ARC-PA Site Visits Made Ridiculously Easy, Part 2: Execution

Updated: May 19, 2020

This is part of a blog series, ARC-PA Accreditation Site Visits Made Ridiculously Easy. See Part 1

When it comes to preparing for an ARC-PA site visit, you hold the power to make the process ridiculously easy or laboriously difficult. We at Massey & Martin, LLC understand the process can feel overwhelming, so we’re providing a thorough walkthrough of the five distinct development phases of preparing for a site visit to help you feel ready. These phases are:

  • Strategic Planning

  • Execution

  • Application and Appendices

  • Triangulation

  • Final Preparation

In Part 1, we focused on Strategic Planning. Here in Part 2, we will dive into the execution involved in preparing for a site visit.

Sample: Execution Timeline

Advisory Board

Establishing an Advisory Board is essential. The purpose of an Advisory Board is to support and guide the PA Program in meeting its vision, mission, and goals. The committee will advise and support the faculty in evaluating and analyzing program outcomes, addressing weaknesses, increasing efficiency, and educating the public about the PA profession.

Advisory Boards can do more, as well. For example, our own Advisory Board helps identify clinical preceptors, too. Our board—about 7-10 alumni, preceptors, local PAs, and student representatives—meets twice a year for dinner and a meeting.

Curriculum Development

Curriculum development involves creating a skeletal outline of courses within the PA Program, determining semester credit hours, the sequence of courses, and developing course descriptions. Before jumping into developing the curriculum for your PA Program, Massey & Martin, LLC recommends visiting several other established PA Program websites to review their curriculum and program outline. Be sure to review the ARC-PA 5thEdition Standards B: Curriculum Standards in order to gain a full understanding of the ARC-PA curriculum requirements.

Syllabus Development

The syllabus needs to be written in such a manner that it guides students to become effective learners. The ARC-PA expects each syllabus to include, at minimum, the course name, course description, course goals, an outline of topics covered, instructional objectives, specific expected learning outcomes, a faculty instructor of record, methods of student assessment/evaluation, and a plan for grading. Massey & Martin, LLC recommends standardizing each syllabus in this format, maintaining the same order of required elements. Consider highlighting all of the required ARC-PA elements in a specific color in order to help site visitors to readily verify and validate the required elements.

Goals, Instructional Objectives, and Specific Learning Outcomes

Instructional Goals

ARC-PA describes instructional goals as general statements that define the major purpose of a course rotation or unit of instruction. These statements are not readily measurable.

Instructional Objectives

Instructional objectives are defined as statements that describe what the learner will be able to achieve after completing a course or unit of instruction. It is a statement that the student can demonstrate a specific skill, attitude, or behavior, and it is measurable.

Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected learning outcomes need to be specific, measurable, and require an observable learning outcome. Understanding the ARC-PA’s explanation for learning outcomes versus instructional objectives can be confusing, so here’s a helpful way to look at the two differences:

  • Learning outcomes are terminal behaviors that students are expected to exhibit upon completion of a course/curriculum. They are not meant to be granular or extremely detailed, but they are written in very measurable terms using higher-level verbs.

  • Instructional objectives guide the instructor or student in terms of the content covered within instructional units. Ideally, you should be able to map instructional objectives to specific learning outcomes, as well as be able to map test questions directly back to instructional objectives

Assessment Process

Each PA Program must establish a formal continuous self-assessment process that is used throughout all aspects of the program. The program’s planned, formal, and continuous self-assessment process incorporates university and program-level outcomes. The process occurs throughout the academic year and includes formative, as well as summative, student learning outcomes. For any PA Program to effectively meet its mission and goals, it will be necessary to conduct a continuous review of student learning outcomes, maintain a quality and effective faculty and curriculum, and create program policies and procedures.

The success of a PA Program’s self-study process depends on the collection and interpretation of relevant, valid data. Quantitative and qualitative data from multiple sources are used in the evaluation process. A critical analysis of the data includes evaluating trends over time, including cause-and-effect relationships. Results of the data analysis are applied to identify the PA Program’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as plan for program modifications. Reassessing the outcomes related to these modifications is essential to your PA Program’s self-study process, as is continued ongoing critical analysis of data related to every aspect of the program.


Most PA Programs utilize the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Developing the admissions process includes determining prerequisites, the application and application screening processes, the interview process, interview scoring and ranking, matriculation requirements, program deferral, and financial aid.

Clinical Site Development

The development of clinical sites is included in every phase of development as PA Programs prepare for a site visit. PA Programs are granted the luxury of hiring a clinical coordinator early on in the developmental process, while some programs opt to use their administrative assistant to help in the process. Still others choose to rely on the PA Program Director while establishing initial clinical sites. Massey & Martin, LLC recommends hiring a clinical coordinator early on in the process. It is essential to establish an adequate number of clinical sites to accommodate the number of students being requested. Competition for clinical sites is an ongoing battle that isn’t going to simply go away, and an inadequate number of clinical sites could prevent your PA Program from obtaining provisional accreditation. In fact, obtaining clinical affiliation agreements needs to be a top priority.


Execution is the most detailed and challenging phase of development. Once this phase is complete, you will be ready to begin working on the third phase: ARC-PA Application and Appendices.

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