What is SACSCOC?

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the regional body for the accreditation of higher education institutions in the Southern states that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral degrees. For more information, visit www.sacscoc.org.

What is QEP?

Each institution seeking reaffirmation of Accreditation is required to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The QEP is a five-year plan which addresses a well-defined topic or issue related to enhancing student learning and/or the environment supporting student learning. Developing a QEP as a part of the reaffirmation process is an opportunity for the institution to enhance overall institutional quality and effectiveness by focusing on an issue or issues that the institution considers important to improving student learning. At the end of five-years, SACSCOC will evaluate the results of UAB’s QEP.

What happened to the 2005 QEP?

The “old” 2005 QEP (Reconceptualizing Our Undergraduate Core) was not discontinued, it was institutionalized. A QEP is designed to be completed in five years. At the end of that time, an impact report is submitted to SACSCOC presenting a case for our success and indicating what aspects of the QEP will become permanent, which is termed “institutionalization.” We have continued the First Year Experience courses, Freshman Book Discussion, emphasis on general education, and capstone courses. Our 2005 QEP truly changed undergraduate education at UAB.

Can we redo the 2005 QEP topic?

No. While we could have a similar theme, we would need significant differences in scope, goals, and learning outcomes to have a core curriculum-driven QEP. During the process of identifying the QEP theme, some constituents suggested that we continue to address the undergraduate core, but it was not the major idea put forth.

What is expected of a QEP?

Our proposal will be evaluated on five components. See SACSCOC QEP Guidelines for details.
  • An Institutional Process. The institution uses an institutional process for identifying key issues emerging from institutional assessment.
  • Focus of the Plan. The institution identifies a significant issue that (i) focuses on learning outcomes and/or environment supporting student learning and (ii) accomplishes the mission of the institution.
  • Institutional Capability for the Initiation, Implementation, and Completion of the Plan. The institution provides evidence that it has sufficient resources to initiate, implement, sustain, and complete the QEP.
  • Broad-Based Involvement of Institutional Constituencies. The institution demonstrates the involvement of its constituencies in the development and proposed implementation of the Plan.
  • Assessment of the Plan. The institution identifies goals and a plan to assess the achievement of those goals.

What is UAB’s QEP Topic?

UAB’s proposed QEP is Learning in a Team Environment. This QEP focus is responsive to the learning needs of all students and to the skills that are expected in the workplace. For the benefit of our students and graduates, we will strive to strengthen areas where teaming is already part of curricula or pedagogy. We will also strive to infuse teaming in courses and activities where it will promote student learning and the preparedness of our graduates.

How did we end up with Learning in a Team Environment?

Constituency input. Clarus Consulting Group reached out across campus to listen to ideas about the 2015 QEP. Over 525 UAB faculty, staff, and students shared their thoughts at one of 17 meetings or through an online survey. The many ideas fit into three categories (enhancing learning, promoting citizenship, and building core competencies) and eleven themes, including general education. The summary is available here. Community and teams were recurring topics that could draw the many ideas into a single QEP, which led President Watts and Provost Lucas to select Learning in a Team Environment. This result was not envisioned at the start of the process.

Is there a vision for the new QEP?

Yes. The QEP will focus on two areas:
  • Teach students to succeed in all roles of a team
  • Use these skills to improve student learning
A third focus area, to take team skills out into the community to do service, was removed because it became apparent during Steering Committee discussions that the first two foci were the areas where most ideas for improvement existed. In addition, the existing academic assessment processes can be leveraged as part of the QEP assessment process. Information gathered at the 2014 SACSCOC Institute on Quality Enhancement and Assessment, attended by the Steering Committee co-facilitators and SACSCOC Liaison, led to re-evaluation of the focus areas to eliminate the potential for an unsuccessful QEP due to overambitious objectives. Although the focus was removed, co-curricular activities may be a part of the QEP if they meet criteria for designation as “QEP activities” and they incorporate at least one of the student learning outcomes.

What are the expected outcomes of the QEP?

We expect outcomes in two major areas:
  • Student Learning Outcomes
    • Students will demonstrate competence in teamwork behaviors (including interprofessional teaming).
    • Students will demonstrate gains in critical thinking through involvement in team-focused pedagogy.
  • Learning Environment Outcomes
    • There will be a broader footprint regarding the use of team-focused pedagogy and teamwork instruction in undergraduate and graduate courses and co-curricular activities across the university.
    • There will be evidence of improvement in the implementation of team-focused pedagogy and teamwork instruction in undergraduate and graduate courses and co-curricular activities across the university.

How will the QEP be implemented?

Learning in a Team Environment will be accomplished through efforts made in four areas: faculty professional development, CTL Teaching Awards, QEP Fellows and unit-based projects. The UAB Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) will provide training opportunities to help faculty members enhance their pedagogical skills related to team-focused instructional methods. The CTL will also award teaching awards for improving courses related to the QEP topic. Instructors who are experiencing challenges with implementation of team-focused pedagogies or team activities in the classroom will receive mentoring from QEP Fellows, who are faculty with expertise and demonstrated success with such activities. Unit-based projects will typically be larger in scope and funding level than the CTL Teaching Awards. Projects will be selected strategically, to provide a critical seed either in areas where the QEP will impact a maximum number of students or in areas where excellence is likely to be achieved with focused effort and resources. 

Who will participate in the QEP?

All schools, the college, Student Life… In the first QEP, only the undergraduate programs participated since the general education component is unique to their curricula. Since team-skills are critical to success from the baccalaureate level to clinicians, all of the deans decided that their schools/college would participate. This QEP is one of the first educational efforts at UAB that will affect students in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. In additional to academic programs, Student Life, Career and Professional Services, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and every entity that interacts with students and faculty are invited to participate. We want a large, successful team!

Will this QEP be prescriptive in its approach?

No. Each entity will be free to select how best to address the topic from their discipline’s standpoint. There will not be a central committee to review a school’s, college’s, or department’s proposed implementation. For example, the Schools of Engineering and Education likely will have very different approaches to the two focus areas. That said, we will need sufficient commonality to have institutional assessment as well as broad adoption to demonstrate that it is indeed a UAB-wide effort.

How will this QEP be run?

Kristi Menear, Human Studies/EDU and Peter Anderson, Pathology/MED are co-facilitators of the QEP Steering Committee. The committee, composed of faculty members (selected by their deans) and staff (selected by their supervisors) who were chosen based upon their expertise, duties, and skills, guided the development and implementation of the QEP. Ultimately, the QEP will be managed by a QEP Director and implemented by the academic and co-curricular units; UAB Center for Teaching and Learning; the UAB Center for Educational Accountability; assessment, implementation, and steering committees; and cohorts of faculty fellows.

I am already doing many things that fit the topic of Learning in a Team Environment. How do I fit in? What will a QEP like this do for me?

The QEP can offer you some resources to make what you are doing even better and give you an avenue to present or publish your results. Your experience will also be invaluable for others. One of the great things about this topic is that so many people can share their successes, challenges, and lessons-learned.

Do I have to change how I teach because of this QEP?

No. Faculty are responsible for selecting the instructional approaches and pedagogy that they utilize in their courses, with the oversight of their program/department. The QEP will provide support for instructors who would like to use some of the team-based approaches to teaching but will neither mandate a specific methodology nor require anyone to adopt one of them. Faculty, as always, are encouraged to utilize the approaches that maximize student learning.

When will the QEP begin?

The QEP will be implemented in fall 2015.

When will SACSCOC visit campus?

The on-site visit by the SACSCOC team will be February 24-26, 2015.