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Departmental Review

Departmental planning and review, at its best, is a continuous and systematic process that builds on the regular academic and administrative activities of a department.  During a five-year cycle, a department successively assesses and recasts goals and objectives, programs, resources, and procedures, building to the last element in the cycle, when, having systematically attended to one important element at a time, it can put together an integrated picture of itself and prepare for the initiation of a new cycle. 
Each year, during the five-year cycle, one stage is completed.  While this incremental process is accomplished in steps, the steps are not isolated from one another.  Rather, they are clearly interrelated, and their relationship makes the whole process inherently flexible.  Each step in the multiyear cycle naturally has a specific focus.  However, that focus does not preclude attention to other elements in the planning and review process as the need arises, even if they are not endemic to the department's precise focus at a particular stage in the process.  Thus, although the steps build incrementally one on another, the process allows for, at times perhaps insists on, adjustment of earlier conclusions in light of later ones and permits completion of the process in less than five years. 

Planning and Review Process

Stage One: Goals and Objectives.  The natural first step in the incremental planning and review process is assessment of departmental goals and objectives.  Goals are the desired long-range directions or end results for the cycle, and they provide a context for the short-term objectives needed to move in that direction.  Without clearly stated goals, a department lacks any real sense of direction.  Derived naturally from the University's mission and purposes, departmental goals address themselves to the roles and functions of the unit and give it direction during the cycle in the areas of instruction, research, public service, faculty development, student development, etc.  Moving in the direction indicated by goals requires a department to construct objectives, that is, short-range steps that lead to accomplishment of goals.  They are by their nature measurable-capable of verification-and sequential-progressive steps toward goals. 

Stage Two: Programs.  Once established, goals and objectives form a basis for program planning and review.  In this second stage, a department first looks at its graduate and undergraduate offerings in relation to its goals and objectives.  That assessment inevitably leads to discussion of the need for present and future program offerings (majors, minors, etc.), the relation of curricula to needs, the influence of enrollment trends, the adequacy of equipment and space, and the quality of and demand for graduates. 

Stage Three: Resources.  With goals and objectives and programs assessed, a department is well-prepared for the third step: considering its faculty, support staff, and financial resources.  A complete treatment of faculty resources will include discussion of numbers relative to enrollments; qualifications and contributions relative to departmental goals and objectives; professional activities beyond the classroom; and research, scholarly and creative activities.  Staff resources, secretarial, clerical, etc., likewise need assessment in terms of adequacy.  The activities of a department's faculty and the vitality of its program are often clearly related to the quality of its support staff. 

Consideration of faculty and staff resources inevitably raises questions about financial resources.  Given assessment of its goals and objectives, its program, and its faculty and staff, a department is in a position rationally to consider its present budget and to justify its future budget requests.  Current and future personnel, operations, equipment, faculty development, curricular development, and space budgets can be best understood both within and outside a department when drawn up in the context established by the previous stages of planning and review. 

Stage Four: Procedures.  The fourth step logically moves to a balanced emphasis on substantive and procedural matters.  At this point, a department reviews, modifies, and plans its procedures regarding such items as faculty recruitment and selection, teaching assignments and workloads, promotion and tenure, teaching evaluation, student advising, departmental organization, and future planning.  These procedures depend, of course, on the self-definition accomplished by a department during the previous years of the process and on relevant college procedures and University policies. 

Stage Five: Assessment, Integration, and Projection.  The incremental steps from one through four make the fifth step experience less difficult.  Because of the focused efforts of the cycle's previous years, the last stage becomes a time for integration and perhaps adjustment of a department's self-study.  Likewise, it encourages a department to re-examine earlier planning in light of what was once the future and what is by that time the present or even the past.  In no sense, however, does the final step in the cycle replicate the previous four steps only now in a shorter period of time. 

This last stage is, in fact, a time for reflecting on the earlier stages in the process.  Goals and objectives, for example, tested by the intervening years can now be assessed and if necessary recast.  Additional perspective, too, can be brought to bear on programs and their attendant needs; faculty, support staff, fiscal resources, and budget priorities; and departmental policies and procedures.  This period of reflection thus offers a department the opportunity to make a "whole" out of the “parts" developed during the earlier stages and to chart directions for the next planning cycle.  The result is an integrated fifth-stage report, the substance of which has been developed gradually over the previous years of the cycle, with clear implications for the future.  Consequently, the fifth stage becomes a sound basis on which to continue departmental planning and review and clearly motivates the renewal of the planning and review cycle.



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