What is the QEP, and why is it important?
Tusculum College is accredited by the Commission of Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS-COC). To maintain SACS-COC accreditation, colleges must develop and maintain a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which is examined every ten years during the re-affirmation of accreditation process. A college’s QEP documents its ongoing commitment to addressing a specific focus related to enhancing student learning and the mission of the institution, thus demonstrating the institution’s commitment to continuous improvement.
Tusculum College’s QEP: development and ongoing progress
In 2007, in preparation for developing its first QEP, Tusculum College had an institution-wide vote to select its ambitious QEP topic: Problem-solving with Reflective Judgment. This QEP topic reflected the College’s mission to “cultivate the habits of practical wisdom, and develop the skill of reflective thinking.” In 2008-2009, work groups developed the details of the QEP’s implementation, which would include two generally sequential phases: (A) Problem-solving in the classroom and (B) Problem-solving in the world.
Between 2010-2014, when the QEP was initially implemented, certain classes were targeted to integrate problem-based learning, case-study methods, and reasoning through moral and ethical dilemmas into the coursework to help students develop their reflective judgment by examining ill-structured (complex, multifaceted, and open-ended) problems. However, by Fall 2014, our data showed there was no statistically significant increase occurring with reflective judgment measurements (although there were minor increases in information literacy, which is tangential to reflective judgment).
Rather than continue collecting data on a null hypothesis, during the 2014-2015 academic year, the QEP Committee began shifting its focus to three other aspects related to the Problem Solving in the World portion of its original QEP: (A) Civic engagement, (B) Career Preparation, and (C) Research. With a campus-wide vote in Fall 2015, we further changed “research” to “scholarly work” so as to be more inclusive of students, faculty, and staff who were not directly involved in the sciences.
Implementation of metrics to measure these different areas of focus and activities to support improved student learning outcomes will begin in Spring 2016, starting with Civic Engagement. Using a staggered approach, metrics and activities to support Career Preparation will be enacted in Fall 2016, and metrics and activities to support Scholarly Work will be enacted in Spring 2017.