The late, great British actor Donald Pleasance once told an interviewer, “All the real work is done in the rehearsal period.”

Pleasance’s words are often taken out of context. This quote has become just another throwaway line. In fact, his observation about rehearsal is now so ubiquitous that it appears on refrigerator magnets.

Here is the longer quote, taken from an interview with the critic Thomas Lask: “The play is on top of me all the time and I am constantly thinking about it. Even when I leave the theatre, I’ll mumble the lines to myself or think about the way the character walks or holds himself. The process of creation goes on all the time. When I get through I feel I know what the character will do in every situation. But the building up of the part is not mechanical or deliberate. It grows out of the text.”

Pleasance’s remarkable performance of the character of the derelict, Davies, in Harold Pinter’s masterpiece, “The Caretaker” made his stage career in London. Pleasance was a man of measured words, and in the quote above he emphasizes two key elements of success: The rehearsal, and the text.

Colleges and universities writing accreditation self-studies or preparing for evaluation visits would do well to consider Sir Donald’s admonition: Focus on the rehearsal and the text, or the practice visit and the self-study.

For years, specialized accreditors in the health sciences have quietly urged their institutions to conduct practice visits prior to actual site visits.

This best practice in the health professions is fast becoming a next practice across the accreditation spectrum: More and more IHEs are now conducting well-ordered “practice visits” before the actual accreditation team members arrive on campus.

It’s fairly simple to assemble a small team of two or three colleagues from institutions which have recently completed self-studies and undergone site visits.

The best “test teams” include colleagues who have served, and served often, on visiting teams themselves. Effective test teamers also have kept current with accreditation standards. They understand data integrity, know the federal and state regulations which affect your programs, and have practically committed your “script” — your institution’s self-study — to memory.

But most importantly of all, your test team members understand that our higher education accreditation processes are peer-driven. This means that they’ll approach the practice visit in a spirit of colleagueship and service, and with a thorough understanding of, and appreciation for, the mission of your college or university.

Emerge Education, LLC can help organize and guide your practice visits for both regional and specialized accreditation events.

Our experienced team of accreditation and compliance specialists can conduct process audits, provide invaluable assistance with the preparation, presentation and editing of self-study reports, and help ensure that your observations are based upon defensible data which is presented in a legible, bench-marked and internally consistent manner. Please drop us a note. We may be able to help guide you through your accreditation processes and onward toward the success your institution deserves: osullivan@emergedu.com.

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