SACSCOC Reaffirmation

Quality Enhancement Plan - Overview


Sam Houston State University is currently preparing for its next SACSCOC Reaffirmation of Accreditation. As a member of the SACSCOC Reaffirmation Class of 2019, SHSU will submit a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for SACSCOC approval in February 2019.  Additional information on SHSU's QEP selection and implementation process is provided in the Process tab of this site.

QEP Topic White Papers

Throughout the Spring 2017 semester, following campus-wide discussions of data and student learning needs, faculty and staff were invited to submit QEP topic white papers.  Six white papers were submitted for consideration by the SHSU community:

  • Promoting Active Learning at SHSU
  • Communication Course Redesign
  • Generation Informed
  • Get HIP (High Impact Practices)
  • Learning and Engaging for Global Leadership
  • Major Decisions

 

An executive summary and link to the full-text white paper is provided for each topic below.

 

Promoting Active Learning at SHSU
(More information: View White Paper)

 

The use of active learning techniques in the university classroom is a proven and widely accepted strategy to improve learning outcomes and increase student engagement. Although relatively new to higher education pedagogy, active learning has been adopted by several faculty members at SHSU from such seemingly distinct fields as mathematics, english, and philosophy. This proposed initiative seeks to expand the use of this evidence-based teaching strategy across the rest of our campus.  The use of active learning takes on many forms in the university classroom; although, all share the common characteristic of avoiding a traditional classroom lecture from an instructor. Rather than simply transferring information from a lecturer to the students, active learning techniques require the students to be actively involved in the learning process. These learning techniques have been partially categorized in education literature as collaborative, cooperative, or project-based learning.

 

What is lacking at larger, comprehensive public institutions such as ours - in which faculty teach three or even four courses each semester in addition to developing a research program - are the support structures required to give faculty the means to develop these innovative and often challenging teaching methods. This initiative will provide funds, workshops, and mentoring in order to train, encourage, and foster the greater use of quality active learning techniques in all departments across our campus.

 

Communication Course Redesign
(More information: View White Paper)

 

Three of the areas of emphasis for the proposed QEP are currently given consistent coverage in current formulations of both COMS 1361 and 2382 at SHSU and generally around the country, as represented by popular textbooks for the two courses. The notable exception is critical thinking, which gets practically no coverage in the 2382 text used at SHSU, with similar results found in comparable B&P texts. In the currently used 1361 text, logical fallacies get a brief introduction, plus the text contains a discussion of suggestions for thinking critically: recognizing dubious claims, finding multiple sources, examining opposing viewpoints, being cautious in using polls, recognizing the fallibility of experts, and cautioning about groups with misleading names. Thinking critically, being able to evaluate evidence with fairness and intellectual rigor, segues directly into the second emphasis area. 

 

The proposed QEP is an enhancement of the COMS 1361 Public Speaking and COMS 2382 Communication for Business & the Professions (B&P) courses, which are options in Component Area 4 of the Core Curriculum and required for Communication Studies majors and minors. Various other departments across the university have one of these courses as a requirement for their programs.

 

The QEP addresses issues identified as student weaknesses during QEP Town Hall meetings:

  • Critical Thinking,

  • Information/Source Analysis,

  • Organization & Synthesis of Evidence, and

  • Effective Audience Analysis/Speech Presentation.

These four areas would be developed into instructional modules using multi-media techniques, video, social media, and the latest research in each of the areas. These modules will be presented in designated sections of the Coms courses to assure consistent content delivery.

 

Generation Informed
(More information: View White Paper)

 

The current information ecosystem is unlike any other experienced by college students.  Inundated by an endless stream of information from a myriad of sources (Facebook, Twitter, and podcasts, to name just a few), students are the consumers and eventual creators of "knowledge."  In effect, students not only need to be able to access information, but to evaluate it, select what is most appropriate for their needs, and then interpret and integrate it in a socially and ethically responsible way.  To address these issues, our QEP proposal seeks to embed information literacy concepts into the curriculum as a timely and necessary initiative for the University in its mission to educate lifelong learners for the Texas workforce.  According to the Association of College and Research Libraries, information literacy is the ability of an individual to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."

 

As this skill is important to all undergraduate students, we propose a multi-faceted program that includes embedded course modules, a dedicated website that includes tutorials, FAQs, and other instructional material, a speaker series, student contests, and special events focusing on information literacy. We envision a scaffolding of embedded modules building from freshmen courses to senior capstones that develop the skills outlined by the ACRL, specifically the identification and determination of information, the ability to access, evaluate, and use this information, and ultimately become a more informed generation.  Faculty will be aided in this process by the creation of a curriculum guide or journal as described in the Resource section below. The “Generation Informed” theme will be continued and enhanced through a series of guest speakers and special events that highlight the value and importance of being an informed consumer of information.

