Topics a Department Might Explore in a Program Review

Consider exploring the following topic areas:


  • Recruiting physics majors, e.g., How is your department engaging local high school physics teachers and community college faculty to develop pathways for their students to enter your program in a seamless way? How does your department recruit majors from introductory physics courses? How does your department collaborate with your admissions office or other on-campus offices to recruit majors? Are there institutional metrics for the number of majors or class sizes that indicate potential threats to your department? See the section on Recruiting of Undergraduate Physics Majors for details.
  • Engaging students throughout and beyond their undergraduate experiences, e.g., How are students mentored and advised throughout their undergraduate experiences and into their next career or education stages? What are students’ perceptions of your department's support? How do you engage alumni to provide feedback on their experiences within your department and get involved with your current students? Why do students engage or not engage in undergraduate research, physics clubs, study abroad programs, athletics, etc? See the section on Advising and Mentoring of Students for details.
  • Reasons for retention or attrition of students across all course-to-course transitions of the major and across various disaggregated demographics, e.g., How has your department addressed issues raised by climate surveys and student feedback? Are any demographic groups disproportionately affected in a negative way? See the section on Retention of Undergraduate Physics Majors for details.
  • Reflect on the students you have and consider the match between your curriculum and student career interests and directions, e.g., What are the goals of students in your undergraduate program and how does the curriculum help students achieve those goals?
  • Reflect on the students you have and consider the match between course prerequisites, instructor expectations, and student preparation, e.g., How do non-calculus-ready students and those from algebra-based introductory courses transition into the major and what support structures are available? See the sections on Introductory Courses for STEM Majors and for details.


  • Use of research-based instructional practices, e.g., Do instructional staff use these practices? How uniformly? Do instructional staff have the resources and support needed to implement active learning in their courses? See the section on for details.
  • Evidence of student learning, e.g., What assessments are being used to monitor and evaluate student learning? What is the evidence that students’ learning meets stated learning goals in specific courses and throughout the curriculum? How do your program’s student learning outcomes connect with and support institution-level efforts, such as general education and institutional accreditation? See the section on for details.
  • Match between departmental mission and vision and the courses and experiences offered, e.g., Is your department providing experiences that inform students of a wide range of career options from a diverse set of individuals? How are research and other integrative experiences part of a student's experience in the major?
  • Support for students’ career and educational options, e.g., Where are graduates employed and what levels of post-graduate education do they obtain? Is there a physics department advisor who knows about pathways for obtaining teacher licensure in your state? Is your department educating and graduating a sufficient number of physics (and STEM) teachers to meet local needs? What internship opportunities are available for students and how does your department facilitate such experiences? See the sections on Career Preparation, High School Physics Teacher Preparation, and for details.
  • High-Impact Practices, e.g., Which high-impact practices, such as undergraduate research, internships, and capstone experiences, are your department implementing well and which other practices might you implement? How many students and faculty are engaged in undergraduate research experiences and how are research students distributed among faculty members? See the sections on Undergraduate Research, , and for details.
  • Contemporary skill sets taught, e.g., How are skills such as numerical methods and computational modeling embedded in the curriculum? Is your department reaching out to employers to understand contemporary skill sets required of potential employees? See the section on Computational Skills for details.
  • Ethics education, e.g., How does your department communicate and reinforce ethical principles of the profession? See the section on for details.
  • Review and improvement of curriculum, e.g., How are all aspects of your department’s offerings reviewed and on what time schedule? What changes have been made since the last program review? See the sections on Introductory Courses for STEM Majors, , , and for details.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

  • Department climate along with attitudes and perceptions of department members, e.g., Is your department a welcoming and inclusive environment for all? Do all members of your department support efforts to create an inclusive environment? What policies are in place and what policies are needed to create an inclusive climate? How are you formally assessing these issues and how are results discussed with members of your department?
  • Strategies and policies used to promote EDI, e.g., What activities does your department engage in to build a more inclusive environment? Do your strategic plan and other documents explicitly and pervasively address EDI issues?
  • Communicating about EDI, e.g., How are EDI policies and programs communicated to all? How does your department communicate to all stakeholders that harassment of any kind is not tolerated?
  • Recruiting and retention of diverse students, faculty, and staff, e.g., What policies and strategies are used to actively recruit individuals from marginalized groups? How do department members learn about bias in various forms and address issues that impact retention of members of marginalized groups?
  • See the sections on and for details.

Departmental Operations

  • Decision making, e.g., How are difficult decisions made? Do faculty, students, and staff feel engaged in the process?
  • Leadership structure, e.g., How are leadership duties distributed equitably? How can department members engage in new leadership opportunities? How are department leaders selected?
  • Meetings, e.g., How are department members involved in setting agendas? Do meetings allow for in-depth discussion of important topics? Who contributes to the discussions and why? Do all individuals participate?
  • Strategic planning, e.g., How are all stakeholders engaged in discussions and initiatives that advance your department? How can your department and its members contribute to raising the visibility and reputation of your institution?
  • Resources, e.g., How does your department equitably allocate resources? Are resources used effectively to support the departmental mission? How does your department advocate for resources to achieve its mission? How does your equipment budget compare to peer or aspirant departments?
  • See also the section on How to Be an Effective Chair.


  • Professional Growth, e.g., How are evaluations used to facilitate the professional growth and development of faculty and staff? How are opportunities for professional development (e.g., pedagogical or scientific workshops, professional training, sabbaticals, and leaves) promoted and supported? How are junior faculty mentored? How is teaching evaluated?
  • Climate, e.g., How do faculty and staff work together cooperatively and professionally to achieve department goals? How has your department used the results of climate surveys to address issues of job satisfaction or equity? What activities has your department pursued to improve EDI?
  • Scholarship, e.g., How is scholarship supported, evaluated, and recognized? What funding opportunities are available?
  • Staff, e.g., Is there adequate staffing to support the mission of your department? Do staff receive support and training to help them succeed in their roles?
  • Hiring, e.g., How are departmental EDI aspirations addressed by hiring plans? What data and information are available to advocate to the administration for hiring more faculty?
  • Assignments, e.g., How are service and teaching responsibilities distributed among faculty members?