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Program Review FAQs

Definitions of terms

What is an instructional program?

The State's definition is that a program is a series of related courses that lead to a degree or certificate. Broadly, a program is a series of courses that leads to an educational goal. At COS, the term "program" has also been applied to disciplines. For example, although COS no longer has a Biology degree, COS still has a Biology program.

In regard to COS Program Review, a program is a discipline (like Biology, Nursing, Mathematics, or English) or a group of related disciplines (like Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology, which fall under the umbrella of the Social Sciences program). The term program is often applied to a discipline that has a full-time instructor. For the sake of Program Review, disciplines that have no full-time instructor assigned (like Anthropology) usually are grouped with other disciplines where there is a full-time instructor assigned (like Social Sciences).

However, there are other programs that are composed of some-but not all-courses from multiple disciplines.  For example, Basic Skills is a multidisciplinary program comprising particular courses in Math, English, Guidance, and Education. General Education is another multidisciplinary program that comprises select courses from many disciplines, but only those courses whose SLOs align with COS's General Education SLOs.

Another term for instructional program is academic program.

What is a department?

Within the California Community College system, academic or career and technical education divisions are typically organized into departments where faculty from related disciplines are grouped. The word department is often used interchangeably with the word discipline. At larger colleges, academic departments are often associated with single disciplines. However, in context, department connotes an employees' location in the college's organizational structure whereas discipline refers to academic instruction and curricular matters. (COS does not currently include formal academic departments nor appoint faculty leaders as Department Chairs in its organizational structure.)

What is a discipline?

A discipline is one of the few terms that has an unambiguous definition. A discipline is a focus of study.  The statewide Academic Senate's Disciplines List adds clarity to this definition by spelling out minimum degree requirements that qualify faculty to teach in the various disciplines.  Also, the discipline provides a course identifier-such as English (ENGL), Early Childhood Education (ECE), or Biology (BIO)-and informs us of the minimum degree qualifications required for a person to teach a course.

What is a degree?

A degree is a focused series of courses totaling at least 60 units. Every degree includes General Education courses in addition to the required courses in the specific discipline or related disciplines. Degree requirements are outlined in the College Catalog. Degree requirements for each program are outlined in the program description pages of the College Catalog. For the purposes of Program Review, instructors may need to report the achievement data for multiple degrees related to their discipline.

What is a certificate?

Certificates are offered for focused programs of study but do not require General Education (GE) courses.  Students may earn a Certificate of Achievement for completing a prescribed pathway of courses (consisting of 18 or more units) that have been approved by the Chancellor's Office. "Low unit" certificates may also be offered by a college and awarded as Certificates of Achievement when the program of study consists of 12-18 units and is approved by the Chancellor's Office.

Typically, Certificates of Achievement are developed in the career technical education (CTE) areas. Some certificates also lead to associate degrees in the same field. For more general definitions of certificate programs, contact the Office of Academic Affairs.

What is a service program?

COS offers a variety of ways to support our students through service areas such as the Academic Success Center (ASC), the Bookstore, Counselling, Enrollment Services, the Library, and Student Life. Each of these programs provides a variety of services in support of their mission. For example, the ASC offers learning support for COS students by providing services such as math, writing, and subject tutoring, a computer lab, a student IT "help desk," and enrichment seminars.

What is Program Review?

Program Review is the process of review, analysis, and assessment of the content, currency, and quality of California Community College (CCC) programs. The process includes analysis and evaluation of student learning outcomes (SLOs) and the student experience. Program Review is required, according to the CCCCO Program and Course Approval Handbook (PDF), and is essential to aligning college programs with our Planning Process, Mission Statement (PDF), Institutional Master Plan, and the Accreditation Standards. Each CCC establishes a Program Review Process appropriate to that college's community needs.

Who is required to complete Program Review?

All faculty, both full-time and part-time, are required to complete SLO assessments for every class that they teach. Full-time faculty are required to participate in compiling an annual program review for their program. If there is no full-time instructor in the program, a full-time instructor in a related discipline may be asked to participate in creating the program review. All full-time faculty are also asked to peer-review completed program reviews.

Why do instructors have to do Program Review?

Instructors have authority over their classrooms, courses, and programs. They also have a responsibility to ensure students are learning. Program Review is one mechanism in which the responsibility and the authority work together. Using the Program Review process, instructors evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their courses and programs. They ask themselves questions like "Are my students learning what they are supposed to learn?" and "Is there anything I can do differently to help more students achieve the learning outcomes?" and "Are there any resources I need that would help my students achieve the learning outcomes?" Program Review provides instructors with the opportunity to reflect on their responsibility to ensure students learn. Then, after reflecting on the outcomes and success data, instructors use their authority to make improvements to their programs, courses, and classrooms. They do this through planning improvements to curriculum, teaching methods, learning support services, student support services, instructional supplies and equipment, technology, staffing, and facilities.

