Mendive. Revista de Educación, january-may 2019; 17(1): 109-121

Translated from the original in Spanish

The observer of the National Accreditation Board in the external evaluation processes of the universities


El observador de la Junta de Acreditación Nacional en los procesos de evaluación externa de las universidades


Maricela Maria González Pérez1, Fatima Addine Hernández2, Edith González Palmira3

1University of Pinar del Río " Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca". Office of the Vice President for Computerization, Research and Postgraduate. Cuba. Email:
2National Accreditation Board. Cuba. 
3University of Matanzas. Cuba.


Received: September 9th, 2018. 
Approved: January 1st, 2019.



In the analysis carried out in the plenary session of the National Accreditation Board on the processes of external evaluation of the Institutions of Higher Education in Cuba, a group of difficulties was identified that recommended the incorporation of a member of the same as an observer of these . From the analysis of the reports presented by each evaluator and the assessed in the plenary session of the National Accreditation Board, this work was proposed to systematize the experiences reached from the year 2016 to date and to propose a procedure that guides the work of future observers . The practice demonstrated the utility of the observer in terms of ensuring compliance with the regulations and procedures established by all the evaluators, while also leaving important recommendations for future processes.

Keywords: accreditation of Institutions of Higher Education (IHE); external evaluation of IHE; evaluation.


En los análisis realizados en el pleno de la Junta de Acreditación Nacional sobre los procesos de evaluación externa a las Instituciones de la Educación Superior en Cuba, utilizando el método de nivel teórico histórico lógico con el auxilio de la técnica del análisis documental permitió identificar un grupo de dificultades que recomendaron la incorporación de un miembro de la misma como observador de estos. A partir del análisis de los informes presentados por cada evaluador y los análisis en el pleno de la Junta de Acreditación Nacional, este trabajo se propuso sistematizar las experiencias alcanzadas desde el año 2016 a la fecha, con el objetivo de proponer los fundamentos teóricos del trabajo del observador, así como, una metodología que oriente la labor futura de los mismos. La práctica demostró la utilidad del observador en función de velar por el cumplimiento de los reglamentos y procedimientos establecidos por parte de todos los evaluadores, dejando además importantes recomendaciones para la realización de futuros procesos.

Palabras clave: acreditación de Instituciones de la Educación Superior (IES); evaluación externa de IES; evaluación.



The regulations that are in force approved by the National Accreditation Board (JAN) do not include the participation of a board member as an observer in the external evaluation processes of the Institutions of Higher Education (IES). However, the practice in the last two years has evidenced the need for its incorporation.

This paper aims to analyze the first results of the follow-up of the external evaluation processes of HEIs based on the JAN observer's function, so that there is empirical evidence that makes it possible to verify compliance with the procedures used and their transparency, as well as knowing the repercussions of the analysis carried out after the external evaluation.

The activity of the JAN observer, for the fulfillment of its function of verifying compliance with the norms established for conducting external evaluations to higher education institutions, becomes an exploratory-descriptive research exercise, from a predominantly qualitative perspective, ethnographic. More than quantifying it is important to describe, interpret and explain the process to improve your understanding and especially the work to be done. Under this perspective, the methods of compilation, observational registration, questionnaires and interviews were selected, although more quantitative instruments can be used in future studies since to date there has been no structured procedure to carry out this work.

In the same way, we investigated the relationships between the participating subjects and their objects. The practical and intellectual actions with which they constructed their representations and meanings were analyzed, as well as the sense that for them assumes the process of being a member of the JAN in general and of observer in particular, with the purpose of contributing to their understanding; so that those who intervene in it, especially those in charge of the direction and orientation of the process, identify the tasks and the moments in which their help is essential.

From the result of a process of recording and critical interpretation of the evaluation practice developed as JAN observers, some foundations are laid out to build a theoretical model that will guide the development of the methodology to be used for the empirical inquiry that it develops during the evaluation process and that they can contribute to the preparation and better performance of these observers.

The following question arose from the exploratory analysis explained above:

Which and how are the actions that constitute the training activity carried out through which a member of the JAN makes sense of the experiences, knowledge and modes of action with which he builds his identity?



In the development of the research the theoretical level methods were used: logical, systemic and modeling history with the support of the techniques of document analysis and the procedures of analysis and synthesis and induction and deduction.

First, the research needs associated with the tools and procedures used by the evaluators to carry out their work were determined. We worked with the reports of one hundred percent of the observers who acted between 2016 and 2017 in external evaluation processes to higher education centers in the country, as well as with current regulations.



