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FAQs

Faculty FAQ

Student FAQ

Faculty FAQs

What is a QEP and why are we doing it?
A Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, is a “carefully designed course of action that addresses a well-defined and focused topic or issue related to enhancing student learning” (SACS).  Developing a QEP is part of ODU’s reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).  The QEP presents an extraordinary opportunity to focus on enhancing student learning. ODU is developing the QEP now, but it will be implemented over a five year period beginning in 2012.

What is ODU’s QEP?
The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for Old Dominion University is:  Improving Disciplinary Writing.  ODU’s QEP is intended to improve upper-division undergraduate students’ disciplinary writing – that is, writing that demonstrates a reasoning process supported by research and reflection on a problem, topic or issue – through two faculty development and engagement initiatives.  Writing is a critical skill that goes beyond demonstrating proficiency with the mechanics and structure of writing per se.  Writing is a means to communicate what has been learned.

What are the specific Student Learning Outcomes for Improving Disciplinary Writing?
Skill in writing is demonstrated by six student learning outcomes that will be assessed through evaluation of written artifacts.  Students will be able to: 

  • Clearly state a focused problem, question, or topic appropriate for the purpose of the task
  • Identify relevant knowledge and credible sources
  • Synthesize information and multiple viewpoints related to the problem, question, or topic
  • Apply appropriate research methods or theoretical framework to the problem, question, or topic
  • Formulate conclusions that are logically tied to inquiry findings and consider applications, limitations, and implications, and
  • Reflect on or evaluate what was learned.

How was Improving Disciplinary Writing chosen?
Old Dominion University’s QEP was developed from analysis of university institutional effectiveness data and from broad based, inclusive campus and community conversations with faculty, staff, students, alumni and employers.  Throughout the fall 2010 semester, the QEP Team made presentations and distributed surveys and topic idea forms throughout the campus to faculty, administrators, staff, students, employers, parents, alumni, and college advisory boards.  The primary question asked was “In what area of student learning should ODU invest over five years?”  Over 1,300 surveys and topic idea forms were received.  Together these identified a number of thematic areas that were discussed during a QEP Forum held in September 2010 and attended by academic faculty and staff.  The Team solicited mini-proposals and then full proposals exploring these topics from faculty.  The final topic was selected after a careful review of the proposals, consultation with SACS experts and ongoing engagement with the University community.  QEP Celebrations & Conversations were held in January and September 2011 to further develop the QEP.

Why was Improving Disciplinary Writing chosen?
More than 61% of those responding to the surveys, most of whom were faculty, identified or writing or critical thinking as the areas in which ODU should invest resources.  When faculty and employers said they want students who are better writers, they meant more than the mere mechanics of writing:  They want writing that demonstrates a reasoning process supported by research and reflection on a problem, topic or issue.

The QEP recognizes that the methods by which research, reflection, and presentation are conducted vary by discipline.  The written artifacts produced within each discipline reflect the different ways of “knowing, doing, and writing” in the disciplines; and the particular “ways of doing” are associated with the discipline’s “ways of writing” (Carter 2007).  Students learn how to do the discipline in ways that are particular to the discipline, such as laboratory research in the natural and physical sciences, historical and archival research in the humanities, survey and field research in the social sciences, case study analysis in the professional schools, systems design in engineering, and performance in the arts.  They come to know the discipline as they write about what they did and learned using the discipline’s specific style of knowledge presentation, whether these are lab reports, monographs, research reports, field notes, patient notes, design plans, technical reports, or performance reviews.  Although written artifacts communicating what was learned vary by discipline, they nonetheless provide evidence of learning.

Why should I care about the QEP @ ODU?
Learning and writing permeate our personal and professional lives.  Faculty members expect students to learn the content of their discipline and to communicate that knowledge between colleagues and to the public at large.  Employers as well as faculty expect graduates to demonstrate what they have learned and to communicate effectively through writing.  Improving Disciplinary Writing will better prepare our students to succeed in future employment and graduate school opportunities and make them more competitive upon graduation from ODU. 

How will all of this affect me?
Only as much as you want it to.  Not every student or faculty member will directly participate in the QEP.  Improving Disciplinary Writing is focused primarily on undergraduate, upper-division courses, including but not limited to writing intensive courses.  As such, the faculty who will probably be most interested in the opportunities made available by the QEP are those who want to enhance content learning by implementing proven writing-to-learn techniques. 

Remember, too, that as students write more to enhance learning, they will become better writers and learners and all of us will benefit.

I’m a professor, not a writing teacher!
Students learn for different purposes and audiences throughout their schooling.  In addition, they learn specialized types of writing as they take courses in their majors.  You are the best person to teach students to write as scientists, mathematicians, geographers, historians, secondary educators, health professionals, engineers or as business managers.  You are the person who knows what good writing is in your field.  It is the faculty within a discipline who know best what it means to be a member of a discourse community and it is these faculty who can help students learn to understand the scholarly traditions in that discipline.

