Self-Study

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The school's self-study is a record of important data and its meaning along with reflections about school processes which forms a roadmap to decisions about strategic work identified in the action plan to help better ensure students' learning success.  It forms a logical argument (from the school's goals for students through their performance through deep looks at all areas of the school where it has control, to the action plan). This logical argument is made around both the school schoolwide learner goals and students' critical learner needs.


Each of the affiliate organizations has slight variations in some components of the self-study; namely in the criteria and in the chapter arrangement. For each variation, the process manual provides detailed instructions, suggested procedures, and a clear outline of the contents of the self-study. Some schools are involved in joint accreditation processes.

Materials describing each of the major processes (WASC, WASC/CDE, and WASC Postsecondary) are available on the WASC website
 

Guiding Questions:  Some schools have established key questions to guide their self-study work. Consider these:
  • What is it we want all students to learn?
  • How will we know when each student has mastered the essential learning?
  • How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning (especially initial difficulty)?
  • How will we judge the effectiveness of our work?
  • How will we deepen the learning for students who have already mastered essential knowledge and skills?
General ideas/support material
  • Research-based criteria have been established by WASC around the general topics of organization, curriculum, instruction, assessment, and academic and personal support for students.
  • Evidence is required to confirm information presented in the self-study. Here are some examples of large chunks related to documents, observations, and interviews.
  • Interdisciplinary focus groups are organized around the criteria. Here are some thought on that work.
  • Rather than label them "Key Areas for Follow-up" think about using "Areas to Look at More Closely" or "Challenges." This sounds gentler. Remember, you're not obligated to use WASC-ese language. Find the words that fit your school's culture.
Writing - remember you're producing a document that provides not only first impressions for the Visiting Committee, it is a logical argument for the decision about what should be the next best work for school staff and leadership. It needs to be fact not fiction. It should read well. It should be free of mechanical errors. It should dig for the concrete and specific. It should offer judgments about "how well" and describe current activities/processes. It needs a support group of outside readers and helpers for feedback. Check out the writing tip included for Visiting Committee members.
 
What does the finished self-study look like?  To see and read samples of other schools' self-studies, do an Internet search on "WASC self-study" (do not use the quotes; use other levels of schools as required; using "public" or "private" seems not to help much. Even with slightly different content, you can learn from any of the self-study reports. In mid-2010, I got over 10,800 hits! Yes, some were duplicates, some were too old to be of use, and some were informational about the process or product. However, there were many, many current full self-studies posted. No value of "goodness" can be placed on any of these; it's an imperfect world and every self-study has strengths. All are instructive at some level. Good reviewing!

Consider binding the self-study rather than publishing it in a notebook. Either spiral or stapled/glued with a spine covering hold up better than the less expensive comb (or finger) binding. Plus, there's a more "finished" look to the product. First impressions are important. Think about a student-designed/produced cover that supports the school's commitment to student learning.

Other details

  • In general, each chapter should start on a fresh page
  • Pictures help give the report personality. However, too many often makes the reader wonder where the meat of the report rests.
  • Consider inserting quotes from stakeholders to bring a personal touch to the report.

Self-Study The Visit Ongoing FOL

Acknowledgements

Copyright 1998-2013 Louise Wright Robertson

Site last modified & updated July 28, 2013