The practice is based on knowledge, but also produces new knowledge. When you intervene in reality, it is possible to obtain - if you reflect on it - a rich and deep knowledge about it, the subjects with which you interact, the intervention strategies, and about yourself. However, the meaning of the knowledge produced in and for practice and, therefore, the way it is produced, are different from those of other types of knowledge.

Main findings and lessons learned by observers in their reports

The learning was carried out jointly with other participants, whose experiences, visions and interests are diverse, as well as their forms of intervention and obviously, their interpretations of the practice and its effects. In terms of knowledge about reality, their ways of generating it also differ, resulting in different products.

First, the observer gives a name - identifies - the problematic situation that is presented to him, then explores and decides what makes it problematic (what gives it the character of it) then postulates the causes of Problems that he has defined, this allows him to specify what he wants - and can - change in the situation and finally, he postulates what actions could modify it upon his return to the HEI and in the JAN Plenary.

In the reports of: Cadenas , F. (2015), Crespo , L (2016), García , JL (2017), González , E (2016), González , M (2016) , González , M (2017) , Mestre , U (2016), Romero , RE (2017), in general the most repeated approaches were the following:

As previously stated to date, there is no procedure for carrying out the work of the observer. The previous collection was due to the considerations issued in this regard in the JAN plenary session, to a first proposal of guidelines developed by González , E (2016 ) and above all to the initiative of each evaluator.

Taking into account the accumulated experience, as well as the work of the Management Quality Group (GCG) of the Center for Education Studies of the Central University of Las Villas (2016), a procedure proposal is presented below, from the perspective of the result of a process of recording and critical interpretation of the evaluation practice developed by the observers in evaluations external to HEI.

As a first result, this action facilitated the identification of the following starting points for a JAN observer:

a) The starting points for a JAN observer are:     

b) Methodological design for the work of the JAN observer

Corresponding to the question asked the results and contributions of the observers in the processes carried out and the recognized starting points, it has been possible to identify a group of elements to structure a methodology that guides its work.

The general objective of this methodological proposal is to diagnose compliance with the established norms for the realization of the external evaluations to the institutions of higher education, to validate the process and propose actions for its improvement.

For such research, the following are defined as categories, subcategory of analysis and indicators (Table 1 and Table 2):

Table 1 - Category: Subjects participating in the external evaluation  

Sub categories of analysis


Activity of the Head of the evaluation commission

a) Direct and control the execution of the evaluation.
b) Prepare the evaluation work plan, demand for the quality and depth of the work, as well as for the fulfillment in time and form of the activities foreseen in the general evaluation plan.
c) Coordinate with the management of the institution, all aspects necessary for the development of the evaluation.
d) Conduct the prior preparation process of the experts. (See: SEA-IES Regulation. Article 21)
e) Convene the evaluators daily to inform and collect the main aspects found, as well as the fulfillment of the planned work plan. (See: SEA-IES Regulation. Article 24)

Activity of the Evaluators

a) Preparation for the evaluation with the consultation of JAN regulations, orientations for evaluators, self-evaluation report.
b) Comply strictly with the application of these Regulations, with the guidance given by the head of the evaluation commission and with all the provisions in force. 
c) Participate in the elaboration of the work plan of the commission. 
d) Prepare properly, studying the documents that regulate the activities and instances that will be evaluated, the self-assessment report and the rest of the requested documentation. 
e) Participate in the execution of the evaluation in accordance with the provisions of this Regulation and its work plan, reporting the alterations, difficulties and deficiencies that arise and their causes to the head of the commission. 
f) Analyze and discuss with the evaluated the strengths and weaknesses that are detected during the evaluation; 
g) Inform the head of the commission of the results of the daily work, in accordance with the planned plan. 
h) Prepare reports on the aspects evaluated. 
For the process of preparing the final report , they must:
a) Prepare the report according to the document established for this action.
b) Reconcile it with the head of the commission and the representative of the Technical Committee in charge of the evaluation.
c) Analyze and discuss with the evaluated the final report of the area or variable that corresponds, to achieve the necessary clarifications with a view to preparing the final report.
d) Feedback to the representative of the Technical Committee in charge of the evaluation of the results of the analysis with the representatives of the institution.

Activity of the Assessed

a) Contribution of the information you pay to the variables and areas evaluated.
b) Compliance with the established program and the material assurances for it.
c) Work climate and communication style in the exchange with the evaluators.

