Become a Program Reviewer

Accreditation Program Reviewers

The review team provides the Accreditation Council Liaison and the AEE Director of Standards Development and Accreditation with a clear understanding of the organization and its level of compliance with AEE accreditation standards at the time of the site visit. Members of the review team are not consultants and do not make recommendations to Council or the organization under review.

The review team is formed based on the availability of appropriate volunteer reviewers for the setting, activities,and clients.

A. Reviewers

There are three reviewer roles that may comprise review teams including lead reviewers, reviewers, and trainees. Lead reviewers manage the site visit on behalf of the Accreditation Council. Reviewers work in conjunction with lead reviewers to carry out the site visit. Trainees observe and engage in the site visit in a training capacity at the discretion of the lead reviewer.

Application
The Reviewer Application may be obtained here. The completed form, along with a current resume, is submitted to the Director of Standards Development and Accreditation for consideration. Applicants must be experienced professionals who are or have been recently employed in and demonstrate ongoing professional activity in the field of experiential education. Applications are assessed for specific technical skill sets at industry standards (i.e. canoeing, challenge course, climbing) and specific experience or training related to setting (i.e. wilderness or urban), client (i.e. adolescent or adult) and/or focus (i.e. education or outdoor behavioral healthcare). Reviewers are approved by the Director Standards Development and Accreditation.

Invitation
On occasion, individuals are invited to be reviewers in order to promote partnerships with other credentialing organizations (i.e., American Camp Association, Association for Challenge Course Technology, etc.) or because a particular area of expertise not normally found in the field of adventure programming (i.e. law, public policy) is required for a site visit.

Training
Reviewer applicants must apprentice at an approved site visit under an approved lead reviewer or participate in a Reviewer Training Symposium.

1. Reviewer apprenticeship opportunities are available on a limited basis according to the number and nature of site visits to be conducted in a given period and the availability of lead reviewers approved as reviewer trainers. 

2. Reviewer Training Symposiums are conducted in conjunction with selected continuing accreditation site visits at the discretion of the Director of Standards Development and Accreditation and the Accreditation Council. A reviewer training team functions separately and in consultation with the review team to ensure the integrity of the site visit.

Potential candidates may be responsible for all or part of training expenses. Completion of training does not guarantee that the Reviewer Application will be approved or that the applicant will be asked to be a member of a review team in the future.

B. Review Teams

Review teams engage in the review process prior to the site visit when members receive the Self-assessment Study from the organization. The review team is responsible for:

1. collecting data pertaining to all appropriate sections of the Manual of Accreditation Standards for Adventure Programs
2. verifying standards compliance;
3. reporting findings to the Director of Accreditation and the Council Liaison.

Pre-Site Visit
The Self-assessment Study is a thorough internal review of administrative systems, operations, and programs. Its purpose is to demonstrate compliance with applicable accreditation standards. Prior to the site visit, review team members should do the following:

1. read the Self-assessment Study thoroughly to get an overall sense of the organization (i.e., scope, mission, goals, activities, areas of operation, client profiles, etc.);
2. interpret compliance with the standards based on the evidence provided in the Self-assessment Study;
3. identify on-site actions based on questions and concerns raised in the reading of the Self-assessment Study (i.e., who should be seen, what should be seen, what questions should be asked);
4. communicate questions and concerns about the Self-assessment Study to the lead reviewer;
5. communicate travel arrangements, and accommodation and dietary restrictions to the lead reviewer.

Site Visit
The site visit demands coordination among review team members, excellent preparation, and long hours. The review team will meet upon arrival to review notes, confirm responsibilities and finalize the schedule. Normally, the review team will meet with organization staff in an informal setting to answer any questions and set the tone for the review.

Data Collection
Interviews, observations and a review of documents, facilities, and equipment comprise data collection. The majority of data collection needs are identified prior to the site visit through a thorough analysis of the Self-assessment Study. However, review team members will likely identify additional data needs during the site visit. Collectively, the review team will engage in the collection of data in a variety of ways.

