III. Site Visitors
General Principles | Selection | Terms of Agreement | Training | Evaluation of Site Visitors
Conflict of Interest | Responsibilities of the Site Visit Team | Behavior of Site Visitors | Expenses and Reimbursement
The site visit is an essential and unique step in the accreditation process. The report of the visit supplies critical information about a program, verifying and supplementing information contained in the application materials and updating any information about the program since the program submitted its self-study report (i.e., accreditation application). The site visit enables members of the team to gain insight into relevant data within the context of the program that is often not conducive to a written description and that can be obtained only by direct observation. Because the site visit and report are very important and valued elements of the program evaluation process by the CAA, the Council has developed a plan for the selection, training, and evaluation of site visitors for the accreditation process, and which elements are reflected in this Manual.
The CAA has identified the following underlying principles regarding the site visit process:
- A small group of well-trained site visitors will serve as the pool from which site visit team members will be selected for individual visits.
- Site visitors will serve a specified term (4 years) to provide a mechanism for new site visitors to rotate into the pool on a systematic basis.
- Academics and practitioners will serve on each site visit team and share all responsibilities in the conduct of the site visit.
- An effective site visitor evaluation process will be administered in order to provide useful and ongoing feedback to the site visitors and to the CAA.
The CAA has identified the following qualifications for academic site visitors:
- Earned doctoral degree in audiology, speech-language pathology, or a related discipline from a regionally accredited institution
- Rank of associate professor or above or comparably experienced educator
- Faculty appointment in a CAA-accredited program (does not include programs holding candidacy status)
- Demonstrated active involvement in the profession of audiology and/or speech-language pathology (e.g., membership in professional organizations, credentialing, research record).
The CAA has identified the following qualifications for practitioner site visitors:
- Earned graduate degree in audiology, speech-language pathology, or a related discipline from a regionally accredited institution
- Possess valid licensure, if available, and nationally-recognized credentials in audiology and/or speech-language pathology, as appropriate
- Worked as a practitioner in the area that credentials are held for at least five (5) years.
- Directly engaged in a significant manner in the practice of speech-language-hearing services. Note: Applicants whose primary employment function is as an on-campus clinical director or supervisor/preceptor for the purposes of student training do not meet this criterion.
Site Visitor Application Process
Individuals who meet these qualifications and are interested in serving as a site visitor must complete and submit an application to the Accreditation Unit at the ASHA National Office. All applicants will be required to furnish the following information:
- Curriculum vitae for past five years
- Names of two (2) personal references who can attest to the applicant's qualifications to be a site visitor including professional competency, interpersonal skills, and ability to critically analyze, verbalize and record pertinent objective data
- Personal statement of the qualifications regarding experience in accreditation, clinical education, standards development, site visits, professional competence, university governance, etc.
- Statement of availability to conduct site visits
- Signature of applicant that signifies knowledge and adherence to the conflict of interest statements as described in the CAA Site Visit Manual
Criteria for Selection
The CAA maintains a trained pool of 50–60 academic site visitors and 35–50 practitioner site visitors at all times. The criteria for selection of site visitors include, but are not limited to, an applicant's:
- meeting published qualifications for service
- knowledge of the accreditation process and accreditation standards
- sensitivity to issues regarding conflict of interest, and the importance of impartial and objective judgment
- professional experience
- geographic location
- gender, cultural, and ethnic background
- work environment (i.e., type of facility)
When reviewing applications, the CAA considers these areas in its selection process in order to maintain balance in the site visitor pool.
Individuals are expected to be employed full-time at the time of the appointment. Individuals who are retired, including academics that hold emeritus status, are not eligible to apply as a new site visitor. Current members of the Council on Academic Accreditation, the ASHA Board of Directors, chair of the Council For Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, and CAA staff or ASHA National Office staff may not serve as site visitors. The CAA recognizes that, as new processes are developed, there may be need for certain waivers or exceptions to the above qualifications and criteria on an occasional and case-by-case basis in the best interests of the accreditation process.
