Module 1: Characteristics of Team Members
This training program is designed as a primer and refresher for Team Chairs and Program Evaluators participating in accreditation visits outside of the U.S.
A. Why Additional Training for Accreditation Visits Outside of the U.S.?
There is no difference between accreditation within and outside of the U.S.; regardless of a program’s location, the accreditation criteria remain the same. However, ABET Program Evaluators (PEVs) and Team Chairs (TCs) must approach every program’s review with a thorough understanding of the educational and cultural environment within which it operates. Educational and cultural environments are different, of course, in different parts of the world. PEV’s and TC’s must understand these differences in order for a visit to be successful.
Since we cannot automatically apply the laws, rules, and norms of the United States, including those of its educational system, to programs and institutions outside of the U.S., U.S. PEVs and TCs need additional knowledge and skills to be successful. Acquiring these skills will enhance your ability to apply the accreditation criteria accurately and recommend appropriate actions to the commissions.
This training will not compare and contrast specific cultures. However, it will provide useful information to help you understand what differences may be encountered and how they might affect a program’s compliance with the criteria.
B. ABET Currency
Currency with ABET criteria, policies, and procedures is a requirement.
Adequate U.S. visit experience with satisfactory performance ratings is a requirement.
Prior to being assigned to a program visit outside of the U.S., a PEV must have a proven track record of successfully conducting reviews of programs within the United States. That record must be consistent and show currency with the criteria, policies, and procedures. You must have completed an accreditation review visit within the past two years. That visit may be either within or outside of the U.S., and must have utilized the criteria, policies, and procedures in effect at that time.
You must have positive performance appraisals (an overall rating of 3 or better) on your last four review visits.
All Program Evaluators must complete the Pre-visit Preparation and the proficiency assessment for the current training cycle as well.
Team Chairs must also attend any ABET and/or commission-specific training for accreditation visits outside of the U.S. that take place at the July Commission Meetings.
C. Cultural Sensitivity
Cultural sensitivity is a requirement.
Based upon feedback from U.S. institutions, we recognize that cultural sensitivity is an important attribute of any PEV and TC. ABET endeavors to provide PEVs and TCs with an appropriate understanding of the unique institutional setting for each program being reviewed.
The need for cultural sensitivity is extended when evaluating programs in different regions of the world. You will need to evaluate programs through the lens of the customs, norms, and laws of the country and region in which the program/institution is located without compromising the review of the program’s compliance with the criteria. Global Rescue, LLC will provide country reports which include country overview, security assessment, health assessment, advice, etc. These reports will be posted on the ABET website (MyABET) under Resources for Visits outside the U.S. They will be updated by June 1 every year.
D. Communication Skills
Strong English and cross-cultural communications skills are desirable.
The ability of PEVs and TCs to properly and appropriately communicate has long been recognized as one of the most important competencies for evaluating programs for accreditation. See the PEV Competency Model and the Team Chair Competency Model for more information.
Two-way communication skills must be used to understand how the program conveys the ways it meets the criteria, policies, and procedures of ABET, and to convey the results of the review to the program, the institution, and the commission.
Because English is the recognized global language within the technical educational community, strong English speaking and writing skills are paramount for improving the educational process through better communications. Although being able to communicate in the language of the country visited would be an added plus for better communication with the program, this is not a requirement.
The program is expected to provide translations of documents into English as needed for a fair review, and to provide translators where needed for interviews and other discussions with institutional personnel. However, team members should minimize requests for translations of documents to only those that are necessary. Many documents, such as graded student work, can normally be reviewed by using a student or other translator rather than requiring that translations of the documents be produced.
Team members should be aware that an indication of a shortcoming relative to the criteria will be taken as communication that the program is not good. ABET terminology is usually not familiar to institutional personnel outside the U.S., and even if the definitions are known, the implications of a shortcoming finding may be viewed as much more negative and detrimental than is the case. Care must be taken to explain fully the implications of all findings, and that there is an opportunity to correct the shortcomings before the final commission action on the program.
E. Knowledge of Educational Systems
The differences in the educational systems utilized in a country or region of the world from the system in the United States must be recognized and understood.
The kindergarten through 12th grade pre-college system is predominant in the United States. Other countries use a similar system. But some utilize the kindergarten through 13th grade pre-college system. You will benefit from recognizing and understanding those differences and their nuances when evaluating a program’s compliance with the criteria.
The community college system in the United States provides transfer students to four-year programs. Articulation agreements are sometimes used to aid in the assessment of transfer credit. You cannot assume similar processes are in place in other regions of the world, and the ability to understand similar one-, two-, or three-year initial college systems in other countries is desirable.
The International Bureau of Education (IBE) of UNESCO provides information on education systems, types of institutions, etc. for each country.
F. Willingness to Assist
Your primary focus is to determine whether a program meets the criteria, policies, and procedures of ABET. However, you should recognize your unique opportunity to improve higher education through this program review. You should be willing to impart your knowledge, expertise, and experience in assisting programs in a cooperative manner when the opportunities arise.
Accreditation visits outside of the U.S. are often longer than U.S. visits to accommodate longer travel distances and language and/or cultural differences. In addition, institutions and hotels may not have facilities (such as elevators or air conditioning) that we are accustomed to in the U.S. If you have any health condition that would limit your stamina to participate in an extended visit or limit your mobility, notify your Team Chair immediately to determine whether you should continue on the visit team.