Employees at all levels of the organization may be interviewed. These interviews may include representatives of different programs, services or functions and advisory or support group members such as Risk Management Committees or Board of Directors. While face-to-face interviews are preferred, some interviews may be conducted by telephone.

Participants may be interviewed individually or in small groups to verify standard compliance from their perspective. Participant interviews provide impartial triangulation of data.

Reviewers observe programming in action. While it is impractical to observe all activities, selection should be based on factors such as areas in which the organization specializes (so-called "signature activities"), activities that appear to have higher rates of incidents or accidents, high-risk activities, new activities and activities that warranted comment or were cause for past concerns in previous reports, reviews, evaluations or inspections.

The review team will review documents and files that are noted in the Self-assessment Study as available on site or for which concerns were raised. Facilities and support services such as administrative oversight and procedures, transportation, food service, maintenance and health services may be examined in an appropriate manner.

Site Visit Report
The purpose of the Site Visit Report is to communicate review team findings to the organization and to Council. The report has a narrative section and a standards section. The narrative section includes an introduction, a summary of review team findings and other observations or concerns. The standards section lists all standards reviewed with met, unmet or not applicable findings.

The review team should complete a draft of the Site Visit Report prior to the Exit Interview. In order to do so, the review team should plan to spend a portion of each day comparing findings and drafting sections of the Site Visit Report.

Exit Interview
The Exit Interview is facilitated by the lead reviewer and takes place at the conclusion of the site visit with appropriate personnel from the organization in attendance. The Exit Interview follows the format of the draft Site Visit Report. It provides an opportunity to discuss preliminary findings of the review team, clarify remaining questions, correct factual errors and describe the next steps in the accreditation process.

Prior to the Exit Interview, the review team meets to discuss the specific conditions and process of the exit interview. Feedback specifically for an administrator or potentially sensitive issues should take place prior to the exit interview with appropriate personnel to avoid surprises. The exit interview focuses on the observations of the review team as they relate to AEE Accreditation standards.

Differences of opinion between the organization and the review team should be covered in the Organization Site Visit Response. The review team should not offer opinions or make recommendations regarding the accreditation of the organization during the exit interview. The Accreditation Council will make the accreditation decision based on the application materials, the Site Visit Report, and the Organization's formal written response to Site Visit Report.

Final Review Team Meeting
In most cases, the review team will meet before leaving the site to discuss findings, agree upon the content of the final Site Visit Report, delegate the completion of tasks that remain to finished, set deadlines, and sign the signature page of the report. At this time it may be appropriate to complete evaluation paperwork.

Evaluation
The AEE Accreditation Council and staff ask review team members to complete the Reviewer Evaluation of the Site Visit form and the Reviewer Feedback form for each member of the review team. Data is used to enhance continuous improvement of the AEE Accreditation Program. Completed forms are submitted to the Director of Accreditation within fourteen (14) days of the site visit.

AEE will provide the lead reviewer with electronic versions of the Reviewer Evaluation of the Site Visit form and the Reviewer Feedback form. Forms are also available on the AEE web site. Completed forms are sent to AEE and the Council Liaison within fourteen (14) days of the site visit.

C. Review Team Leaders

Eligibility
Lead reviewers must meet the criteria for selection for a reviewer, have experience as a reviewer on a minimum of one site visit and be recommended by a current lead reviewer or AEE staff. Lead reviewers are approved by the Director of Standards Development and Accreditation.

Training
Lead reviewer candidates will apprentice with an approved lead reviewer on a site visit or participate in a Reviewer Training Symposium. Additional training may be offered in the regular program at annual conferences, or through webinars, to update lead reviewers about Accreditation Program policy, industry standards, procedural aspects for conducting site visits, or in response to matters identified in reviewer evaluations of site visits.

