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Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

Step 4: Strategic Planning, Implementation & Ongoing Assessment

Step 4 is the logical extension of Step 3 of the program review process. It is an opportunity for programs to further reflect on the outcomes of the self-study process and use the review findings as a foundation for building an evidenced-based plan for continued program success and improvement. This involves implementation and ongoing, meaningful assessment that supports informed decision making, operational planning and budgeting*.

At the end of the third year following the external review, the program develops a Three-Year Interim Report to assess progress since the last program review. The chair submits this report to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and meets with the Provost and/or other senior administrators.

**Refer to the operational planning and budgeting guidelines.

Program Planning and Continuous Assessment


Program review provides a structure to foster continuous program planning and improvement that align with departmental and institutional goals. Primary questions to address are: How is the program supporting the strategic goals of the college and department or division? What changes must occur for continued programmatic success? What challenges hinder achievement of program outcomes and action plans?

Considerable thought should be given to the programs action plan for the next five to seven years and what actions might support continued improvement.

Such improvements may include:

  • Curricular changes to improve student learning, scholarship and success;
  • Collaborations with student support services (i.e., advising, library services, or other student success initiatives) to improve the academic outcomes of students in the program;
  • Developing or refining program learning outcomes and appropriate means for assessing achievement;
  • Further alignment of program, department and institutional goals;
  • Refining methods and interventions to improve retention and graduation rates;
  • Addressing professional development needs of program faculty and staff;
  • Evaluation, reorganizing or refocusing of resources in support of program improvements;
  • Budget requests to support program success initiatives;
  • Collaborations with other institutional program or departments.



While the self-study assists in setting the goals and direction for the program, it is the implementation plan that helps move these goals forward. The implementation plan is an extension of the action items outlined in the response reports and during the follow-up meetings in Step 3.

The most effective implementation plans are directive, clear and documented and most often mirror the objectives and plans of the college’s strategic plan.

When developing the program implementation plan, consider the following:

  • How flexible is the plan?
  • Would plan phasing be appropriate and beneficial?
  • How engaged are program faculty? Does faculty engagement need to be addressed?
  • How sustainable is the plan? Can it be maintained between review cycles (5-7 years)?
  • Who (beyond the program chair) has responsibility for this plan?

Ongoing Assessment, Accountability and Improvement


A self-study is not successful if it sits on the shelf and collects dust. A successful self-study engages and propels a program forward and is marked by ongoing assessment (and review of action items), appropriate levels of accountability and systems of improvement.

This is particularly important when review cycles are long (i.e., 5 to 7-years). Program leadership and support structures can change, sometimes drastically, during such lengthy periods. Ensuring that the program review is integrated with other institutional level processes and systems including institutional strategic planning, assessment of student learning outcomes, and the operational planning and budgeting process can forestall gaps in program planning and review.

The challenges of maintaining the action plans and assessment activities that emerge from the program review are numerous with one of the greatest barriers being time-commitment. However, well thought out implementation plans that are clear, specific about roles and accountability and that are focused on creating systems of improvement can forestall these barriers and ultimately advance the mission of the college.

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Institutional Effectiveness
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Box 1516
Atlanta, GA 30314



Spelman College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Spelman College.