Program review institutionalization as an indicator of institutional effectiveness in the California community colleges

Institutional effectiveness has become one of the central topics of discussion for community colleges nationwide. Since 2007, ACCJC identified program review institutionalization and integrated planning as two of the major sources of deficiency in the area of institutional effectiveness. This issue caused sanctioning by ACCJC for a significant number of institutions in California. Thus, the significant contribution of this study is in helping the California community colleges to better understand and manage their program review institutionalization process in order to meet accreditation requirements and more importantly, for institutional improvements. The purpose of this study was to identify factors that influence program review institutionalization in California community colleges. In addition, this study revealed various challenges and achievements in community college practice, in regard to program review institutionalization and its impact at the individual, program, and institutional levels. The three research questions of this study are: What factors influence program review institutionalization at California community colleges? What is the impact of program review institutionalization at individual, program, and institutional levels? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the implemented program review frameworks? To answer these research questions, two California community colleges were selected based on maximum variation strategy. The conceptual framework of the current study was based on the synthesis of Huberman & Miles' (1984) educational innovation field-study conceptual framework and Senge's (2006) system approach. The grounded theory research tradition was utilized for this multi-site case study. The data sources from both institutions consisted of interviews, observations, and historical and current documents. In this study, program review institutionalization was defined as an institutional state where program review becomes an inseparable part of the continuous quality improvement processes established at the institution. Results indicate that program review institutionalization is a cyclical process of continuous quality improvement that moves an institution towards becoming a learning organization. The most significant factors that influence program review institutionalization are organizational culture and structure. Other factors are the use of all program review purposes and their correct emphasis and implementation that best suited the institutional culture and structure. Another important factor is the integration of program review and other institutional processes. It is important that each institution find and carry out its own path of integration that resonates with its institutional context and culture. However, even then, it requires institutional support, leadership, and participation to carry on building the history and most importantly, a longer life-span of program review institutionalization. Program review institutionalization must be associated with a cycle path. Each time an institution undergoes through the same cycle it makes that path deeper and more difficult to get off that track. Thus, the longer life-span of the implemented program review framework is a strong factor that influences program review institutionalization.