Program Review provides instructors with the opportunity to record their evaluations of their programs and report their plans for improvements to the deans, to the vice presidents, and to the governance groups so that those individuals and groups can celebrate instructors' accomplishments, support the improvement plans, and prioritize funding for the resource requests.

What happens to Program Review results after I am done?

The results are reviewed by the appropriate dean and then by the Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA). The results reside in eLumen where they can be reviewed in the future. The recommendations and needs espoused in the program review form the basis for new positions and instructional equipment that are decided upon by the area dean and Instruction Council.

Who can help me with assessment or Program Review?

Plenty of assistance is available for program review. You can talk to anyone on the Program Review Committee or Instruction Office for assistance.

How often and when do instructors complete Program Review?

Instructors complete Program Review annually. At the beginning of each Fall semester (August), instructors collect and analyze assessment data and other data from the previous year. The data analysis leads to short-term and long-term planning and goals, which are recorded in the Program Review (August). The planning and goals lead to resource requests that are also recorded in the Program Review (August). The Program Reviews are peer-reviewed by other instructors and by members of the Program Review Committee (September). The Program Reviews are forwarded to the deans for feedback and recommendations (September). The Program Reviews and the resource requests are then forwarded into the College's budget development process (October) and analyzed in the College's institutional planning process.

What is the difference between an Annual Program Review Update and a Comprehensive Program Review?

Each September, our review of the previous academic year in Annual Program Review scaffolds our academic and non-academic programs in effectively serving students, maintaining relevant and responsive curriculum, and submitting data-based requests for materials, equipment, and staffing that may not be routinely included in the District budget.

In a six-year cycle, our review and analysis of preceding Annual Program Reviews in Comprehensive Program Review is aligned with the development of the College's Institutional Master Plan and the accreditation cycle, allowing data-based decision-making to facilitate long-term planning.

What is the purpose of the Annual Program Review Updates?

The Annual Program Review Update serves several functions:

  • To document the past year's activities.
  • To document a program's plans for the coming year.
  • To document the status (staffing, courses offered, students served, etc) of the program.
  • To document changes to long-term planning that you might wish to make.
  • To submit resource requests (human resources, equipment, technology, facilities, and supplies) that will help the program attain its goals for quality improvement. The resource requests then get routed into proper channels for consideration and implementation.

What is the purpose of Comprehensive Program Review?

Comprehensive Program Review encourages faculty to take a "big picture" look at their programs. It offers a chance to reflect on their program's achievements, challenges, and ongoing resource needs by reviewing multiple years of annual program reviews. Comprehensive Program Reviews also provide essential information for College long-range planning processes, such as revisions to the Institutional Master Plan and long-term budgeting, as well as accreditation.

What is the annual timeline for Program Review?

For purposes of definition, the academic year runs summer–fall–spring.

Timelines for the Four-Year Program Review
Target date for Completion Process Step
April 1 The Office of Research and Assessment notifies the principal preparer that a four-year program review will be completed in their program in the next academic year.
May 1 Initial meeting called by the principal preparer to begin dialogue, answer questions, identify potential data requests, and student data disaggregation needs. This meeting should include the dean and the researcher assigned the given program review.
July 1 Program Review Data Report made available to principal preparer and all full-time faculty in the area.
September 15 Principal preparer calls a meeting of the full-time faculty and relevant dean or director. At this meeting, the participants shall:
  1. identify additional participants to add to the process and discuss additional data requests for the Office of Research and Assessment
  2. establish timelines for the completion and review of the program review
  3. begin ongoing discussion about their program
This meeting should include the researcher assigned to the given program review.
October 1 The principal preparer shall submit additional data requests to the Office of Research and Assessment
October 2 - December 15 The participants engage in ongoing meetings and dialogue regarding the program, student learning, and planning as well as preparing the program review documents.
December 15 The principal preparer shall submit to the dean or director a copy of the completed program review for review and comment. The dean or director may make comments and suggestions regarding the program review but may not make changes to the program review, unless they are the principal preparer.
December 16 - February 14 Ongoing dialogue and review of the program review draft, comments / suggestions from reviewers and ongoing planning. Changes, if any, are made in a continuous effort to clarify and dialogue about student learning, program effectiveness, and resource allocation.
February 15 Principal preparer will secure the signature of each participant of program review and submit the finalized program review to appropriate Vice President and the Integrated Planning and Budget Committee.
February - May Integrated Planning and Budget, along with College Council, will use the program reviews to inform planning and budget prioritization.


Phone: (530) 938-5521