Table 2 - Analysis category: External evaluation processes 

Sub categories


Coordination meeting

a) Time of the process in which it is carried out.
b) Level of knowledge of the program by all the members of the evaluation commission.
c) Compliance with the functions and role of each participating subject.
d) Level of preparation of the evaluation commission management.
e) Climate of exchange between the evaluation commission.
f) Precision of elements of the procedure to follow.

Work of the evaluators with the pairs of the institution

a) Type of actions carried out to verify strengths, weaknesses and compliance plan improvement: 
Exchange with the representatives of the institution responsible for providing the requested information; meetings with students and workers; visits to entities of the territory; controls to classes, application and sampling of exams; analysis of the result of controls to classes, visit to student residence, laboratories and other infrastructure sites, among others.
b) Quality of the actions: regulatory mastery, effectiveness of the actions.
c) Work climate to favor: respect for those evaluated and among the members of the evaluation commission; the non-imposition of criteria in the evaluation of the work of the institution; the issuance of valuations based on the verifications performed and not on subjective criteria; not to transmit to the members of the institution some information about the results that are obtained during the process.

Daily meeting

a) Conduction by head of commission: mastery of the rules and procedures for this type of meeting; effectiveness of the meeting.
b) Logic of exposition of the results of the work. 
c) Information by the evaluators of the actions carried out; the alterations, difficulties and deficiencies that arise; request for information from other evaluators; information on the actions to be carried out in the next working session with those evaluated; Share the lessons learned in the process.

The preparation, by the evaluators, of the final report and presentation to the head of commission.

a) Compliance with the guidelines for the preparation of the report.
b) Mastery and rigor shown by the evaluators in the exchange with the head of the commission.

Presentation of the final report of the variable or area to the representatives of the institution for each of them.

a) Quality of the report presented.
b) Exchange climate created by the evaluators for the accuracy and negotiation of the aspects that can be discussed.
c) Receptivity and recognition of those evaluated to the activity of the evaluators during the process.

Preparation by the head of the evaluation commission of the final report and its presentation to the evaluation commission.

a) Quality of the report: compliance with the guidelines for this type of report (summary of activities carried out, strengths and weaknesses found, comprehensive qualitative assessment of the management of the center based on the analysis of the results obtained); correspondence of the conciliated with evaluators, by variables and areas.
b) Participation of the evaluators: rationale for the proposed modification; shared learning

Presentation of the final report to the Rector of the institution.

a) Report presentation after analyzing with the entire evaluation commission.
b) Climate of exchange between commission management and rector.

Presentation of the final report to the Board of Directors of the center and to the representatives of the political and mass organizations.

a) Quality of the content of the report, in correspondence with what is established for its structure.
b) Reaction of the university community.

The fundamental methods and techniques to be used can be:

In each case, it has been possible to design each of the techniques and tools in order to gain homogeneity in the future work of the observers.

The experience of linking to the team of evaluators in the processes of external evaluation of HEIs a member of the JAN Plenary as an observer was enriching and is of extraordinary value, since it contributed to his better preparation as a member of the JAN, as well as, to the job advisory function for continuous improvement and during the institutional evaluation process of the HEI in which he works.

The JAN observer's responsibility lies in the fact that the evaluation process proceeds according to what is established in the rules and procedures of the SEA-IES, issuing value judgments about the quality of the evaluation practice, as well as recording and socializing its results.

It is necessary to take care of the figure of the expert or evaluator as a leading entity of the processes with the implementation of a strategy of selection, training and certification of their suitability and where the JAN observer can, in the process of external evaluation, accompany the member of the Technical Committee and to the Executive Secretary.

The proposed guidelines presented include the content of the regulations established for conducting external evaluations of Higher Education Institutions in Cuba, as well as systematizing some of the practical experiences in the evaluations carried out.

The proposed methodological design can be enriched with the contributions of JAN observers, at the time of carrying out their task and from the specific conditions in which they carry out their work, as well as from previous experiences. There is a previous conception or anticipation of the role to be played in the external evaluation space. Thus, the subject is prepared to adapt to the demands of the process.

The projection of the observation process must be based on transformation, constant movement, independent search and the use of information and communications technologies.

The result of these successive approaches to the definition of the functions and instruments for the fulfillment of the JAN observer's task, with their contribution, may contribute to the elaboration of a definitive document that guides the activity, which must be legitimized for the JAN.

Organizational learning requires orderly and systematic procedures, as well as mechanisms for the prevention of errors and the willingness to learn, which is equivalent to the willingness to improve.



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