But I don’t know how to teach writing!
We’re not asking you to teach writing.  You are responsible for teaching the content of your discipline and writing is of tremendous value in learning that content.  The QEP Faculty Workshops will address topics such as:

  • How can I find room for writing in my course without sacrificing content?
  • What kinds of assignments produce the best learning in my discipline?
  • What types of writing prepare majors for employment in this field?
  • How can I use writing in large classes, distance education or online classes?
  • How can I respond to writing without spending my weekends grading papers?
  • What do I do about grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
  • I don’t want to be the only faculty member requiring more writing.

Whereas students learn the mechanics of writing in college composition courses, the purpose of writing in upper-division disciplinary courses is to communicate what has been learned during research and reflection on a problem, topic or issue.  In this context, the act of writing requires reasoning and critical thinking in order to understand, organize and communicate what has been learned.  Thus, writing is also a way of coming to know or discover meaning. 

Many faculty members, just like students, have common misconceptions about writing.  Faculty may believe that writing and learning disciplinary content are two separate and unconnected practices, that students should enter their upper-level courses able to write in the particular disciplinary discourse, that faculty outside of English are not responsible for teaching about writing, and/or that students simply can’t write.  Faculty tend to believe that writing is “generalizable to all disciplines and therefore distinct from disciplinary knowledge, to be learned as a general skill outside the disciplines” (Carter 2007:385; c.f. Russell 1990, 1991).  Indeed, faculty repeatedly made these very comments to the QEP Team during topic selection and development.  The reality is that “writing skill is honed over a lifetime” (Beaufort 2007:6) and every discipline has its own writing conventions.  The QEP activities are designed to help you increase your students’ learning of the content as well as to improve their disciplinary writing.

There’s too much content to cover in my courses to spend time dealing with writing.
Substantial research supports the idea that writing enhances student learning.  When students write about the content, they are more likely to remember it and to remember it 6 months later.  Students who report that they wrote more in their courses also reported higher levels of commitment to and participation in the course, time working on the course, and the amount they felt they learned in the course.

I teach a “W” Course, will this mean more work in my classes?
Your course already requires that more than 50% of the course grade come from graded writing exercises.  It is up to you whether to take advantage of the QEP activities to enhance student learning.

I don’t teach a “W” Course, can I still take advantage of the faculty learning opportunities?
Yes, the QEP is about Improving Disciplinary Writing.  The opportunities to learn more are available to faculty members who want to:

  • improve their students’ learning of the content in their courses
  • get their students writing more as a way to enhance their learning
  • see improvements in their students’ writing

How will ODU support faculty who wish to strengthen Improving Disciplinary Writing?
ODU intends to provide two initiatives for faculty engagement in new practices, one designed for individual development, and one intended for College or departmental development:

  • Faculty Workshops designed to teach faculty who are teaching upper-division undergraduate courses the techniques identified as the best practices to teach and assess writing
  • Action Projects funded through an internal grant process to encourage academic programs to learn about, develop and implement best practices to improve writing in the upper-division undergraduate courses within their programs

These initiatives will give faculty the time, techniques, tools and support needed to learn best practices for improving writing in their courses and programs.  Repeated conversations with faculty during the QEP development process made it clear that many faculty desire the opportunity to learn how best to teach their students.  As faculty adopt best practices for teaching and assessing writing, their students will begin to produce written documents that demonstrate the six student learning outcomes.

I have heard that these workshops will be 5 days long.  I don’t have 5 days to devote to this!
The QEP Faculty Workshops offer faculty the opportunity to be a student again.  Let’s face it, faculty are students with degrees; we are learning junkies and this is an opportunity to learn something new that will benefit us and our students.  The workshop sessions will be highly active and interactive and faculty will finish the workshop having changed their syllabi and teaching practices in ways that promote content learning and make their teaching experiences more enjoyable for them and their students.  The sessions will meet from 9 am-3 pm and continental breakfast and lunch will be provided in addition to financial compensation.

I don’t mean to be crass, but what’s in it for me?
ODU’s QEP is:

  • is an opportunity for you to give some attention to your teaching, and be rewarded for the effort
  • means better learning of course content by your students
  • means more active and interactive class sessions, better discussion sessions, and modeling how experts in your field learn and write
  • means teaching students how to learn new concepts and actively take ownership of them through writing about them

I am not teaching faculty.  What role will I have in the QEP?
Faculty, administrators and staff all have a role in our students’ lives.  Become familiar with the QEP and what it seeks to accomplish. Reiterate the importance of learning and writing in your career field or discipline.  Learning is lifelong and Improving Disciplinary Writing will help our students accomplish their goals here at ODU and after they graduate.

