March 31, 2014

UAB gearing up for campuswide emphasis on team learning

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UAB-QEP sizedUAB’s new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which will begin implementation in 2015, will focus on "Learning in a Team Environment." Clarus Consulting Group started the theme selection process by collecting ideas from more than 525 faculty, staff and students at one of 17 meetings or through an online survey. President Ray Watts, M.D., and Provost Linda Lucas, Ph.D., made the final selection based on that input.

“Learning in a team environment is a perfect QEP topic for UAB because we have so many pockets that are doing great things with teams and education,” Lucas said. “This QEP is a universitywide effort that will share these practices and make them part of every student’s experience. It is a great opportunity to improve how we teach, prepare students for a career and serve the community.”

A QEP is a requirement of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, designed to improve an aspect of student learning and enhance the quality of higher education. UAB’s first QEP emphasized writing, quantitative literacy, ethics and civic responsibility. The first-year experience, freshman book discussion, emphasis on general education and capstone courses are elements of the UAB undergraduate experience that are results of the 2005 QEP.

Anderson Menear      Co-facilitators Peter Anderson and Kristi Menear“The purpose of the QEP, from SACSCOC’s standpoint, is that it becomes a new way of doing business,” said Kristi Menear, Ph.D., chair of Human Studies in the School of Education and co-facilitator of the QEP steering committee. “This whole concept of learning in a team environment is something that will become a part of our student-recruitment materials; it will reach into each academic unit and eventually become part of our identity.”

Co-facilitator Peter Anderson, D.V.M., Ph.D., said this QEP ties into real-world outcomes, because businesses are looking for employees who can work in a team environment to get projects completed. Teams in higher education and those in the corporate environment may be differently motivated, but both require members to work together toward a shared goal.

Anderson, professor and director of Pathology Undergraduate Education, said this QEP’s emphasis will enable UAB graduates to hit the ground running.

An inclusive QEP

The new QEP encompasses all undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. In addition, Student Life, Career and Professional Services, Center for Teaching and Learning — and all entities that interact with students and faculty — are invited to participate.

“No one else is doing a QEP like this,” Menear said. “This is the most comprehensive approach. Every academic unit and every support service will be involved.”

The new QEP will focus on three outcomes:

  • Teach students to succeed in all roles of a team.
  • Use these skills to improve student learning.
  • Take team skills out into the community to do service.

Many disciplines already use teams as learning tools, so the QEP will not be prescriptive.

“We’re allowing the schools to decide how each of them will respond to a component of the QEP that speaks to them,” Menear said. “So, it’s not top down. What the School of Business does could look very different from what the College of Arts and Sciences does. There will, however, have to be some common assessment measures to ensure we’ve met common goals.”

The QEP will provide support for instructors who would like to use team-based approaches to teaching, but it will neither mandate a specific methodology nor require anyone to adopt one of them.

“We’re saying, ‘We want to make sure your students come out of here knowing how to talk to each other and work as a team,’ but we’re not going to tell you how you have to do that,” Anderson said. “We will try to provide you the resources that will allow you to do it the way that works best for you.”

qep-timeline sizedMoving forward

The new QEP will not begin full implementation until August 2015, but the steering committee and its co-facilitators will be writing the five-year plan this year. The plan will be submitted to the SACSCOC visiting team for review, and the committee will then alter the plan according to those suggestions.

Writing the plan requires the committee to gather information across campus, and the Center for Educational Accountability in the School of Education will help with the assessment. A Qualtrics survey was sent to faculty to determine the extent to which they already are addressing the three main goals of the QEP.

“We’ll use that baseline data to measure our progress over time with implementation of the five-year plan,” Menear said.

More information about the QEP can be found at, including answers to frequently asked questions.