Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tips on QEP

Embrace the process. It does no good to whine about it. See it as getting something done at your college that wouldn't have been done otherwise.

Get good writers on your team. In general, pick your team for expertise, not just "broad-based-ness" (although that's important too).

Proactivity. Talk to your liaison. Get it done.

Someone wise once told me, "Go to your boss with solutions, not problems." Great advice. When you go into the provost with "issues," go in with resolutions to those issues.

Topics should be focused. Critical thinking for a college of 8,000 students may be impossible to get consistent assessment on. Also, it must be student learning outcome focused, not "start a program we always wanted" focused.

Expect that external forces will throw you a major curve while you're in the process. WE picked learning support (developmental education) and the state agency/government made two huge changes that totally knocked us for a loop.

Hire a QEP Director/Coordinator who is going to stick around. Obviously, some people leave or pass away, but it's best to hire someone who is a sure bet.

To find an evaluator, start by going to the SACS site and finding schools that did their QEP on your topic or a similar one. Then find out who their QEP Director or the chair of the QEP Committee was. Another method is to contact leaders in professional organizations.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Christians in Academia: Read this

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/historicaladam.html

This is a long but very interesting article on human origins, i.e, the historical Adam and Eve. Did God use evolution to bring "creation" to a point where He could endow it with His image, and then it rebelled? Can we reconcile Christian theology of the gospel with a view that billions of years of death and decay led to the Fall?

Will the church separate over this, with the scholars going one way and the laity going another?

Let's talk about it, as my old pastor Ben Haden used to say.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

QEP: Enough to make me return to blogging

A lot has been going on in my life the last month or so. Our town was devastated by tornado, I watched my brother die and buried him, I've got new responsibilities with my mother, my son graduated from college, a close family member has agressive breast cancer. I have posted to my other blog but not this one, and few have visited it.

However, I have a job, too, and although I don't start teaching summer session til June 15, I have the weighty responsibility of chairing the QEP committee at our college. For those of you who know about QEP, you have my condolences. If you have been the leader of the committee, you have my pity. It's a huge job, and some days I really don't know what I'm doing. Other days, I feel more secure, but then another tentacle comes up and grabs me around the neck. It is truly an octopus. This is from a woman who chaired another self-study, who has written three novels, who balances a full life, who raised a great kid, ran a teacher and learning center, ran an awards program and a department, ran a forensics program..... This QEP thing is absolutely the toughest job I've ever had.

What is QEP? It is the Quality Enhancement Plan, a requirement for reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College. It is a five-year plan to improve delivery and assessment of some aspect of teaching (must be related to student learning outcomes). It takes at least two years to put one together; fortunately our school started early and before I was the chair.

Part of me would say it's the biggest nuisance that an accrediting association ever came up with. HOWEVER (before someone happens to read this and it gets back to my boss!) I also see it as a way to "get what you want fixed" at a college. That's putting in the simplest, and most self-serving, terms possible, but I don't think I'm off base with it. I have chosen to think of it that way. In our case, it's a way to improve instruction in a specific area and get the money to do it, under the banner of "SACS says we have to."

In more professional terms, the QEP allows a college to improve assessment, the word of the decade, maybe the century. What I have found is that a college can be "data rich and information poor." We can have everything counted but not do anything with all of it, not make sense of it, not use it to improve or make a case for it. I don't even think a lot of decisions in American higher education are made based on data, but on whim, self-promotion, and usually, budget constraints (which is a big one to consider, of course. If the money isn't there, it's not there).

I'm going to be posting on QEP here. I am going to post some thoughts on getting started, what I've learned, etc. Maybe it will help someone.