Ultimately, the data collected from this process should be used to guide the department as it makes decisions about curriculum and pedagogy.

5.1.1   Diversity of Demographics

5.1.2   Perceptions of Program

5.1.3   Choices (Career, Graduate Study) after Graduation


5.2    Graduate

As for undergraduates, typically this information may be measured by contacting recent graduates of the program. Describe master’s and PhD students separately.

5.2.1   Perceptions of Program

5.2.2   Career Choices

6 Resources

Provide here a discussion of the current state of the resources (human, physical, and fiscal) which are available to carry out the department’s goals and objectives, and an evaluation of prospects for the future.

6.1    Current State: Department

6.1.1   Human Resources

6.1.2   Physical Resources

6.1.3   Fiscal Resources


6.2    Funding Sources

This should include information (including, but not limited to, total amounts) about and analysis of the department’s sources of funding, both tax levy and non-tax levy, including grants awarded to individual faculty members.

6.2.1   Tax Levy

6.2.2   Non-Tax Levy

6.3    Current State: Central (College and CUNY)

This is the place to analyze critically college and CUNY facilities, such as the library, film library, computer hardware and software, and learning resource centers, including their scope and their adequacy to support the instructional and research needs of the department’s programs.

6.3.1   Library Subscriptions, Holdings, and Services

6.3.2   Classrooms, Offices, Laboratories, and Studios

6.3.3   Computer (Hardware and Software), and Web Resources

7 Critical Self-Analysis and Priorities of Department

Describe and analyze, from the point of view of the department’s faculty, the department’s strengths and weaknesses, proposed changes, and other areas of concern. Special attention should be given to issues regarding faculty recruitment and retention, especially with regard to women and minorities, as recruitment often plays a vital role in the future of the department, to the extent that it is usually more convenient to first discuss the five-to-seven-year future of the department and the specific actions, particularly the recruitment of new faculty, needed to achieve that future. Note that a clear formulation of the department’s mission statement in Section 1 will greatly facilitate the discussion here of the department’s future. Indicate also how department plans coordinate with the College Strategic Plan.

7.1    Strengths


7.2    Weaknesses 

7.3 Progress since Prior Academic Program Review

Describe the prior five-year plan and discuss successes and failures. This is an important part of the outcomes assessment process at both the department and college level.

7.4    Proposed Changes in:

7.4.1   Department Organization

7.4.2   Programs and Curriculum

If the department plans no changes in its curriculum this should be stated. As most departments should be continuously thinking about improvements in their curriculum it is unlikely that no changes would be contemplated, at least over a five-to-seven-year period.

7.4.3   Resources


7.5    Outcomes Assessment Plan

For the next five-year period, describe the instruments to be used, their frequency of use, and the means by which data will be evaluated. Consult our Middle States self-study (Chapter 5) for information on outcomes assessment at the College (Self-Study). Also consult any guidelines and directives of the Queens College Outcomes Assessment Committee. In addition, the Center for Teaching and Learning is a valuable resource for information and advice on outcomes assessment.

7.5.1   Effectiveness of Curriculum

7.5.2   Success of Undergraduate and Graduate Programs 

7.6    Future of Department for Next Five to Seven Years


7.7    Faculty Recruitment and Retention 

7.8    Questions and Advice Sought from External Reviewers

Describe unsolved problems and concerns about which an external review panel might provide counsel.


I. Curriculum Vitae of Full-Time Faculty Members

All scholarly activities of the past five years should be listed.

II. Undergraduate and Graduate Bulletin Entries

Appropriate pages from the Undergraduate and Graduate Bulletins should be reproduced, and new course and program descriptions that have been approved by the Academic Senate should be appended.

III. Exhibits

Evaluations of the department by professionals, which are on the public record, should be gathered here.