What Accreditors Say: Changes in Approach To Accreditation Practice
by Phyllis C. Safman
In December 1997, CHEA mailed a survey to eighty-one regional and specialized accreditors asking them to describe any cooperative initiatives among accrediting organizations and any recent departures from typical accreditation activity within individual accrediting organizations that might be underway. These efforts might address changes in how self-studies are developed, how visiting teams are constituted, how team reports are prepared and how data are collected and shared among accrediting organizations.
Thirty-five accreditors returned the survey. Of these, sixteen reported that they were undertaking or planning to undertake cooperative or other efforts. Ten accreditors are actually engaged in these efforts and six are planning to do so. Nineteen of the respondents reported that they are not pursuing such efforts at this time, although several were considering such activity.
Collaborative Evaluations by Regional and Specialized Accrediting Organizations
Regional and specialized accreditors form a single review team that collects information, interviews personnel, reviews facilities, and writes a single report. The institution and accreditors agree upon a calendar, team size, and the focus of the self-study. Individual accrediting organizations, however, retain responsibility for their respective organizational decisions.
Three-year Collaborative Accreditation Review
This multi-year approach concentrates the accreditation reviews of the participating regional and specialized accreditors for an institution within a three-year time frame. In addition to scheduling the accreditation reviews within the three-year time period, accreditors would also share data and develop common reporting formats. The three-year effort focuses on enhancing the integration of accreditation review with ongoing institutional activity and cost-reduction to institutions.
An American visiting team joins with an accreditor in another country to conduct collaborative reviews and, over time, build understanding of differences about accrediting and quality assurance standards in various countries.
Alliance of Subspecialties
Nursing accreditors in subspecialties such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners develop common standards and joint accreditation processes including a resource center of self-study materials and good practices.
Choice of Self-study Topics
Now mainly used in large institutions, an institution may consult with an accreditor about emphasizing topics of particular importance to the institution during the self-study and site visit.
Reduced Number of Site Visits
A specialized accreditor may determine that site visits are not necessary for some programs within institutions that have been regionally accredited.
Reduced Size of Visiting Teams
Whenever possible, the size of the accrediting team is reduced, perhaps reducing the cost of accreditation to an institution.
Use of Annual Questionnaire
Conforming its annual questionnaire to its site visit questionnaire, a specialized accreditor minimizes unnecessary duplication of effort and maximizes consistency of information.
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The responses of accreditors indicate interest in precluding duplication of effort among accreditors and institutions and sensitivity to cost-reduction for institutions and accrediting organizations alike. The responses of accreditors also reflect interest in some departure from typical accreditation review. CHEA can assist accreditors and institutions by encouraging the use of inter-organizational models and strategies in accreditation review, adding description of these efforts to its good practices data base, and convening accreditors and institutional representatives to share information and discuss issues. •