 

Get HIP
(More information: View White Paper)

 

Sam Houston State University has a record of employing High Impact Practices (HIPs) in order to build student retention and enhance learning in the undergraduate curriculum. For example, the WID (Writing-in-the-Disciplines) program, CCE (Center for Community Engagement), PACE (Professional & Academic Center for Excellence), EURECA (Enhancing Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities) Center, the Elliott T. Bowers Honors College, and the FYE (Freshman Year Experience) Office are all SHSU programs associated with strengthening undergraduate student achievements; however, these programs are not often consulted as faculty plan the majority of their courses, nor do they tend to be integrated across the entire university curriculum.  Faculty could achieve more in their individualized courses were they made aware of and encouraged to use the resources available, and if the resources were enhanced to provide even more service to faculty. Further, learning outcomes for overall degrees and majors could be better achieved by aligning these programs with academic goals.

 

This suggestion for a QEP seeks to integrate a variety of programs and initiatives already on campus to help these initiatives be responsive to faculty requests and to spark individual faculty to improve their classroom practices. The aim is for this plan to be a bottom-up option for faculty to become involved in deciding how to best meet their student needs within individual disciplines, rather than to stress a top-down mandate or a project layered on top of the general curriculum.  This plan for enhancing faculty resources could be combined with any overall initiative the university chooses for its QEP.

 

“Get HIP” would allow faculty to create action plans to implement the high impact practices whose resources are already on campus, but often underused. The concept would be for faculty to collaboratively choose a strategy which involves one or more HIPs in order to strengthen the curriculum based on their own needs and curricular goals. The university centers, which have expertise and experience in the HIPs, will serve as coordinators of faculty who have chosen specific HIPs (for example, EURECA acting to coordinate faculty working with undergraduate scholarship as a HIP), and help in standardizing assessments, and hosting faculty learning communities, which share best practices.

 

Learning and Engaging for Global Leadership (L&E for Global Leadership)
(More information: View White Paper)

 

This proposed topic for a Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) addresses a few need areas identified in the SHSU 2016 NSSE Executive Summary, as well as high impact practices (HIPs) identified by Kuh (2008) to include: considerable time and effort, facilitated learning outside of the classroom, meaningful interactions with faculty and students, collaboration with diverse others, and frequent and substantive feedback to participating students.

 

The proposed QEP topic of “Learning and Engaging for Global Leadership” would involve a comprehensive program targeting primarily students who are Juniors, but those who are considered First-year students as well. Juniors would be targeted because they typically have learned to navigate the college experience, chosen a major, and are developing skills that will be applicable as graduating Seniors prepared to enter the workforce. In the capacity of Global Leaders and Mentors, Juniors in the program would interact with and participate in coaching and mentoring First-year students in their development of global awareness. Juniors could also be asked to commit to a 2-year participation in the program through their Senior year.

 

These ‘Global Leaders’ would be part of a learning community lead by various faculty and staff who are committed and qualified to serve as program mentors. As part of the learning community, Global Leaders would meet regularly (weekly or bi-weekly) to participate in:

  • Leadership training

  • Critical Dialogues of Difference

  • Research mentoring for Capstone Research projects on global issues/problems with faculty members

  • Mentoring and presentations by Global Leaders on global issues

Major Decisions: Empowering College Students to Make Timely and More Informed Decisions in Choosing Their Major
(More information: View White Paper)

 

The choice of a major early in college students’ academic careers is a frequent topic of research literature and often credited for improving retention rates at colleges and universities.  It has been my experience over the course of my nearly 24 years as a career services professional that there is a relationship between a student’s well – informed choice of a major and academic persistence.

 

The QEP topic I propose suggests taking a campus-wide approach to empowering college students to make both timely and more informed decisions in choosing their major and/or path to careers. This can be achieved through “career path” programing and advising, faculty assisting students in making the connection between their courses and potential careers, and increasing the prevalence of student success and capstone classes. The outcomes will be: more of our students persisting, graduating without unnecessary classes, expenses, student debt, and with greater likelihood of job prospects that ultimately will bring them career success and satisfaction.

 

A comprehensive institution-wide program is proposed that will provide early engagement with incoming freshmen and transfer students, and continuing academic, advising and career development assistance to these students as they progress through their academic programs. This QEP initiative can serve to assist both the undecided student and the student who has made an uninformed major and or career choice before they are at risk of possibly: a) poor academic performance; b) changing their major too frequently costing them and their family’s time and money; c) not persisting to obtain their degree and/or d) graduating without clear career goals leading to underemployment or delayed employment.