Each academic department undergoes a comprehensive department review roughly every 10 years. These reviews are designed to help the department and the College evaluate current curriculum and plan for the future. The review is overseen by the Provost and the Education and Curriculum Committee, and is carried out by an external review committee selected by the Provost in consultation with the faculty co-chair of ECC and the department/program faculty. The external review committee offers a comparative perspective and assesses the overall shape and quality of the department and program and proposes suggestions for shaping its future.

Assessment is made through:

  • the departmental review document,
  • meetings of the external committee with the entire regular faculty of the department,
  • meetings of the external committee with department students (majors and non-majors) in the absence of the faculty, and
  • other procedures, if appropriate, as agreed upon in advance (such as surveying graduates, etc.).

An agreement is made between the provost and department chair for scheduling a departmental review one year prior to the review. The Office of the Provost can tell you when your department should be reviewed.

Administrative oversight and coordination of the review is handled by Becky Krogh, academic project specialist, in the Office of the Provost (x4311).

Please see the following for detailed instructions about the department review process.


The department review program number is PG0108. This number should be used for on campus charges (i.e. AGH guest rooms, catering, etc.). The Cost Center Worktag is: Reviews & Assessment CC02940 and the Program Worktag is: Departmental Reviews PG0108; both worktags must be included for all external charges (i.e. airfare for reviewers, ground transportation, off campus lodging, etc.).

Spring Prior to Review Year

Begin preparing for your review by putting together the review document.

  • Assemble documents showing your course offerings and enrollments during the years since your last review. This material will be valuable as you and your department members discuss what you’ve been doing and what you’d like to do. Contact Ian Turnage-Butterbaugh, associate director of institutional research and assessment (x5740), for help in gathering this information.
  • Assemble your colleagues to begin pulling together the department’s review document. This document might include responses to all or some of the questions in “Criteria for Reviews of Departments” (see below). You should also discuss: How and how well are we helping students meet the goals for student academic learning set by your department? What evidence have you collected to inform your answers to this question? How has the department responded to (or planned to respond to) problems that you have identified? (Annual assessment reports should provide ample information and evidence for these questions.) In what ways does the curriculum in your department support wider College student learning goals? Again, please cite evidence gathered since your last review.
  • Reviewers want to look at descriptions of courses, opportunities for non-majors, paths through the major and career paths afterward, service to other departments, advising, student and faculty activities, descriptions of facilities and equipment, etc.
  • The department review is not the sole responsibility of the Chair. Give colleagues reasonable deadlines, and allow time for the sections to be woven together and for departmental criticism of several drafts before the final document is given to the Office of the Provost.
  • If your department would like to have a retreat to facilitate this discussion, you should submit a fund request form to the Provost for approval (see Department Retreats).
  • Copies of faculty c.v.’s and relevant syllabi should be included in your review documents.

Criteria for Reviews of Departments
Criteria for Reviews of Interdisciplinary Minors

May Prior to Review Year

Meet with your department to formulate your list of potential outside reviewers.

  • The Provost will send you a request for names of potential external reviewers. External reviewers should be in your field, but not employed at Carleton. Candidates should be a senior member at their institution.
    • One external reviewer should be a faculty member who teaches in your field at a college comparable to Carleton.
    • Departments/programs may include faculty from the discipline at a major research university who has an understanding of the liberal arts college context. Such reviewers might offer valuable insight on the currency of the curriculum or on expectations relative to student preparation for graduate school.
    • In normal circumstances, external reviewers would not include alumni of Carleton, although departments/programs may submit a special request to do so.
  • Your department should agree on a list of at least six potential reviewers. Describe their qualifications completely in your reply memo to the Provost. It would also be helpful to rank your choice of reviewers within each category. Please include addresses, phone numbers and email addresses on your list.


Arrange transportation and prepare schedule for external review committee visit.

  • The Office of the Provost will work with you to determine the dates for the committee to visit for two days in January or February to conduct the review. The Office of the Provost will invite the reviewers and provide a list of the review committee members to you and your department assistant. You or your department assistant will need to:
    • arrange reviewers’ travel pick-ups, overnight accommodations, meals, and meetings, and
    • begin preparing a schedule for the reviewers. The following meetings should be included:
      • kick-off meeting with Provost (times established by academic projects specialist in Office of the Provost),
      • closing meeting with the Provost (times established by academic projects specialist in Office of the Provost),
      • each regular department member separately,
      • entire regular department meeting,
      • at least one open student meeting for the non-majors without department staff,
      • at least one open student meeting for the majors without department staff,
      • breakfasts, lunches and dinners with students and faculty,
      • other interested faculty/staff, faculty in related fields or area studies, faculty on continuing appointments or department technical staff, if any,
      • committee caucus time.

Sample External Reviewer Schedules

October – November

Review document due to the Office of the Provost by November 4.

  • Send an electronic copy of the review document to Becky Krogh (bkrogh) and Archives.
  • The Office of the Provost will send the department review document, link to the College catalog, itinerary, and cover letter from the Provost to the external reviewers in preparation for their visit to campus.

November – December

Send a copy of the external reviewers’ itinerary to the Provost for approval in early December.

January – February

The External Review Committee will attend a kick-off meeting with the Provost to discuss review procedures.

  • Following the Committee’s review, the reviewers will discuss their findings together on campus.
  • The External Review Committee will write a report and submit it to the Provost. The report shall include an assessment of the department’s program with respect to the major, the overall academic program of the College, and the state of that discipline.

March – April

The Office of the Provost will receive the External Committee report approximately one month after the on-campus visit. The Office of the Provost will circulate the external review committees’ report among the ECC Co-Chair and members of the Department being reviewed. Recommendations by the external committee are viewed as starting points for discussion with the reviewed department rather than mandates for action.

In consultation with the full department, write a brief response to the report. Include all significant minority views on issues on which members of the department disagree. This will be important to the discussion in the final meeting.


The Office of the Provost will schedule the wrap-up meeting involving the Provost, ECC Co-chair, and Department Chair to discuss recommendations from the reviewers, the departmental responses, and what actions to pursue. Additional members of the department may also attend the meeting if opinions or areas of expertise within the department differ significantly. The Provost may assist in choosing additional attendees.

The Provost will write a summary of conclusions reached at the final meeting, taking into account any differences expressed. This statement will be circulated to everyone attending that meeting and will provide an agenda of items to be addressed by the department in the future.

The Following Year

The department should pursue appropriate follow-up activities and should report on them in subsequent department annual reports.