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Phase 3: Peer Review

Peer Review Overview

The peer review phase affords programs a unique external perspective in identifying their strengths and weaknesses, assessing their ability to meet program learning outcomes, and evaluating the effectiveness of curricular design. The peer review phase generally runs through fall and winter quarters of the final program review year.
Phase three

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External & Internal Reviewers

Review teams are generally comprised of two external and one internal reviewer, though this is flexible based on the needs of the program undergoing review. Departments put forward a well-rounded list of reviewer nominees. The dean determines the final make-up of the review team. The Office of Academic Programs and Planning is available for consultation on reviewers, and final reviewer selections must be endorsed by the Senior Vice Provost of Programs and Planning.

Basic Criteria for Nominees

  • Nominees must possess a knowledge or familiarity of the discipline under review, although it is not necessary for every team member to have formal credentials in that discipline or field.
  • External nominees must be from an institution other than Cal Poly and must not have close personal or professional ties to Cal Poly or other conflicts of interest that would prevent them from providing an objective review.
  • Internal nominees must be a Cal Poly faculty member from outside the college of the program under review and have the potential to foster a future inter-departmental collaboration with the program.
  • At least one reviewer selected to the team must have some experience with the assessment of student learning outcomes and act as the designated assessment reviewer.
  • At least one of the external nominees selected to the team must be a leading faculty member or administrator from a peer or similar university, which may include non-California institutions.

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Peer Reviewer Selection Process

Nominees for the peer review team should be submitted to the Office of Academic Programs & Planning no later than the 7th week of fall quarter. Final team selection by the dean should be completed by the end of fall quarter. For  reviews where the program is seeking reaccreditation, the accrediting agency appoints the external reviewers. An internal reviewer is required for all program reviews.

Nomination and approval process

Step 1: Beginning during fall quarter, faculty members discuss and nominate potential peer reviewers that meet the criteria established in the guidelines.
  • The program chair/head fills out a nomination form per nominee detailing the faculty’s rationale for their nomination.
  • A minimum of 4 external nominees and 2 internal nominees, representing a well-balanced pool of applicants, should be put forward.
  • Note: It is the dean’s responsibility to determine the final make-up of the review team.
Step 2: Completed nomination forms, along with corresponding curriculum vitae or resumes, should be submitted to the dean's office, with a copy to the Program Review Coordinator ( If the program undergoing review is a graduate program, copies should also be sent to the Interim Dean of Graduate Education.
Option A - The department chair/head may wish to meet with the dean and/or associate dean to review potential reviewer nominations and determine a priority ranking. With the dean's input, the department chair/head may then make preliminary contact with top-ranked potential reviewers to determine their interest and availability.
Option B - The department chair/head may wish to submit all nomination forms, with corresponding curriculum vitae or resumes, to the dean without an initial meeting.
Step 3: The dean is responsible for determining the final make-up of the review team:
  • The dean reviews the nominations and may, at her/his discretion, ask for additional prospective nominees to be put forward or may make her/his own additions in the interest of creating a well-balanced team.
  • At this time, if desired, the dean may also wish to designate one of the review team members as the committee chair.
  • The dean selects a minimum of 2 external and 1 internal reviewers for the review team.
Step 4: If additional consultation is needed prior to reviewer selection, a meeting can be scheduled for the dean, associate dean, senior vice provost, and interim dean of graduate education (when applicable) to discuss reviewer nominations.
Step 5: The dean communicates her/his final selection to the department chair/head and the Program Review Coordinator ( in writing.
  • If the department wishes to discuss the final team selection, they should request, in writing, a meeting with the dean within 10 working days of notification.
Step 6: The dean's office issues formal invitations to the reviewers.

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The college is responsible for the payment of all expenses associated with the site visit, including reviewer honoraria. Depending on the college, payment of expenses is handled either at the department or the college level. External reviewers are typically provided $800-$1000 per person, depending on length of site visit, required level of input, etc. While serving as an internal reviewer is considered university service for Cal Poly faculty members, a modest stipend of around $500 is recommended depending on their level of involvement in the full review process.

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Site Visit

Scheduling the Visit

The site visit is generally 2 days in length, with the department acting as host.
  • Early during the self-review phase, the faculty propose several tentative dates for the site visit.
  • The department head or chair confers with the review team, dean's office, and academic program's & planning office regarding their availability. Important: The Program Review Coordinator will determine availability of the Provost and Senior Vice Provost for the entrance and exit meetings.
  • The department head or chair communicates the selected dates to the review team.


Coordination of logistics for the site visit, including any travel or lodging arrangements, scheduling meetings, booking rooms, etc. are the sole responsibility of the department. One notable exception is the coordination of the entrance and exit meetings, which are coordinated in collaboration with the Program Review Coordinator.
  • Academic Affairs Entrance Meetings are scheduled at the beginning of the site visit and include the senior vice provost, dean, associate dean, academic programs and planning faculty associate and review team. The purpose of the entrance meeting is to  orient the review team to any pertinent issues and to provide them with a specific charge for their review process as appropriate.
  • Academic Affairs Exit Meetings are scheduled near the end of the site visit and include the provost, senior vice provost, dean, academic programs and planning faculty associate and review team. The purpose of the exit meeting is to hear the preliminary findings of the review team.

Self-Study Report for Reviewers

The Program Review Coordinator sends copies of the self-study to the peer review team no less than 30 days prior to the site visit. The team may wish to develop a pre-visit assessment of the program after reading the self-study, and formulate questions to be resolved during the site visit.


Consult the Peer Review Site Visit Checklist for a list of recommended or required meetings and events. Department heads or chairs are encouraged to communicate with the team prior to the visit for their input on whom they would like to meet with and what they want to see during the visit, in addition to the required meetings. If the department has a significant service contribution to other programs, the team may also meet with representatives of those client programs. The team generally asks to see samples of student work and tours the facilities available to the program. In addition to an exit meeting with the provost, dean, senior vice provost, and academic programs and planning faculty associate, the team usually has a report out with the associate dean, department head or chair, and program faculty. A draft itinerary should be sent to the associate dean and to the Program Review Coordinator no later than four weeks prior to the site visit. A finalized schedule should be sent no later than two weeks prior to the visit.

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Reviewer Responsibilities & Report

Reviewer Responsibilities

Peer Review team members are responsible for reading the program's self-study, participating in a site visit, and writing a report documenting their findings and recommendations.

Team members agree to:

  • Prepare a brief and concise team report of their findings after the site visit is complete. The draft report is submitted electronically to the office of Academic Programs & Planning. For accreditation program reviews, this may be done by the internal reviewer as an individual report or by the whole team as a complement to the accreditation report.
  • Consider incorporating revisions (requested by the office of Academic Programs & Planning) after the draft has been checked by program faculty for errors of fact.
  • Electronically submit a final copy of the review report to the office of Academic Programs & Planning. University receipt of final report signifies the completion of the reviewer responsibilities.
  • Internal reviewers should plan to participate as much as allowed by her/his teaching schedule. (For accreditation reviews, the department chair or head should discuss in advance the extent to which the internal reviewer can be involved with the team chair.)

Reviewer Report Guidelines

The review team will produce a written document of their key findings and recommendations. The following aspects should be evaluated:
  • The quality of the program’s mission and goals.
  • The effectiveness of the program’s learning objectives, curriculum, and pedagogy.
  • The program’s ability to complete the assessment cycle of planning, assessing student learning, analyzing assessment results, and making improvements.
  • The ability of students to meet the expectations established by the program learning objectives.
  • The ability of students to persist in the program and graduate in a timely manner.
  • The quality, quantity, and diversity of the program’s human resources: students, staff, and faculty.
  • The quality and quantity of the program’s physical and intellectual resources: facilities, policies, and procedures.
  • The program’s response to institutional themes; Cal Poly is currently focusing program review on diversity and inclusivity.
If a chair for the review team has not been designated by the dean, team members may wish to designate one to be the point person for communications, etc. External and internal reviewers can choose to work together to produce a single reviewer report or decide to keep internal and external reports separate. These details should be discussed by the team at the outset of the site visit.


Reviewer Report Submission Process

Upon completion of the site visit, the review team has up to one month to submit a draft report.

  • The peer review team electronically submits its draft report to the Academic Programs & Planning office by emailing
  • The Program Review Coordinator distributes the draft report to program leadership and faculty, who have ten working days to review it for errors of fact. The Program Review Coordinator communicates any errors identified to the peer review team for their consideration prior to finalizing the report.
  • The peer review team submits a final report to the Academic Programs & Planning office by emailing
  • The final report is distributed to program leadership and faculty, and kept on file by the Academic Programs & Planning office .

Reviewer Report for Accredited Programs

For accredited programs with agency-required site visits, report contents are generally specified by the agency. The internal reviewer should focus her or his report on the Cal Poly program review requirements not covered by accreditation requirements. Electronic copies of both reports are submitted to Academic Programs and Planning. Additionally, Academic Programs should be copied on pertinent correspondence between the program and the accrediting agency (e.g., program response to reviewers' report, letters of re-accreditation, etc.).

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