During the Site Visit
The basic purpose of the site visit is to permit peers to assess the programs' compliance with the Accreditation Standards and with the programs' own stated goals and objectives. The visiting committee confirms information provided in the self-study; reviews documentation; conducts interviews and observes students/residents. Commission action on accreditation status is based upon the program in operation at the time of the site visit. It is not based upon any proposed changes in the program. The visiting committee will, however, expect to be apprised of any facility, faculty or curricular changes that are contemplated but not yet implemented. Information related to the site visit is strictly confidential.
The entire accreditation process is based upon integrity, which includes fair and impartial judgments, protection of confidentiality and the avoidance of any real or perceived conflict of interest.
Site visitors have access to a great deal of confidential material and are aware they must not divulge that information to anyone at any time. This discretion is critical to maintaining the integrity of the Commission and its activities as perceived by the programs. If programs believe they cannot reveal confidential information to the Commission without having it made public, the entire voluntary accreditation process will fail. Only free and open sharing of information allows the process to succeed. Unless otherwise indicated, all meetings and site visit materials, all information obtained on-site, and all discussions related to program or institution accreditation are confidential. Confidentiality has no expiration date – it lasts forever!
Although the Commission provides suggested site visit schedule(s), the institution is responsible for preparing the final draft schedule(s). Any necessary modifications to the schedule(s), proposed by the institution, are made through Commission staff prior to the site visit. The schedule is also reviewed at the beginning of the visit to determine whether any other changes are indicated. The institution notifies all individuals associated with the institution, who are participating in the review, of the time and place of their scheduled conferences with the visiting committee.
While it is expected that all arrangements will be determined by the dean/program director/administrator, experience indicates that administrators welcome suggestions by the Commission for the conduct of site visits. Although more detailed suggested schedule(s) of conferences will be forwarded to the dean/program director/administrator prior to the scheduled visit, the Commission expects that an evaluation visit will include the following components. Please refer to the detailed sample schedule(s).
- An opening conference with the appropriate institutional administrators and dean/program director/administrator at the beginning of the visit to include an overview and description of the institution and its programs. The purpose of this initial conference is to orient visiting committee members to the programs' particular strengths and weaknesses. This session is also intended to orient the administrators and program director/administrator to the methods and procedures of the visiting committee. Topics frequently covered in this session include: program goals, administration, faculty recruitment and evaluation, finances, facilities, curriculum development, assessment of outcomes, long-term planning and program development.
- Tours of the program facilities and related learning resources facilities.
- Lunch. Because of the time limitations, it works best if lunch for the visiting committee is carried in. (Suggested items: sandwiches, box lunches, salads, etc.)
- Conferences with faculty with teaching or administrative responsibilities for the program.
- Resident/student interviews. These interviews should include the students/residents and the site visit committee only; no faculty or program director should be present.
- If the program plans to utilize an off-campus facility(ies) for clinical experience, the visiting committee may visit this facility. According to Commission policy, if a significant portion of the student's/resident's total clinical experience is conducted at an off-campus site, an on-site evaluation of that site must be conducted. More information can be found in the Policy Statement on Accreditation of Off-Campus Sites (PDF).
- A final conference, with the dean and the director/administrator of the programs will be conducted at the end of the visit. At that time, the visiting committee will formally summarize its findings and any recommendations made relating to the educational programs. The dean/program director/administrator may choose to include other individuals in the final conference.
- Following the final conference with the dean/program director/administrator, another conference, with the institution’s chief executive officer will be conducted. The visiting committee will report briefly on the findings and recommendations related to the evaluation. Such a meeting also affords the chief executive officer an opportunity to relate plans for the entire institution that will involve the dental and dental-related programs. The dean may be present during the conference with the institution’s administrator(s).
Briefing Faculty, Administrators and Students/Residents on the Site Visit
It is presumed that the program’s faculty, student body and administration will be apprised of the Commission’s visit. The dean/program director/administrator should inform the faculty that they will be expected to discuss course objectives, teaching methods, particular skills and abilities expected of students upon completion of the course and the measures used to evaluate student/resident performance.
Conferences with administrators and faculty should be scheduled in adequately-sized and well-ventilated meeting rooms with conference tables which are large enough to accommodate the visiting committee and faculty member participants. It is suggested that all predoctoral conferences be scheduled in rooms within close proximity. If more than one program is to be evaluated, an additional conference room for the advanced programs and one for the allied programs (ideally within close proximity) will be required.
Resources/Materials Available On-Site
It is expected that additional sources of information will be made available to the visiting committee on-site. Please refer to the Documentation of Activities for suggested materials to have available.
Guidelines for visiting committee members
The Commission has approved the following guidelines describing visiting committee members’ responsibilities during site visits.
Committee members cannot accept social invitations from host administrators, faculty or staff. The Commission believes firmly that the primary function of a visiting committee is program evaluation and review.
Self-study reports are mailed to committee members at least 60 days prior to a site visit. Committee members are expected to review all materials and to be familiar with academic and administrative aspects of the program as described in the self-study report prior to the site visit.
Committee members meet in executive sessions to review, evaluate and discuss all aspects of the program. Executive sessions are generally held in the evening preceding the beginning of the site visit and at scheduled intervals during the site visit.
Although committee members discuss general findings and recommendations with the administrator during the final conference, a decision regarding the accreditation status of the education programs will be made only by the Commission at its regularly scheduled meeting following discussion and in-depth review of the committee’s report and the institution’s response.