Criteria for Reappointment
Continuation on the site visitor roster for the duration of the 4-year term and reappointment to a new term are contingent upon ongoing satisfactory performance of site visitor responsibilities, as outlined below. All active site visitors are eligible to be considered for reappointment at the end of each four-year term. Those interested in continuing service for another term must submit an application at the time of the Call for Applications, conducted annually. The CAA will consider the following elements when reviewing an application from a current visitor, in addition to the above selection criteria:
- reasonable availability for conduct of visits
- consistent good performance and evaluations
- maintenance of qualifications (employment, rank, etc.)
Individuals who retire from their professional positions while serving as a CAA site visitor are eligible for reappointment for one additional term. The CAA recognizes that there may be need to consider exceptions to the above qualifications and criteria to support the integrity of the accreditation program and its processes.
The CAA will evaluate the site visitor selection on an ongoing basis, making modifications as appropriate.
Notification of Decision
CAA finalizes decisions at its Winter/Spring council meeting regarding site visitor applications for each year's training class, and all applicants are notified following the meeting. Dates of the training are included in the decision letters of those invited to the training workshop.
Terms of Agreement
All site visitors, once selected, will:
- Commit to a 4-year academic year term, beginning July 1.
- Attend an initial two-day training workshop, funded by and held at ASHA's National Office.
Note: Individuals who do not attend initial training workshop in the year of selection to the site visitor pool would be required to submit a new application for consideration for service and training.
- Complete a trainee site visit within the first two semesters after receiving initial training.
- Participate in annual site visitor training updates/professional development activities in a format to be determined by the CAA (e.g., at ASHA's Convention, webinar).
- Demonstrate active involvement in the profession of audiology and/or speech-language pathology while continuing in the role of a site visitor.
- Be willing and prepared to serve as a representative of CAA and uphold the highest ideals of accreditation, which includes:
a) thorough review of all accreditation application materials prior to the visit
b) commitment to absolute confidentiality
c) commitment to be present for the duration of the site visit, which usually requires 3 days away from home and/or work to complete the site visit and related travel
d) active participation as a team member in all related activities before, during, and after the visit
e) ability to objectively collect, analyze, and communicate all data pertinent to the site visit process
f) acceptance of responsibility for one's own behavior and actions
g) conducting oneself at all times in an ethical and professional manner
h) adherence to CAA's conflict of interest policy
i) maintain technical skills to effectively use a shared online Web portal (CAA Collaborate site) to complete site visitor activities.
- Be willing to accept assignments and travel to programs as scheduled, consistent with conflict of interest policy.
- Be available for two site visits per year.
In addition, academic site visitors will:
- Maintain a faculty appointment in a CAA accredited program.
- Serve as a site visit chair, if requested.
In addition, practitioner site visitors will:
- Maintain direct engagement in a significant manner in the practice of speech-language-hearing services.
Continuation on the site visitor roster for the duration of the 4-year term and reappointment to a new term is contingent upon ongoing satisfactory performance of site visitor responsibilities along with positive performance feedback from visited programs and peers. Members of the site visitor pool who retire from their professional positions during their term may continue active service as a visitor, and may apply for continued active service as a visitor, limited to one additional term of service.
The CAA recognizes that there is a significant learning process in becoming sufficiently familiar with CAA standards and site visit mechanisms to function independently as a site visitor. In recognition of this need for training, newly appointed site visitors participate in a series of educational experiences designed to prepare them to serve as effective visitors. This entire training process is intended to be a positive experience that provides the new site visitor with sufficient hands-on experience and feedback to feel confident in his/her role.
The CAA trains a class of new site visitors annually; however, specific dates are not established until the CAA's Winter meeting. Dates of the training are included in the letters of those selected and invited to participate in training. Newly trained site visitors will participate in a training site visit before being assigned as a full member of a site visit team..
- Following invitation and acceptance to serve as a site visitor, new site visitors are provided access to materials pertinent to effective CAA site visitation, including the CAA Accreditation Manual and CAA Site Visit Manual.
- New site visitors are required to attend a 2-day training workshop at the ASHA Accreditation Office. This session provides training on the interpretation of the CAA Standards for Accreditation, logistics of the on-site review process, the interview process, focusing on appropriate site visit team dynamics and questioning strategies, and construction of the site visit report. All trainees are evaluated during the workshop to determine whether he/she sufficiently demonstrated essential skills to serve as a CAA site visitor, such as preparedness, communication skills, and understanding of content, to remain in the site visitor pool. If a trainee's skills are not found to match those required of a CAA site visitor, they will not continue as a site visitor and their name will not appear on CAA's site visitor pool, which is a public list. This decision by the CAA is not appealable.
- After the workshop each new site visitor who receives a positive evaluation is sent as a trainee on his/her initial visit. The chair of the site visit team should provide clarification and feedback to the trainee throughout the planning meetings and visit, as appropriate. At the end of this site visit the chair will provide a written evaluation of the new site visitor to the CAA. If serious concerns are raised about aspects of the new site visitor's performance, the CAA may choose a variety of options to extend the training process.
- After the trainee visit and a positive evaluation, new site visitors will assume responsibility as a full member of a site visit team.
Current site visitors selected to serve a new 4-year term will not need to complete the initial training workshop again. Additional professional development training is required to be completed in a format determined by the CAA. (See Professional Development section in this Manual.)
Over time, changes may occur in CAA's accreditation standards and their interpretations or in CAA's processes. All site visitors are sent updates on all such changes. In addition, professional development sessions are offered at least annually at the ASHA Convention or through other mechanisms to clarify any changes for both site visitors and program directors.
Site visitors are expected to participate in professional development sessions conducted annually during their 4-year term.
In addition, the CAA is committed to providing site visitors with ongoing training and opportunities for self-assessment. Site visit team members can access the final copy of the site visit report, which has been reviewed by the CAA chair and staff for grammar, consistency, and clarity before being sent to the program. This final draft report is provided with any edits highlighted in an effort to provide feedback to the authors. In addition, the site visit team will have access to the final CAA accreditation decision and rationale for the programs they visited on behalf of the CAA. This information should be kept confidential and not be divulged to any outside party. Site visitors are expected to purge all electronic and written materials related to the site visit once the final accreditation decision letter is received.
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Evaluation of Site Visitors
At the conclusion of the site visit, programs and site visit team members are expected to complete and submit evaluations of the visitors. The CAA site visitors make a significant contribution to the professions through their outstanding volunteer efforts to ensure the maintenance of high standards in the graduate education of future audiologists and speech-language pathologists. The CAA maintains confidential records on site visitor performance to assist site visitors in performing their responsibilities effectively and to ensure that the site visit portion of the accreditation process is conducted in an exemplary fashion. The CAA reviews these evaluative records on a regular basis, and provides feedback to site visitors.
Site visitor performance is evaluated based on the expectations set forth in this manual as defined in the Site Visitor Terms of Agreement, Responsibilities of Site Visit Team, and Behavior of Site Visitors sections of this chapter. These elements have been grouped into five broad categories that include:
- Knowledge and understanding of CAA and program materials
- Verbal and written communication skills
- Time management and organizational skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Team performance
Written site visitor evaluations form part of the ongoing assessment process that CAA conducts. The CAA makes available evaluation forms online and by request from the Accreditation Office.
- The program director completes an online Site Visitor Performance Feedback Survey to provide performance feedback on the members of the site visit team. In addition to completing the Site Visitor Performance Feedback Survey on each member of the site visit team, a program director may contact the chair of the CAA Site Visit Subcommittee at any time to discuss specific concerns regarding a site visit or team member.
- Each member of the team completes an online Site Visitor Performance Feedback survey on the performance of his/her team mates, including any trainees.
- Additional attributes are included on which to provide feedback on the performance of the site visit chair by the program and by the site visit team members.
- The site visit chair is encouraged to provide direct feedback to the site visit trainee within one week of the visit to discuss the conduct of the visit as well as his/her performance.
- The program director and site visitors also have an opportunity to provide feedback about the accreditation staff's performance in handling the administrative details of the site visit process through the online Site Visitor Performance Feedback Survey. All feedback is considered and follow-up action is taken as needed.
The CAA's Site Visit Subcommittee reviews feedback on site visitor performance on an annual basis. The following elements are considered in determining successful performance of site visitors and continued participation in the site visitor program:
- attendance, participation, and performance during the initial site visitor training
- successful completion of trainee site visit
- participation in annual site visitor professional development sessions
- performance feedback by the other members of the site visit team using a format provided by the Accreditation Office
- performance feedback by the program visited using a format provided by the Accreditation Office
- availability consistent with CAA's expectations (i.e., available for 2 visits per year)
- administrative focus points (e.g., timely scheduling of travel, timely submission of post-visit materials including performance feedback forms, expense forms)
- a change affecting eligibility
The CAA considers each site visitor's performance based on the above criteria to determine follow-up action, if needed. If the site visitor is not meeting the expectations as outlined in the Terms of Agreement, Responsibilities of Site Visit Team, and Behavior of Site Visitors, as reflected in performance feedback, then follow-up action may include removal from the site visitor pool. A decision by the CAA to remove a site visitor from the pool is not appealable.
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Conflict of Interest
Site visitors are representatives of the CAA and ASHA. In addition to performing all of their responsibilities on a timely basis and in a suitably professional manner consistent with their roles as representatives of the CAA and the Association, site visitors must avoid all conflicts of interest. The responsibility to determine and avoid any possible conflicts of interest lies primarily with the site visitor and the program being visited.
Conflict of interest is defined by ASHA's Board of Ethics in its Issue in Ethics Statement: "Conflicts of Professional Interest" as:
Situations where personal and/or financial considerations compromise judgment in any professional activity (e.g., clinical, research, consultation, instruction, administration, etc.) or where the situation may appear to provide the potential for professional judgment to be compromised.
This definition is fully applicable to site visitors. Site visiting is a professional activity that must be undertaken with the highest degree of integrity and objectivity. For this reason, site visitors must use extreme caution to avoid any situation affecting, or which may be construed as affecting, the integrity and objectivity of the site visiting process.
Specifically, a CAA site visitor:
- shall not serve as a consultant to any program for which he/she was a member of the site visit team until after the final accreditation decision for that program has been rendered by the CAA.
- shall declare himself/herself ineligible to serve as a site visitor to any program for which he/she has previously served as a consultant during the last accreditation review.
Professional judgments by site visitors must not be biased, or influenced in any way, by economic interests in, commitments to, or benefits from the program being visited. Additionally, for the sake of the integrity of the process and confidence in the validity of the results obtained, any situation that might fairly be said to create such a bias or influence should be avoided. A site visitor's personal belief that his or her professional judgment or objectivity is unaffected by gifts or other economic benefits of significant value from the program being visited is not, in and of itself, sufficient protection against conflict of interest.
Although there is no catalog of situations that define conflicts of interest, general guidance can be found in the Issues in Ethics Statement referenced above. Specifically, as applied to site visitors, the following principles pertain.
- Site visitors should neither ask for nor accept gifts or any economic benefit of any kind from the program or institution being visited.
- Site visitors should pay for their own meals as a normal expense of the site visit.
- Site visitors should refrain from involvement in any social activities during the visit. Evenings are reserved for time to confer, to initiate the site visit report, and to prepare for the next day.
- Site visitors should refrain from taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by their position on the team to recruit instructional staff members for their own programs.
- Site visitors should not solicit or accept temporary or permanent employment positions with the institution being visited.
- Site visitors should neither request nor accept samples of wares, books, products, or services performed by the institution visited except as germane to the accreditation process.
- Gifts of insignificant or trivial value may be accepted if it is clear that acceptance cannot fairly be said to compromise the integrity or objectivity of the site visitor. Similarly, normal hospitality in connection with the site visit, such as an invitation to lunch with the instructional staff of a program, would be appropriate.
- Site visit teams may serve in an advisory capacity at the close of the formal site visit evaluation process, but only at the specific request of the program being visited. Site visit teams must be very clear about the differences in their roles as evaluators of the program as related to compliance with the accreditation standards as noted in the site visit report and as advisors providing suggestions related to the specific requests of the program faculty after the exit report.
Site visitors must remain aware of the potential for conflicts of interest in the discharge of their responsibilities and take the initiative to manage, disclose, or resolve potential conflicts of interest situations appropriately. The CAA strongly encourages voluntary and full disclosure of relevant information in that such disclosure demonstrates good faith on the part of the site visitor and may be a significant factor in evaluating whether a conflict of interest is present. Unresolved potential conflicts should be discussed with the chair of the site visit team, the chair of the CAA, or Accreditation Office staff.
In summary, site visitors must consider carefully all circumstances surrounding an offer of a gift, consultant position, or benefit of any kind, including the apparent purpose of the donor, how the transaction may reasonably be viewed by impartial observers, and the potential impact on the integrity and objectivity of the site visiting process. Preservation of the highest ethical standards is vital to the conduct of independent judgments in the site visiting and accreditation process. Conflicts of professional interest erode the public's trust in this process and must be avoided.
Responsibilities of the Site Visit Team
All Site Visitors
- Respond to all CAA requests for information and dates of availability, and make every effort to participate actively as a site visitor on a regular basis.
- Review thoroughly the current CAA Accreditation Manual before the visit. The Manual specifies the CAA standards, procedures, and policies against which the program is to be evaluated. Complete understanding of the standards is essential to the CAA evaluation process.
- Review thoroughly the program's application, the CAA's letter specifying initial observations, the program's response to the initial observations, the program's and university's Web site(s), and all correspondence and other relevant documentation associated with the program review. The primary purpose of the site visit is to verify evidence of compliance with the standards. Therefore, information received should be checked for completeness. The director of the program should expect all site visitors to understand the major aspects of the program.
- Review the site visit agenda critically. The site visitors should discuss preliminary areas of concern so that the chair of the site visit team may request modifications to the agenda in advance of the site visit, if needed. The agenda should permit the site visitors to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the program.
- Identify items in the application and supporting documentation that require clarification. Such items should be explored during the initial interview with the program director/chair so that they can be verified during the visit.
- Be familiar with certifications and licensure issues, as they apply to accreditation. Portions of the CAA accreditation standards relate to an evaluation of the adequacy of a program's preparation of graduate students to meet professional credentialing requirements, including nationally-recognized certification(s), state licensure, and teacher certification. Tracking systems used by programs to monitor student progress typically incorporate these credentialing requirements.
- Arrange travel plans to:
- allow for a preliminary meeting with all members of the site visit team, preferably in the evening before the start of site visit. The team chair should allow sufficient time to define the roles of individual team members in terms of available time and tasks to be performed, areas of concern and strategies to investigate them, the agenda, and the writing of the final report.
- ensure that the program receives its full measure of time. All site visitors are expected to be present for the duration of the site visit, which usually requires 3 days away from home and/or work. A minimum of 2 full days is required to review the program. In some instances, more than 2 days may be necessary to accommodate the program's needs. If the only return flight on a given day would shorten the site visit, contact the Accreditation Office to request approval to remain an extra night. Site visitors are encouraged to be flexible and creative in how they use their time onsite to avoid unnecessary extensions of the site visit beyond the usual 2 days. Teams may consider adjusting the start and end times of the visit to accommodate all team members' travel options (e.g., beginning the agenda on the day of arrival).
- allow adequate time to prepare and deliver the site visitors' exit report and for any other report development tasks currently required by the CAA. Sufficient time should be allowed at the end of the site visit to confer with the program director to obtain clarification and additional information, as necessary.
- Prepare the site visit report using CAA's current report template and in accordance with current CAA guidelines and time lines.
- Complete and return to the CAA all required evaluations.
Site Visit Chair
CAA will use the following criteria to identify individuals from the site visit pool to serve as site visit chairs:
- Is an academic member of the Site Visitor Pool.
- Has completed a minimum of two site visits within a four semester period as a full team member (i.e., trainee visits would not count toward two visit minimum). Site Visit Chair Candidates also should participate in a site visit in the semester prior to first service as a chair.
- Received consistent, positive performance feedback and has received unreserved recommendations to serve as chair from members of the Site Visitor Pool, as documented on performance assessments reviewed by CAA.
- Demonstrated skills and functions as identified in the Terms of Agreement, Responsibilities, and Behavior of Site Visitors sections in the Site Visit Manual.
In addition to the responsibilities listed for all members of the team, the site visit chair has unique responsibilities in facilitating the visit to the program.
- Communicate with the other team member(s) regarding the
- establishment of a time for a preliminary meeting,
- observations/concerns about the program.
- Communicate with the program director regarding necessary changes in the agenda, access to program materials, and logistical considerations.
- Assume a leadership role regarding
- observation and reporting procedures
- roles and responsibilities
- general format of the visit
- explanation of the process for other team members and observers.
- Submit a completed site visit report developed in cooperation with the team members. Current CAA procedures, format, and time lines for preparation of this report should be adhered to closely. The site visit report template is available electronically on the Accreditation Collaborate site for use by members of the site visit team in advance of the visit. Timely completion and submission of the site visit report to the Accreditation Office are essential to ensure that the accreditation process proceeds smoothly. Failure to submit site visit reports promptly may result in the site visitor's removal from the roster and can cause delays in CAA's final review and decision on the program.
- Provide feedback to the trainee within one week of the visit to discuss the conduct of the visit as well as their performance.
Behavior of Site Visitors
Site visitors serve as representatives of the CAA. They are expected to perform all responsibilities in an ethical, moral, timely, and professional manner. The following suggestions are intended to serve as reminders.
- Site visitors should dress professionally.
- Site visitors should be prompt and allow sufficient time to satisfy comfortably all commitments of the visit; avoid late arrivals and early departures.
- Site visitors should exercise tact and care in everything they say and do, both when soliciting information and when answering questions. The site visitors are invited guests of the institution and are expected to render a professional service for which the facility has paid.
- Site visitors should exhibit an attitude of encouragement. Words with negative connotations should be avoided, as should reprimands, lectures, and comparisons to one's own program.
- Site visitors must maintain confidentiality. All information gathered by the site visitors is confidential. Problems in the specific program must never be discussed with anyone except the CAA and Accreditation staff.
- Site visitors should be prepared and appear calm and confident.
- Site visitors should be sensitive to feelings of anxiety or apprehension evidenced by others during the site visit review. Program directors will have arranged interviews with presidents, deans, instructional staff, students, alumni, employers, and the public.
- Site visitors should use extreme caution to avoid any situation that might be construed as affecting their integrity or objectivity in the site visit process.
- Site visitors should not suggest themselves as consultants to or as temporary or permanent employees of the institution.
- Site visitors should keep in mind that programs are reviewed in terms of the program's and institution's stated mission and goals; visitors should avoid biased comments or suggestions. The site visitor's role is to verify information in the application, not to serve as an advisor, except if requested by the program at the completion of the exit report.
- Site visitors should not indicate whether or not they believe the program being visited will be awarded (continued) accreditation. It is the responsibility of the CAA to make accreditation decisions.
Site Visitor Expenses and Reimbursement
Site visitor expenses are reimbursed in accordance with ASHA's travel and reimbursement policies for the following activities:
- 2-day formal training workshop
- trainee site visit
- conduct of site visits
- special workshops (by invitation)
Expenses for attendance and participation at the annual site visitor professional development modules, typically held during the ASHA Convention, are not reimbursable under this policy. Honorarium is not provided for site visitors.
Programs are assessed a site visit fee in accordance with the Accreditation Fee Schedule, which covers the estimated expenses to include the travel, meals, and hotel costs for the team to conduct a site visit to the program. This fee is included in the program's annual fee for accredited programs or assessed separately for programs applying for candidate status or initial accreditation.
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