1. Lead reviewer apprenticeship opportunities are available on a limited basis according to the number and nature of site visits to be conducted in a given period and the availability of lead reviewers approved as reviewer trainers.
2. Reviewer Training Symposiums are conducted in conjunction with selected continuing accreditation site visits at the discretion of the Director of Accreditation and the Accreditation Council. A reviewer training team functions separately and in consultation with the review team to ensure the integrity of the site visit.

D. Review Team Leader Responsibilities

Lead reviewers manage the site visit. They communicate with the organization, the Council Liaison, the Director of Accreditation and the review team before, during, and after the Site Visit about a range of topics and logistics outlined below.

Pre-Site Visit
1. Discuss observations or concerns with the Accreditation Council Liaison based on the review of application materials or the Self-assessment Study.
2. Determine review team member skills and areas of expertise, and delegate tasks accordingly.
3. Confirm dates and travel plans with the organization, the review team and AEE.
4. Develop a site visit schedule with the organization and provide a copy to the Accreditation Council Liaison and AEE.
5. Confirm logistical details (i.e., work area, access to office equipment, accommodation, transportation, etc.) with the organization.
6. Ensure that members of the review team have reviewed the application materials prior to the site visit and remind review team members to evaluate the Self-assessment Study standard by standard and generate a list of topics, data needs and questions based on the initial review.
7. Discuss training objectives and needs with reviewer trainees.

Site Visit
1. Meet with team members to review notes, confirm responsibilities and finalize the schedule.
2. Lead the initial meeting with the organization to set the tone for the review, detail logistics (i.e., schedule, time frame, etc.) and answer questions.
3. Manage logistics and activities related to the site visit.

Data Collection
1. Coordinate review team member tasks and responsibilities for data collection.
2. Assist review team members to interpret and review appropriate evidence of compliance for relevant standards.
3. Communicate with organization staff throughout the site visit about logistics and needs of the review team.

Site Visit Report
1. Review "Conducting an External Review" in the Accreditation Program Manual.
2. Facilitate the writing of the Site Visit Report by spending a portion of each day with the entire review team comparing findings and drafting sections of the written report.
3. Complete a draft of the report for use in the exit interview (do not provide the organization with a draft of the Site Visit Report).
4. Revise the draft used in the exit interview as appropriate before departing from the site.
5. Submit the final of the Site Visit Report to AEE and the Council Liaison within fourteen (14) days of the site visit.

Exit Interview
1. Facilitate a meeting of the review team to discuss the exit interview.
2. Facilitate the pre-meeting with the organization director to discuss any specific feedback or potentially sensitive issues.
3. Facilitate the exit interview based on the sections of the Site Visit Report, including:

  • a general overview of the site visit process,
  • strengths of the organization,
  • unmet standards,
  • other observations or concerns,
  • met standards with comments.

4. Ask review team members to contribute as appropriate.
5. Ask organization staff to offer missing information or clarify incorrect information.

Final Review Team Meeting
1. Finalize the Site Visit Report.
2. Conduct a general evaluation of the site visit.
3. Provide members of the review team members with hard or electronic copies of the Reviewer Evaluation of the Site Visit form and the Reviewer Feedback form to be submitted to AEE and the Council Liaison within 14 days of the site visit.
4. Review procedures for reimbursement of expenses.

E. Reviewer Expenses and Requests for Reimbursement

Expenses incurred by reviewers during a site visit will be reimbursed by the organization being reviewed. Reasonable expenses include travel, food, lodging, photocopies, postage, telephone and other incidental expenses directly related to the site visit. Expenses should be kept to a minimum. For example, reviewers should travel by the most economical means available and may use email to communicate when possible. AEE reserves the right to determine if expenses are an unreasonable burden on the organization seeking accreditation.

Expenses are submitted to the Director of Accreditation using an expense reimbursement form with original receipts attached no later than 7 days after the site visit. AEE will process and submit expenses to the organization. The expense reimbursement form is an excel file that can be obtained from AEE. Please submit a request via email to accreditation@aee.org.