What's a QEP?
A QEP is a Quality Enhancement Plan that is an important part of the accreditation that is awarded by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, for short. Every college that seeks or renews accreditation by that group must have a plan that is developed by the college community that will improve some aspect of student learning in a specific and measurable way.
What is the focus of our QEP?
Our QEP will focus on the core courses of ENGL 1010, MATH 1130 and SPH 2100, and then ripple out into many other courses. Our working statement is that the purpose of Pellissippi State's QEP, "Strong to the Core," is to improve student learning outcomes in targeted courses through increasing student engagement in core curriculum areas.
Who is SACS?
SACS is recognized by the Department of Education as the regional body that accredits educational institutions around the south and in Latin America. The SACS website can be found at http://www.sacscoc.org/. They insure that colleges and universities meet standards that address the needs of society and students by requiring a renewal process every ten years.
When did our reaccreditation happen?
Our renewal on-site visit happened on September 27, 28, and 29. A team of college educators from around the South visited each of our campuses to have conversations about our QEP plan. Our reaccreditation became official in June 2012.
What is meant by “student learning outcomes”?
A student learning outcome is what someone knows or can do as a result of learning. The particular ones we are concerned with are ones that have a measurable positive change in a student’s knowledge, skills, behaviors or values.
How are we going to “increase engagement”?
The instructors of the core courses will be implementing proven active learning classroom techniques that engage the student and the instructor with the content. We will have ongoing training about these techniques, with guest speakers, small group meetings, and campus-wide inservice presentations about ideas that work. Audrey has set up a QEP Café, which will be a source of information and materials for those instructors who will be participating in the project. We will eventually open up the Café to all instructors, so that everyone will be able to have access to those resources.
How are we going to measure whether we’ve actually increased that engagement?
We already have several college-wide assessments that will give us data to tell us whether the strategies are working or not. We have been collecting data from the CCSSE (Community College Survey of Student Engagement) evaluations for several years, and will now look at the results from specific questions to see if there is an increase in our students’ perception of more engagement. We also will be looking at the CBASE (College Basic Academic Subjects Exam) and the SENSE (Survey of Entering Student Engagement) to help us draw conclusions about increased student learning and engagement after working in these classes. Results from the common grading rubric used in the ENGL 1010 and SPH 2100 and the common final exam questions of MATH 1130 will also be used to draw conclusions about which classroom techniques work and which don’t. All three evaluation tools already exist, and instructors in those courses are very familiar with using them.
How do we know if improving student learning and engagement using active strategies in the classroom is good enough to be our QEP?
SACS is fairly flexible about a QEP: They ask that it enhance student learning for a large portion of the student body (ours does), have measurable learning outcomes (it does), be affordable (we've got it in the budget and we're watching the costs), and will result in a process that includes the whole learning community (it will be contagious!). Last year, many QEP topics were suggested by students and a team of 25 faculty who got ideas from other faculty in their areas across the college. A smaller team shaped those ideas into a focus statement that was suggested by a large portion of students and faculty alike—that we build a stronger connection between the student and the instructor about the content of a course. A large part of our challenge as a college will be to share new techniques and proven teaching strategies that will allow that interaction to become stronger!
Our QEP has to do with strengthening ENGL 1010, MATH 1130, and SPH 2100. What if I don't teach one of those classes?
Most of our students will take at least one of those three courses during their time here. We anticipate that the techniques and successes in these courses will have a ripple effect into other disciplines and areas, making them more successful and stronger as well. All faculty will be invited to enter into the conversation about active learning strategies in the professional development sessions and seminars that will be offered to our faculty throughout at least the next five years. We will also gather resources so that any of our faculty may investigate a particular technique or just find out what's worked for someone else. We'll do this by using an open "QEP Cafe" on D2L and, eventually, a physical site at each campus. We anticipate these to be places where everyone can find out about teaching techniques, discuss topics in a particular discipline in a Faculty Inquiry Group (FIG), or learn what's been tried successfully by our Pellissippi faculty and others in the higher education community.
Our QEP has to do with strengthening ENGL 1010, MATH 1130, and SPH 2100. What if I do teach one of those classes?
This semester, several of our faculty are piloting sections of these classes to discover which of the many active learning strategies work best in their courses and with their teaching style. In the spring more sections and instructors will be offered the opportunity to test and evaluate some of these activities. Those "new" instructors will be mentored by the "veteran" instructors, who will share their experiences with everyone. That sharing of workable ideas and best practices will help both groups strengthen our academic community, which, in turn, will facilitate the learning that takes place in our classrooms!