Covenant’s reaccreditation process for membership within the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges—commonly referred to as SACS—is well underway.
SACS is recognized as the regional accreditation agency for colleges and universities offering associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees. As part of the reaccreditation, the college must submit a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) this upcoming February and have it approved. The cycle from one QEP to the next takes about ten years, according to English Professor Sarah Huffines who is on the current QEP committee, with around half of those years given to the creation and implementation of the Plan.
SACs describes a QEP to be “carefully designed and focused course of action that addresses a well-defined topic or issue(s) related to enhancing student learning.”
During the last cycle, Covenant focused on increasing the student body’s intercultural competence with a QEP entitled “Who is My Neighbor.”
Covenant chose a different focus this time around with the selection of a proposal submitted by Professor Huffines, Dr. Davis, and Dr. Haddad last Fall titled “Improving Undergraduate Reading and Writing Skills.”
Since its selection, the QEP has evolved from one that focuses on improving both reading and writing skills to one that will primarily develop reading skills. Professor Huffines credits this move to the vastness of both topics and a desire to sufficiently address one or the other. She describes the QEP to be focused on how students “read and interact with texts” — a concern that Professors have identified through classroom discussions and that student responses during past Assessment Days have revealed. The QEP will encourage thorough and meaningful reading practices within the student population, which will in turn hopefully enhance students’ abilities to interact with texts in writing.
Huffines asks, “Is there a way in our classroom practices to encourage students to actually do the reading, to read with deep comprehension, to analyze and have a substantial understanding of the reading, and to then discuss in class?”
She believes, though, that there are many reasons students do not come to class ready to discuss the assigned reading—it is not just that students do not have any desire to do the reading.
“It’s certainly not my hope that students come away from this feeling there is so much more to do,” said Huffines. Instead, she believes that there are ways to take the current reading practices of the college and make them more efficient. In her own classes, for instance, she has been more intentional about asking questions that are directed at encouraging discussion. She is also more proactive about highlighting what to focus on in a reading prior to assigning that reading.
SACS requires that the QEP’s objectives and goals be measurable. Covenant’s QEP committee plans to measure the results using direct and indirect methods. Professor observation in classrooms, added questions to course evaluations, and surveys measuring reading engagement and proficiency during Assessment Day are all options.
Currently, the QEP committee has a full rough draft written that includes a description of the QEP selection and creation process, a justification of the topic, a literature review, an assessment plan, and an action plan. Assuming SACS accepts the QEP, it will be implemented starting in the Fall of 2017.
The current QEP writing committee includes Professor Huffines, Dr. Davis, Dr. Pennington, Dr. Yue, Dr. Hall, and Dr. Karen Nelson.