So, what’s in it for students?
Students who take classes from faculty using the techniques that improve disciplinary writing will learn the content of their courses better as well as learning how to write better.  In turn they will …

  • be better prepared for employment opportunities, graduate school applications, and promotions
  • earn better grades
  • be part of more engaging classes
  • build confidence in their ability to communicate knowledge they learned in their upper-division courses
  • be more competitive for jobs and graduate school

What should I do if I want to learn more about Improving Disciplinary Writing?
If you would like to learn more about ODU’s QEP, contact qep@odu.edu or visit the QEP website at http://www.odu.edu/qep or use your smartphone to access the QEP website using this QR tag:

 

 

 

 

Student FAQs

What is a QEP and why are we doing it?
A Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is “carefully designed and focused course of action that addresses a well-defined topic or issue related to enhancing student learning.”  Developing a QEP is part of ODU’s reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).   The QEP presents an extraordinary opportunity to focus on enhancing student learning.  ODU is developing the QEP now, but it will be implemented over a five year period beginning in 2012.

What is ODU’s QEP?
The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for Old Dominion University is:  Improving Disciplinary Writing.  ODU’s QEP is intended to improve upper-division undergraduate students’ disciplinary writing – that is, writing that demonstrates a reasoning process supported by research and reflection on a problem, topic or issue – through two faculty development and engagement initiatives.  Writing is a critical skill that goes beyond demonstrating proficiency with the mechanics and structure of writing per se.  Writing is a means to communicate what has been learned.

How was Improving Disciplinary Writing chosen?
Old Dominion University’s QEP was developed from analysis of university institutional effectiveness data and from broad based, inclusive campus and community conversations with faculty, staff, students, alumni and employers.  Throughout the fall 2010 semester, the QEP Team made presentations and distributed surveys and topic idea forms throughout the campus to faculty, administrators, staff, students, employers, parents, alumni, and college advisory boards.  The primary question asked was “In what area of student learning should ODU invest over five years?”  Over 1,300 surveys and topic idea forms were received.  Together these identified a number of thematic areas that were discussed during a QEP Forum held in September 2010 and attended by academic faculty and staff.  The Team solicited mini-proposals and then full proposals exploring these topics from faculty.  The final topic was selected after a careful review of the proposals, consultation with SACS experts and ongoing engagement with the University community.  QEP Celebrations & Conversations were held in January and September 2011 to further develop the QEP.

How will the QEP affect me?
Not all students or faculty will directly participate in the QEP.  Improving Disciplinary Writing is focused primarily on upper-division undergraduate courses within a discipline.  Even though all students will not be involved directly in the QEP, students will benefit indirectly from innovative teaching strategies and resources growing out of the initiative.

Will the QEP mean more work in my classes?
Many upper-division courses already include a focus on writing.  The type and amount of work involved in each course will vary among individual faculty.  However, students enrolled in courses taught by faculty involved in the QEP might find themselves engaging in a variety of learning activities that will result in written artifacts that:

  • Clearly state a focused problem, question, or topic appropriate for the purpose of the task
  • Identify relevant knowledge and credible sources
  • Synthesize information and multiple viewpoints related to the problem, question, or topic
  • Apply appropriate research methods or theoretical framework to the problem, question, or topic
  • Formulate conclusions that are logically tied to inquiry findings and consider applications, limitations, and implications, and
  • Reflect on or evaluate what was learned.

But I’m not training to be a writer!  I want to learn the content in my major.  
Substantial research supports the idea that writing enhances student learning.  When students write about the content, they are more likely to remember it and to remember it 6 months later.  Students who report that they wrote more in their courses also reported higher levels of commitment to and participation in the course, time working on the course, and the amount they felt they learned in the course.  And, remember that employers value good writing skills.  Your major will get you your first job, but it is general education and communication skills, especially writing, that will get you promotions and more career opportunities.

Why should I care about the QEP @ ODU?
Writing permeates our personal and professional lives.  Employers and faculty expect that graduates will be able to communicate effectively through writing.  Therefore, strengthening your writing skills will better prepare you to succeed in future graduate and employment opportunities and make you more competitive upon graduation from ODU. 

I really don’t have flexibility in my course schedule.  Is this going to require that I take additional classes?
No.  Faculty within your major may choose to incorporate techniques that improve disciplinary writing into the existing curriculum or major requirements. 

What should I do if I want to learn more about Improving Disciplinary Writing?
If you would like to learn more about ODU’s QEP, contact qep@odu.edu or visit the QEP website at http://www.odu.edu/qep or use your smartphone to access the QEP website using this QR tag: