Capacity and Preparatory Review (CPR) Report Overview

Prior to the site visit, we submitted a Capacity and Preparatory (CPR) report to WASC. Below you will find abstracts and action items for each theme in the report:

These summaries will give you an overall picture of the report. For more in-depth information, you can read the complete report (pdf) and view the data portfolio.

Overarching Theme: Our Polytechnic Identity

This essay begins by observing that Cal Poly's unique mix of majors, combining aspects of traditional polytechnic, land-grant, and comprehensive universities, makes it difficult to identify an appropriate set of peers.  The essay proceeds by considering a selection of best practices associated with fifteen institutions. Though none are, individually, directly comparable to Cal Poly, together they demonstrate both the attitudes we must emulate and the actions we must take to become an outstanding polytechnic in the 21st century, which the essay describes in an extended statement.  Reviewing our current capacity to achieve this vision yields mixed results; most notably, the group concludes that Cal Poly has lacked the “institutional agility” that would help it meet four basic challenges:

  • Move Cal Poly into the ranks of outstanding polytechnic universities.
  • Ensure that all graduates are whole-system thinkers with integrated and interdisciplinary strength across all university disciplines.
  • Empower graduates to be leaders in their chosen fields.
  • Enhance campus diversity and increase student, faculty, and staff awareness and understanding of diversity.

Action Items:

  • Move Cal Poly into the ranks of outstanding polytechnic universities
  • Ensure that all graduates are whole-system thinkers with integrated and interdisciplinary strength across all university disciplines
  • Empower graduates to be leaders in their chosen fields
  • Enhance campus diversity and increase student, faculty, and staff awareness and understanding of diversity.


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Theme 1: Learn-by-Doing

The results of multiple campus surveys suggest that Cal Poly needs a working definition of learn-by-doing that is specific enough to be meaningful and inclusive enough to account for the disciplinary variety of a comprehensive polytechnic university; the multiple curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular venues in which students learn; and the intellectual and practical aspects of higher education.  This essay advances the hypothesis that, because of the “upside-down-curriculum,” learn-by-doing happens earlier and more often in a student’s career at Cal Poly than at comparable institutions.  It observes that any area of the curriculum or co-curriculum that is not associated with a highly valued pedagogy such as learn-by-doing is necessarily undervalued; general education and diversity learning are such areas.  The essay concludes that learn-by-doing is not a product; it is a deliberate, intellectual process whereby students, acting alone and in consort with others, gradually acquire essential knowledge and skills through active, self-reflexive engagement with the world inside the classroom and beyond it.

Action Items:

  • Establish a working definition of learn-by-doing.  Based on the findings of the self-study, the Academic Senate should adopt a statement on learn-by-doing that is specific enough to be meaningful and inclusive enough to account for the variety of disciplines, venues, and ambitions that comprise a comprehensive polytechnic university.
  • Investigate the educational effectiveness of learn-by-doing.  Investigate the impact of learn-by-doing experiences on major satisfaction and change-of-major decisions.  Begin to survey alumni and employers on the long-term impact of learn-by-doing.  Analyze Housing’s data to assess the impact of its diversity awareness programs.  Use program review to assess the effectiveness of specific learn-by-doing practices. 
  • Strengthen learn-by-doing as our signature pedagogy.  Consider ways to address the perceived imbalance between learn-by-doing in GE and the major, including the weak link with diversity learning.  Ensure that, in all programs, the senior project or thesis is truly a learn-by-doing experience that integrates the broad sweep of advanced learning. Provide sufficient resources to allow programs to support this type of culminating experience.


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Theme 2: Teacher-Scholar Model

This essay begins by recognizing that though Cal Poly is a teaching-centered institution, scholarship has taken on a greater importance as the mission of the institution has evolved.  The essay finds that Cal Poly faculty and staff appear to engage in a high level of scholarly activity that enhances student learning, according to the results of the Cal Poly Student and Faculty/Staff Surveys, the Department Head/Chair Survey, and the literature.  Progress toward enacting the teacher-scholar model at Cal Poly, however, has been hampered by the lack of: 1) a comprehensive understanding of scholarship, 2) an accepted working definition of the model, and 3) accessible information or documentation about Cal Poly faculty and staff scholarship.

Some CSU-wide data on scholarship are available, and shared conditions (e.g., common union contracts, space formulas, etc.) make the CSU campuses an appropriate peer group in this area.  Some measures show that Cal Poly is actually performing quite well compared to these peers.  Unfortunately, support has not kept up with increasing needs, and there continue to be many impediments related to workload, resources, and infrastructure. The solution might lie in a more nuanced understanding of how academic careers change over time.  Boyer’s idea of the “creativity contract” embodies this understanding and serves as the model for a revitalized professional development plan.

Action Items:

  • Encourage the Academic Senate to Formally Endorse the Teacher-Scholar Model as Defined in this Self-Study. At the same time, the Senate should be encouraged to define scholarship in Boyer’s terms to include discovery, application, integration, and teaching/learning.
  • Make the RPT Process More Clear and Consistent.  Implement AS 690-09 Resolution on Promotion and Tenure Focus Group and AS-691-09 Resolution on Research and Professional Development.  Consider establishing a university-level RPT committee.
  • Track Scholarship More Effectively.  Provide greater access to the results of scholarly activities at Cal Poly by supporting the DigitalCommons framework and encouraging faculty to participate.  Continue to explore the use of software such as Digital Measures that protects the confidential process of RPT and yet is linked to a publicly accessible system such as DigitalCommons.
  • Provide the Library with an Appropriate Level of Resources.  Work with the provost to increase the allocation of funds to the library in order to expand its ability to support scholarship.  Over the next ten years, resources in support of scholarship should be brought up to the levels found at identified peer institutions, measured on a per-FTE basis.  Sources of revenue are likely to include student fees, research overhead funds, donations, and/or state allocations, reflecting a university-wide commitment to fund “common goods” essential to the health of all colleges and other units.
  • Develop a “Creativity Contract” embodied by the Professional Development Plan at Cal Poly.  This should recognize and reward various forms of scholarship as appropriate in various disciplines and at various stages in a faculty member’s career.  It should also allow for flexibility in the balance of time allocated to teaching, professional development, and service activities.  Identify exemplary instances of the teacher-scholar model at Cal Poly so that there are consistent RPT expectations for faculty at the same level of promotion across the university.  Assess the impact of existing mentoring programs across campus.  Survey faculty who utilize CTL programs and library resources.  Enhance support of those programs, services, and resources that most effectively support the teacher-scholar model.


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Theme 3: Integration and Student Learning

This essay considers the assessment of student learning at the program and university levels.  Cal Poly conducts program-level assessment of student learning as part of a revised process for academic program review that was introduced after the last WASC visit in 2000 and that is yielding good results.  In addition, progress is being made in the implementation of the e-portfolio as a tool to facilitate both student learning and the assessment of that learning.  Cal Poly conducts university-level assessment via the ULO Project, which complements program review by ensuring that all students across campus are achieving expected levels of performance in relation to the University Learning Objectives (ULOs), which were approved in 2007.  Departments must show alignment with the ULOs in the course of program review.

A key contention of this essay is that learning takes place in a number of different venues.  Our challenge is to integrate the array of learning experiences that make up a student’s career, and there are examples of highly integrative practices taking place across campus.  These are consistent with the Cal Poly Mission Statement, which recognizes the importance of the co-curriculum but fails to explicitly acknowledge the staff as a partner in the development of the Cal Poly graduate.  After the Mission Statement, the ULOs are our most important engine of integration, since they define a common set of expectations for all programs in Academic and Student Affairs. The Cal Poly surveys indicate that awareness of the ULOs is lower than might be desired, but students, staff, and faculty are very much engaged with the concepts that make up the ULOs, which also serve as the basis for the general education learning outcomes (GELOs).

Cal Poly has adopted the AAC&U model of Inclusive Excellence as a part of its effort to improve the academic performance and success of all students, including those from underrepresented groups.  Survey data tell us that our students are lagging behind their peers in the area of diversity learning; this problem is being addressed in the curriculum through the Diversity Learning Objectives and in the co-curriculum through programs that focus on such learning or provide support to underrepresented and/or low-income students.  Several academic support functions, including the Study Session program and Supplemental Workshops in Science and Math, have already been shown to have a broadly positive impact; these improve what NSSE paints as a mixed picture of advising and student success programming at Cal Poly.  The University should focus on increasing the effectiveness of such efforts while attempting to better integrate academic policies that impact student success.

Action Items:

  • Integrate program review.  The process is integrated in the sense that it seeks to assess learning across a broad range of venues—GE, the major, and the co-curriculum—for students within a program; structured work experiences like co-ops and internships should be added to the mix. The process may still be silo-ed to the degree that individual results are not aggregated.  Program review should be used to assess learning at the university level and to ask university-level questions about the senior project, learn-by-doing, etc.
  • Integrate the university’s intellectual capacity.  Revise the mission statement to include staff as partners with students and faculty in the educational enterprise.  Revise the syllabus policy to include the provision of course outcomes, with reference to ULOs and program goals.  Revise the course form to include reference to ULOs among the course outcomes.  Revise the senior project policy to insure that the project is truly integrative and can be used to assess the broad sweep of senior-level learning.  Make the educational effectiveness of the senior project a focus of EER.
  • Integrate student learning and advising.  Reaffirm our commitment to providing Cal Poly students with the opportunities to develop their skills in depth and breadth (the major and GE).  Reaffirm the General Faculty’s responsibility for GE within the curricular purview of the Academic Senate.  Simplify the curriculum review process for GE courses.  Continue to build awareness and application of the ULOs, DLOs, and SLOs.  Make student work, especially on-campus employment and internships, an intentional and reflective learning experiences that is integrated with other academic experiences.  Make the educational effectiveness of student work a focus of EER.  Make the educational effectiveness of academic advising a focus of EER and the establishment of campus-wide advising standards an outcome.  Help students to be more intentional and reflective about their learning by implementing the e-portfolio across campus.  Integrate the e-portfolio into program review.


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Related Content

Academic Programs and Planning

The Office of Academic Programs and Planning (APP) coordinates efforts between key stakeholders, faculty, staff, and students during each accreditation cycle.

APP Home Page

Reference Links

Useful links from WASC/WSCUC: