Purpose of the On-Site Visit
The on-site visit, also known as the on-site review, provides an opportunity for trained NAST evaluators to see the theatre unit in action for a minimum of two days.
The primary functions of the visiting evaluators are 1) to verify the Self-Study, 2) to gather and assess information in a comprehensive manner, and 3) to prepare a factually based evaluative report that enables thorough Commission review of the total theatre program based on NAST standards. The observations of visitors are particularly critical in area reviews of student work. In carrying out these functions, visitors are expected to reflect the service-oriented accreditation philosophy of NAST, and thus produce an appropriate context for the institution’s receipt of Commission action.
The visiting evaluators do not accredit or make official recommendations to the institution on behalf of NAST. Only the Commission on Accreditation serves these functions. In their contacts at the visited institution, visiting evaluators may be able to serve as consultants to a limited extent, but this is definitely a secondary role and should not interfere with their primary function. It should be made clear, however, that any advisory comments are made as individuals, and not as expressions of an official position of NAST.
The visiting evaluators concern themselves primarily with the larger issues, such as the effectiveness of teaching, artistic goals and quality, competence of graduates, administration of the program, validity of information and conclusions reached through self-study, and crucial futures issues. The Visitors’ Report reflects careful attention to these significant factors. The Visitors’ Report presents an objective analysis that summarizes 1) the state of the theatre unit, 2) strengths and areas for improvement, 3) major futures issues for the theatre unit, and 4) constructive suggestions for future development of the theatre unit.
Evaluators shall base their reviews on NAST standards, guidelines, and procedures in the context of the visited institution rather than on personal opinions, favored methodologies, or practices at their home institution. Consistent with NAST policies on institutional autonomy, evaluators should not enter local debates on the merits of specific approaches to particular issues or concerns.
Protocols and Requirements
The primary purpose of the visit is to develop an external perspective on the work of the theatre unit. This perspective is considered by the Commission along with 1) materials submitted by the institution, and 2) NAST standards for accreditation. The visiting evaluators shall be afforded an opportunity to visit and consider all theatre major programs offered by the institution irrespective of where they are administered.
During the course of the visit, the evaluators do the following (for more detailed information, please refer to the document, Procedures for Visiting Evaluators):
- Undertake a thorough review of all theatre major programs (i.e., non-degree, undergraduate, and graduate; resident, distance learning) irrespective of where the programs are administered.
- Observe classes, studios, lessons, shops, rehearsals, and other theatre activities.
- Review items such as performance tapes, playscripts, and other materials demonstrating the quality of student work in each degree or program offered, including supporting final project documents for degrees.
- As necessary, consider course syllabi, compilations of performance and event programs, etc.
- Observe a sampling of student performers, or (preferably) attend a performance by several representative students at various levels. If the institution offers professional degrees or programs in performance at one or more levels (i.e., baccalaureate, initial graduate, terminal graduate), observe a sampling of performers at each level, either in person or on video.
- Consider the effectiveness of institutional policies and procedures for ensuring that student competencies are met.
- Consider the total performance program (student, faculty, guest) and its quality and comprehensiveness in relation to the goals and objectives of 1) the theatre unit or a whole area, 2) specific curricular programs.
- Verify transcripts. Paper or electronic access to transcripts or copies thereof for graduates from each undergraduate or graduate degree or postsecondary non-degree-granting program for the past three years must be available to the visiting evaluators. If a program has had no graduates in the past three years, transcript access for the past five years must be provided.
- Observe student intern teachers, and other internships when possible.
- Consider community education programs according to NAST procedures and as presented in the Self-Study.
- Inspect libraries (books, periodicals, audiotapes/recordings, videos and films, scripts, images, information technologies, etc), and consider collection development in relation to the size, scope, and objectives of the theatre unit.
- Consider financial support for the theatre unit. In the case of free-standing institutions, review financial audits with opinion.
- Inspect physical plant and equipment and consider repair, maintenance, and replacement policies and plans.
- As necessary, consider documentation concerning governance and appointment, promotion, and tenure.
- Review policies and procedures for evaluation, planning, and making projections, and review the extent to which they influence thoughtful exchange.
- Meet with the theatre executive at the beginning of the visit to discuss visit plans, share issues, and gain perspective.
- Meet with the chief executive (or a designee) of the institution and with other senior administrators as requested by the institution. Visitors to independent schools of theatre also meet with the chair and members of the board to review these matters.
- Interview faculty members, professional staff, and students, both individually and in groups, in pre-arranged meetings and, if requested, in appointments arranged on site. In large programs where it may be impossible to meet with all faculty, ensure contact is made with a representative cross-section.
- Hold concluding conferences with the theatre executive, and also with the chief executive and other senior administrators if requested by the institution.
- During exit interviews, as well as in previous discussions, the visiting evaluators must make clear distinctions between 1) assessments concerning threshold operational and curricular Standards for accreditation; and 2) analytical results in other categories such as strengths and areas for improvement, short- and long-term futures issues; and if requested, consultative advice that are beyond threshold accreditation standards.
- The visiting evaluators should remind the institution’s representatives that NAST visitors do not suggest a final accreditation action to the Commission.
Consider the extent to which various operational, educational, and programmatic components 1) have an interrelationship sufficiently viable to achieve the theatre unit’s purposes both at present and in the future; 2) appear to meet NAST standards; and 3) can continue to meet NAST standards during the projected accreditation period.
These activities provide information that enable the visitors to complete a report that:
- Compares the visitors’ impressions of conditions, evaluations, and projections with those described in the Self-Study.
- Identifies the extent to which there appears to be compliance with NAST standards.
- Recommends specific improvements.
- Makes suggestions concerning opportunities or problems not yet apparent.
All involved in the visit are expected to 1) maintain a professional, collegial, peer review approach; 2) keep the process focused on the institution, its programs, and its effectiveness; 3) contribute to the factual accuracy of the Visitors’ Report; and 4) cause as little disruption as possible to the artistic and educational routine of the theatre unit.
Further information may be found in the Procedures for Visiting Evaluators.