In the past few weeks, signs asking, “What is the QEP?” peppered campus. In chapel on Wednesday, Jan. 25, Professor Sarah Huffines, director of the QEP, answered that question: Covenant’s newest Quality Enhancement Plan, READ Covenant, will launch next fall.
A QEP to improve student learning is required by Covenant’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The new plan will focus on “improving the way students read and interact with texts,” according to Covenant’s website. READ stands for Read, Engage, Analyze, and Discuss.
Students should know about the QEP, Huffines said, “because on one level, having an awareness helps you benefit more. There’s a pedagogical aspect to this campaign.” Students can join in and be conscious of what is going on. Another reason for the signs and videos is that a visiting committee from the accrediting agency visited campus on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they expected the campus community to know about it. “It’s very early in the process but that’s why we did the big roll-out,” Huffines said.
The process of identifying a QEP topic began in 2014. The QEP Topic Selection Committee chose to address reading in the new plan after 39 percent of faculty chose reading as their top concern over four other possible topics for the QEP. The committee also chose reading because institutional data showed that students often come to class without completing required reading assignments, according to the READ Covenant document.
Implementation of the QEP will begin gradually, with a smaller, pilot group of professors (about 10-15 percent of the faculty). This percentage will increase each year, and the target goal is to have 50 percent of the faculty participating in READ Covenant. In addition, all Cultural Heritage of the West (CHOW) classes will be READ classes.
Faculty will attend workshops and presentations for training on teaching reading skills and encouraging discussion. In the committee’s research, they learned that “faculty development in a small number of faculty actually ripples across the curriculum,” Huffines said. As professors use these techniques in one class, they will naturally begin using them in their other classes or share them with other faculty members.
All participating faculty will assign at least two course preparation assignments (structured reading responses) per semester, but other changes to improve reading and discussion are up to individual professors. For example, in Huffines’s Introduction to Creative Writing class, she breaks students up into small groups to facilitate a larger class discussion.
As Covenant begins to implement the plan next year, freshmen and sophomores will see the biggest impact, as the effort will grow each year. “Juniors and seniors will see some but not the fullest impact,” Huffines said. “Student Development will play a role too, hopefully. Hopefully, even if you’re not in a class you’ll still feel effects.”
The QEP committee will track the progress of the QEP by using various assessments such as end-of-course evaluations, faculty surveys, and student assessments.
“It’s not the goal to overwhelm students,” Huffines said. “I don’t think we’re going to see a lot more work. It’s more about being efficient.”