Conducting Program Reviews

Why use CAS Standards to evaluate my program rather than using another approach?
The CAS Standards were developed and adopted by knowledgeable representatives from a wide range of higher education organizations. They represent a profession-wide perspective about what constitutes good practice.

What are the advantages of self-assessment? What is the CAS perspective on self-assessment as opposed to external review?
Self-assessment (or program review) offers a meaningful opportunity for institutions to be reflective. The results of self-studies can be organized into reports that divisions and institutions can use to enhance the student experience, guide continuous improvement and strategic planning, as well as to support accreditation efforts.

What does a CAS Self-Assessment Guide (SAG) look like?
Each self-assessment guide (SAG) has a similar structure. For the 11th Version of CAS materials, the SAGs have been revised. Each subsection of the SAGs includes a list of suggested evidence and documentation at the outset to encourage review teams to collect important materials before rating criterion measures. Responsive to user feedback, criterion measures are clustered into categories for rating, which reduces the number of ratings needed and shifts the emphasis to more critical evaluation and reflection of concepts. Program review teams need to document their reasoning and evidence for the rating assigned to each subsection in the space provided for Rationale.

Although not pictured here, program review teams also must discuss and respond to the Overview Questions, which are designed to stimulate summary thinking about overarching issues, can be used to facilitate interpretation of the ratings and development of the self-study report.

Can I make photocopies of the materials for all the members of the review team(s)?
At this time, you are able to purchase downloadable files of CAS Self-Assessment Guides to share on a secure connection for your institutional colleagues. CAS does not limit sharing of our materials within a single purchasing institution. There is no additional license.

We ask purchasers to make their best ethical judgments about sharing CAS materials. As a nonprofit organization with sales of our intellectual property materials comprising our revenue stream, the proceeds from book and SAGs sales go into funding our organization's ability to develop and revise future standards, have a small office and single staff person, and publish our books/CDs; thus, if many people will be using the CAS materials, it's more appropriate for multiple copies to be purchased.

Is there someone I can contact that has been through this before in a functional area like mine?
CAS has a short list of individuals who have used CAS to conduct self-studies and program reviews. In addition, we have functional area experts from among the ranks of the CAS representatives. Visit our CAS experts page to find a list of possible contacts.

How long does a typical division or individual program self-study take to complete?
The time required to complete the self-study program review process varies greatly with size and complexity of institutions and programs. In most instances, it will take from 6 to 9 months to complete a comprehensive division or campus-wide self-study, while a single administrative unit functional area program self-study may well be completed in approximately 3 to 6 months. One of the major time-consuming factors of any self-study is the data collection process in which documentary evidence is obtained and organized into a usable format. More time will be required if the documentary evidence has not already been collected and analyzed.

Can a partial program self-study using less than a full functional area standard be implemented?
Each CAS standard is organized into 12 parts. These individual program components can be used on stand-alone bases for program self-studies or for program development purposes. That is, a partial self-study using selected components may be desirable for some programs to consider. Likewise, each component has utility for staff development purposes. One recommended training approach is to hold a series of training sessions in which individual parts are examined in detail. It should be understood, however, that a full program assessment cannot be accomplished using less than the complete functional area standard, and a functional area cannot be considered to be in compliance with CAS standards if all the component parts are not evaluated.

Does CAS offer certification or accreditation?
CAS does not function as a certification or accreditation agency. Rather, CAS encourages institutions and their functional area programs to follow a "self-regulation" approach wherein program evaluation self-studies are implemented for internal assessment purposes.

Are institutions in jeopardy if they fail to meet the CAS Standards and Guidelines?
CAS Standards are provided primarily for institutions to use within the context of a "self-regulation" process. That is, although compliance with the standards evidences "good practice" that is recognized profession-wide, there are no external sanctions for non-compliance. However, institutions that do not meet the CAS standards will likely discover that their programs and services fail to function effectively or to meet the needs of their students. Further, institutions that evidence compliance with the CAS standards are virtually assured of receiving "high grades" from regional or specialized accrediting bodies.

Does CAS provide institutional staff training programs and workshops?
The CAS office can provide information about CAS officers and board members who are well qualified to provide staff development training workshops and programs for institutions, or to consult about use of the CAS materials. Contact our office at 202-862-1400 or by email at

Self-Study Steps

Plan the process
  1. Map out the steps and develop your timeline
  2. Build buy-in with all stakeholders
  3. Explicitly identify outcomes of the self-study
Assemble and educate your team(s)
  1. Identify coordinator
  2. Appoint work and/or evaluation team
  3. Conduct training
  4. Establish ground rules
  5. Review standards and discuss meaning
Identify and collect evidence
  1. Define what is evidence
  2. Manage the evidence
Conduct ratings using evaluative evidence
  1. Clarify the team’s criteria and process for rating
  2. Have each team member rate each criterion
  3. Negotiate rating differences and gather consensus among team members
Develop an action plan
  1. Respond to overview questions
  2. Identify areas of program's strength and weakness
  3. Describe practices requiring follow-up
  4. Summarize and prioritize actions required for program to meet standards
Prepare report
  1. Summarize available data
  2. Recommend specific action plans
  3. Draft an executive summary
Close the loop
  1. Communicate action plans
  2. Align actions with strategic plans
  3. Request resources necessary to take action
  4. Thank your team(s)