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ODU to Announce Quality Enhancement Plan at Campus Events on Jan. 21 and 27

Since 2003-04, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the organization that oversees Old Dominion's accreditation via its Commission on Colleges, has been asking its member institutions to prepare a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), defined as "a carefully designed and focused course of action that addresses a well-defined topic or issue(s) related to enhancing student learning," as part of their 10-year accreditation review.

This will be the first time for ODU, which will hear in about two years whether its accreditation has been reaffirmed. The QEP is to be implemented over a five-year period, and the results of the plan will be evaluated by SACS in a subsequent accreditation review.

The university's QEP Committee, led by co-chairs Mona Danner, professor of sociology and criminal justice, and Worth Pickering, assistant vice president for institutional research and assessment, will formally announce its QEP proposal at two "Celebrations and Conversations" events on campus. The first, featuring wine and appetizers, is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, in the Hampton/Newport News Room of Webb Center. The second, which includes a full breakfast, will be from 8-9:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, in the River Rooms at Webb. Those planning to attend either event should RSPV at QEP@odu.edu.

The ODU committee decided on the QEP proposal following a lengthy solicitation of ideas process that began at the start of the fall 2010 semester by asking members of the university community the following question: In what area of student learning should ODU invest over five years?

"Engaged faculty lead the way to improvements in student learning," said Danner. "We had tremendous participation during the fall when faculty answered surveys and submitted ideas and proposals for a QEP topic.

"Analytical/critical thinking and writing were the two things mentioned most frequently by faculty as areas in which students need help. Our faculty care about students and want them to do better."

The committee, in fact, received 976 surveys and 51 topic idea forms. After identifying common thematic areas, the committee solicited mini-proposals on seven topics. In the end, the group requested further collaborative refinements and finally settled on a QEP for ODU: Reasoning through Writing and Research (RWR). A team of five faculty members was invited to write the final proposal: Ivan Ash, assistant professor of psychology; Fred Dobbs, professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences; Renée Olander, assistant vice president for regional higher education centers; Rich Whittecar, associate professor of OEAS; and Dick Zimmerman, professor of OEAS.

According to the winning team's proposal, RWR "will promote the development of scholarly reasoning and informed decision-making skills in our students through active, problem-based learning, academic writing and scholarly research.

"The complex issues students face in their careers, personal lives and roles as citizens requires that they draw conclusions and make decisions based on competing arguments, multiple sources of information and empirical evidence.

"Employers are most interested in job candidates who have the type of scholarly reasoning and informed decision-making skills that are the focus of this QEP proposal. Further, it is important for all educated people to develop the skills necessary to apply existing knowledge to new situations and to search out and appropriately apply new knowledge."

The name of the QEP could change, and the plan will be refined further as a result of additional input received from the academic colleges over the next few months, but the main tenets driving RWR will remain. According to the committee, after the Quality Enhancement Plan has become engrained in the ODU curricula, students will be able to:

• Articulate a problem or question

• Identify and apply existing knowledge

• Assess the quality and source of information

• Decide whether additional information is necessary to differentiate between opposing claims or options

• Seek out and comprehend new information

• Formulate conclusions based on sources and empirical evidence

• Clearly articulate their conclusions and justifications in writing.

Danner explains ODU's QEP this way: "Reasoning is a step-by-step cognitive process of looking for information, evaluating evidence, drawing inferences - that is, logical judgments - and making conclusions. Writing and research are processes as well as products that demonstrate reasoning. Therefore, improving students' writing and research skills enhances their reasoning abilities."

"These pedagogies represent general curricular interventions and activities that can be adapted and applied across academic fields and education levels," Pickering added. "Furthermore, the goal of the QEP and its implementation pedagogies are consistent with the strategic goals, faculty expertise and educational infrastructure of Old Dominion University."

A draft of the plan is expected to be completed by Aug. 1, and the final document will be ready for submission to SACS in January 2012. RWR will be tested during the fall 2011 semester, and assessments of the program will be made thereafter on an annual basis.

In addition to Danner and Pickering, the QEP team includes: Amy Adcock, Darden College of Education; Mohamad Alkadry, College of Business and Public Administration; Jill Dustin, Darden College of Education; Lisa Mayes, University College; Tisha Paredes, Institutional Research and Assessment; Ann Pettingill, Perry Library; Bryan Porter, College of Sciences; Scott Sechrist, College of Health Sciences; Ruth Triplett, College of Arts and Letters; and Alok Verma, Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

This article was posted on: January 26, 2011

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