Adapting to New Accreditation Standards

August 12, 2014 Kristen Hicks

At the Annual Meeting for the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) last month, you couldn’t go too long without hearing about the upcoming changes to accreditation standards for pharmacy schools. Changes to an accreditation process thoroughly disrupt the current structure and future plans of a higher education program. The knowledge of the changes to come gave the attendees a lot to think and talk about.

The current challenge facing pharmacy schools isn’t particular to them. All higher education institutions and programs face the possibility of a change in accreditation standards at any time. Between access to new technologies, forays into new formats for learning, and even a nudge from President Obama, accrediting boards are faced with the increasingly difficult task of trying to ensure schools keep up with the changing needs and expectations of students.

Any updates to accrediting guidelines happen for a reason, but for the schools affected, implementing those changes can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process. Since maintaining your accreditation is important for both your school and its students, adapting to new accrediting standards is a must.

Tips to Adapt Successfully

You may already be performing some of the accreditation updates required of your program as part of your efforts to continually improve the education you’re offering students. For now, you just need to bring a new goal to those same processes.

Take Time to Fully Understand the Changes

You must fully understand the new accreditation standards to make sure that any changes made to your program’s curriculum reflect what’s needed. Perform an analysis of what’s different. How much of the change is a matter of categorization, and how much emphasizes new knowledge and skills that weren’t a focus before? Many of the priorities the program has long had will still apply; you just need to gauge which elements will require a shift, and whether that shift can be subtle or more advanced.

Review Your Current Curriculum and Redesign It as Needed

With a good idea of the new accreditation standards, it’s time to analyze how your current curriculum stacks up against the changes. A few courses might need some slight tweaking; others may need an extensive overhaul. You may also find there’s a need to add new courses and faculty to cover subjects or skill sets your program doesn’t address.

None of this should be done in a rush. A successful curriculum redesign requires a lot of analysis and planning to make sure the school is making the best changes to meet its goals, and that the proper faculty and resources are available to support the new curriculum.

Update Your Data-Collection Efforts

If you’re not already tracking data related to your accreditation standards, now’s a good time to start. With embedded assessment, you can tag all the questions and prompts of the various assignments and tests students take based on a variety of factors such as the skill sets they cover, the learning outcomes they aim to help students achieve, the accreditation standards they match up against, and anything else that would be valuable for your institution to measure.

The data that comes from this will help you measure how well your program is meeting the requirements of the new accreditation process, and it will help you track the success of your curricular changes as well as the progress of students throughout the program.

There’s no question that this process takes some time and effort, but ultimately it will help you maintain your program’s accreditation status. It will also help you create a better program for your students.


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