Impact And Effects Of Learning Outcome-Oriented Program Review Policy Changes in Ontario Universities
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This multiple-case, mixed methods study characterized the effects, and outcomes perceived by key participants involved in the program review process at four universities, five years after the introduction of a common learning-outcomes oriented quality assurance review process across the province of Ontario in 2011. Purposeful and criterion sampling was applied to identify key informants from four universities, with specialized knowledge and experience from five levels of involvement in recently conducted cyclical program reviews employing the new framework. This included, faculty members, department chairs, teaching and learning centre support staff, quality assurance support staff, and senior administrators. Data were collected using in-depth interviews comprised of structured and unstructured questions. Analysis applied variable and case oriented strategies, thematic and content analysis, and matrix displays. This research found three orientations to the review influenced perceptions and outcomes, including a standard accountability, control and compliance, and an enhancement orientation. Nearly half the changes participants identified as triggered by the review process are likely to have a long-term impact. Perceived negative changes included increased oversight, bureaucracy, and workload. Objectives and accountability of the cyclical review were confounded with ongoing budgetary reviews, institutional goal setting, and measures of the fiscal sustainability. Perceived positive changes included longer-term effects such as increased alignment of curriculum to student outcomes, increased departmental discussion about curriculum, and more consistent provision of program relevant data across the university. Participants described a shift from a focus on teaching students, to a focus on bringing about learning.