Continuing to learn from peers, the second episode of the Quality Assurance Academy presents the HOW TO webinars with Adam Thomas, Head of AACSB Accreditation, ZHAW School of Management and Law, focused on engaging your faculty in the accreditation process.
Since faculty are a key internal stakeholder of any institution, engaging and involving them in the accreditation process is critical. Especially for an initial accreditation, a common reaction of some faculty is to show resistance. In most cases, this resistance comes from misunderstanding and miscommunication in Adam’s view. Hence, his advice is to be prepared, involved and present every step of the way, with the support of a customer-oriented team.
The foundation is good communication. And no, one email won’t do the trick, it is all about the personal touch. Knowing your faculty is important and vice-versa, do the faculty know the members of your team? Some of the faculty can be opinion leaders, and will give good advice. Choose carefully the means of communication you are using. Avoid wasting your faculty’s time and find a way to reach them in a way that works for them, be it emails, blog posts, update articles, surveys, both internal and external web pages. But choose wisely.
When the communication line is well-established, your next concern should be how to explain what value the accreditation process adds for your faculty, in order to convince them that this will contribute to their work. Some examples of ZHAW actions mentioned by Adam were school-wide meetings as more top-down communication efforts, the bi-annual workshops with new faculty members and annual “quality mornings” with full coverage of staff and faculty serving as forum for updates, discussions, voicing concerns etc. Adding a little “treat” here and there (who would say no to a personalised coffee delivery) or entertaining element (in case you want to follow Adam’s example and put your acting skills to good use) will for sure make a difference as well.
In terms of gathering the data, Adam explained that one of the challenges (putting the COVID-19 crisis aside) is time pressure on faculty when it comes to providing timely and accurate information related to their academic activities. Again, good communication is key – on the one hand explaining the importance of having a comprehensive picture of the engagement of the school, on the other informing the faculty of what is already on file and what exactly is missing or needed. As for the technical side of information input, the initial plan to have faculty adding data into the system was soon replaced by expanding administrative support. After all, faculty need to focus on teaching and research!
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