5 Steps to Achieve Higher Education Accreditation

A practical guide to accreditation and reaccreditation success.

5 Steps to Achieve Higher Education Accreditation

A practical guide to  accreditation and reaccreditation success.

Securing accreditation is a critical step for any higher education program, but it’s no simple task! Most accrediting bodies have designed rigorous review processes to ensure that students across the country are set up to successfully practice foundational competencies and become skilled, ethical, inclusive professionals.

Achieving accreditation signifies to your current and prospective students that they will receive a high-quality, marketable education that will enable them to impact the most change in their communities after graduation! 

At Tevera, we have supported countless programs in their journeys toward accreditation. Many accrediting bodies follow similar themes, so we’ve created the following process to tackle any accreditation process: 

  1. Establish Foundational Elements for Program Review
  2. Centralize Data Collection
  3. Execute your Assessment Plan
  4. Facilitate Professional Practice
  5. Review Program Outcomes

Establish Foundational Elements for Program Review

The program review consists of a review of the learning environment and your program’s learning outcomes. This step requires the most advanced planning and should be squared away before students begin the program. 

This is the fun part! Design your program’s mission statement and define the impact your program will have on its participants and the local and global community by extension. Your program mission should align with both the purpose of your profession and your university’s broader mission. 

For example: The Council for Social Work Education (CSWE), encourages programs to develop a mission statement that is “grounded in the profession’s purpose and in the core values of the social work profession and informed by the program’s context.” (Educational Policy 1.0, 2022 CSWE-EPAS).  

Your learning environment must be structured to support student growth and development, and that goes far beyond the classroom! 

Many accrediting bodies will review your program’s financial and technical resources to ensure that students can focus on their education with strong programmatic infrastructure around them.  They also require that programs demonstrate policies and practices to promote anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The student-to-faculty ratio is often an important consideration as well, demonstrating that students have direct access to skilled, experienced professionals for thoughtful advisement and education. 

For example, CACREP, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, provides thorough expectations for the learning environment  for their member programs.

Students choose your program because they know they’ll develop the knowledge and skills necessary to propel them into their professional careers. By developing student learning outcomes, your program will be able to demonstrate accountability for thoughtfully preparing students as competent future professionals. 

You will need to develop your program’s own student learning outcomes and assessment measures throughout the program, to monitor student progression and demonstrate student success. Often, these assessment measures often need to be aligned with standards created by the accreidting body or other professional organizations for student outcomes as well. 

For example: The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), promotes the use of the InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards for the assessment of student learning outcomes. 


Centralize Data Collection

While Step 1 covers many of the administrative elements of your program’s preparation for accreditation, the bulk of the effort required year-over-year comes down to data collection. Accrediting bodies will review your program’s efficacy by examining the systems and processes in place for: 

  • Assessing student competency and achievement of student learning outcomes
  • Promoting and managing student field education
  • Reviewing the assessment plan and outcomes related to student achievement

By collecting all of the above data in one centralized system from the outset, organizing and submitting the data accredited bodies need to review is easy.

Fortunately, Tevera was designed with exactly these tasks in mind! Click here to learn more about how Tevera can centralize key data collection needed for your accreditation cycles. 


Execute Your Assessment Plan

Accrediting bodies often require that student competency be assessed according to key learning outcomes by program faculty and/or field supervisors.

Often, this data is collected via a rubric, in which the criteria for the basis of competency-based assessment are clearly defined and demonstrable by the student. 

To establish a threshold for student success, each measure should have a well-defined minimum acceptable score in order for a student to be deemed as meeting the competency. 

Gathering all assessment data in one system is easier than ever with Tevera! Program faculty and field instructors alike will be able to evaluate student performance and any assessment rubrics can be aligned with your program’s student learning outcomes as well as accrediting bodies’ standards, giving you a comprehensive look into your students’ journeys to success and competency. Learn more about Tevera’s approach to assessment management here.


Facilitate Field Education

The field education experience allows students to integrate their theoretical knowledge in real-world practice scenarios and develop the fundamental skills required for future professional work. 

In order to support the student field experience, your program will need to: 

  • Promote practice opportunities for all students.
  • Orient and place students in appropriate field experience settings.
    • Verify students are working with appropriately qualified supervisors.
      • Provide orientation and resources for supervisors.
  • Monitor and support student learning while in their field placement.
  • Create a framework by which field instructors can evaluate student learning congruent with your program’s student learning outcomes.
  • Verify student field experience hours accrued
  • Implement a system to evaluate site supervisor and field education setting effectiveness.

With Tevera’s field experience solution, you can place students, collect necessary documentation, maintain a database of placement sites and qualified supervisors, verify field experience hours, and more! Learn more here. 

In order to meet CACREP requirements for professional practice, you will need to: 

  • Collect necessary documentation:
    • Individual Professional Counseling Liability Insurance
    • Supervision Agreement between faculty supervisors, site supervisors, and students
      • In the supervision agreement, specify that: 
        • Supervision includes audio-video and/or live supervision of students’ interactions with clients.
        • Students have the opportunity to become familiar with a variety of professional activities and resources.
        • Students must lead or co-lead a counseling or psychoeducational group.
        • Students receive 1 hour per week of individual or triadic supervision with a site supervisor, program faculty member, or a student supervisor who is under the supervision of a counselor education program faculty member. 
  • Verify supervisor qualifications.
  • Provide orientation, consultation, and professional development opportunities to site supervisors.
  • Provide a framework for formative and summative evaluations of the student’s counseling performance by their site supervisor.
  • Track student progress toward 100 hours of supervised counseling practicum experience, of which 40 hours are in direct service with actual clients. 
  • Track student progress toward 600 hours of supervised counseling internship experience, of which 240 hours are in direct service with actual clients, in a setting relevant to their specialty area. 

The above can easily be facilitated, tracked, and verified using Tevera’s field experience solution!

Learn more here.


Review Program Outcomes

Upon collecting all assessment data, your program will need a process in place for reviewing the assessment plan and outcomes related to student achievement of learning objectives. 

Gaining the insight you need into student learning outcomes is easy with Tevera! Our accreditation standards reports can aggregate the data gathered on any field evaluations along with any other assessment measures that are aligned with the competencies, giving your program a holistic picture of student achievement across the breadth of your explicit curriculum. 

Reports can also be filtered to show disaggregated outcomes for different groups, allowing you to easily pull data for different groups of students, specializations, and program options, as required by your accrediting body. 

Learn more about using Tevera to review program outcomes here.