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Extended Learning & Quality Enhancement
Quality Enhancement Plan

About the QEP

Identification of Topic

The purpose of the Quality Enhancement Plan at the University of Louisiana at Monroe is to increase student learning through course redesign. The identification of the topic resulted from a bottom-up process that included cross-campus constituencies and interested parties from off campus. The final topic formulation demonstrates an iterative process that had broad support, especially important given the goal of increased active learning within the Core Curriculum.

The purpose of the Quality Enhancement Plan at the University of Louisiana at Monroe is to increase active learning through course redesign of a cross section of the Core Curriculum. The ULM Common Core Curriculum was "established to serve to long term educational needs of ULM students" and "to provide a broader, stronger educational foundation that was created and adapted from the general education requirements of the Louisiana Board of Regents General education requirements" (Undergraduate Catalog, 2010-11, page 85 and
http://regents.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&pid=136).

The redesign of courses within the Core Curriculum will enhance active learning, "ensur[ing] that ULM's students will be intellectually well-equipped to complete their chosen programs of study, as well as to find a meaningful place in today's rapid-paced, integrated world" (Undergraduate Catalog, 2010-11, page 85). The identification of the topic resulted from a bottom-up process that included cross-campus constituencies and interested parties from off campus. The final topic formulation demonstrates an iterative process that had broad support, especially important given the goal of increased active learning within the Core Curriculum.

Student Learning Outcomes

The student learning outcomes to which the QEP is committed:

  1. The improvement of student performance in redesigned Core courses,
  2. The profusion of new and innovative pedagogies within redesigned courses,
  3. An increase in course delivery strategies for active learning,
  4. The creation of a data management system that stores information, allows for easy access and posting, and provides data for analysis of courses within the Core Curriculum.

At present, all courses in the Core Curriculum have learning outcomes and performance measures that analyze student achievement in specific Core courses. The measures themselves are various. They include:

The results of these assessments have been decidedly mixed with some programs reporting acceptably high pass rates (over 70%) and others producing much lower rates (under 50%). These results suggest the need to revisit pedagogical practices in an attempt to maintain or elevate scores across the Core Curriculum, as well as to redesign courses so that any newly implemented practices have a maximum effect on student success. Moreover, a concerted institutional effort to embrace new pedagogies reinforces Goal 3 of the University's Strategic Plan, which speaks of "enhancing the academic learning environment" by "encourag[ing] experimentation with new learning modalities while supporting proven methodologies" (www.ulm.edu/strategicplanning/goal3.html).

Consequently, the discussions about student learning throughout the QEP process centered on the students' understanding of course content, as well as on the delivery mechanisms that would most effectively address student learning needs. Thus, the Quality Enhancement Plan stresses embedding pedagogical methods in course redesign that emphasize "student-centered learning," which is the focus of the University's Vision Statement (www.ulm.edu/strategicplanning/statements.html). The traditional "sage on the stage" model, which often fosters passivity among students, must give way to a more hybrid model, which incorporates many kinds of active learning strategies into the instructional design process. In 1987, Good and Brophy published their classic research results identifying "Five Key Behaviors Contributing to Effective Teaching." Among those behaviors that they identify, student interest in the learning process is one of the most powerful in predicting achievement. Without a broad range of pedagogical strategies that promote active learning, the overall success of the course may be much more limited, particularly for students whose basic skills are on the margins.

For the QEP to encourage active learning, it must support models for course redesign in which active learning strategies increase the effectiveness of both teaching and learning processes. According to Bowles (2006), active learning strategies promote critical thinking through engagement and imagination, and imaginative activities stimulate creativity in both teacher and students. Fink (2007) summarize three tenets of active learning:

  1. Acquisition of necessary information,
  2.  Observation or participation in an experience (e.g. case studies, problem solving/decision-making, role-play, sharing experiences), and
  3.  reflection on meaningful information or experiences (e.g. one-minute papers, journals, learning portfolios).

The skills nurtured by active learning strategies include communication, constructive controversy and conflict management, interpersonal problem solving, leadership, joint decision making, and perspective taking. Traditional teaching methods, which principally include reading textbooks, listening to lectures, working individually on assignments, and outperforming classmates on examinations are not as effective as active learning strategies, which not only prepare students for success inside the classroom, but life outside of it.

While the principles of the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) and their pertinence for course redesign in the Core Curriculum at ULM are discussed below, it is important to visualize how active learning strategies support course content. Again, as Fink (2007) argues, successful instructional design includes three basic elements: learning goals, teaching and learning activities, and feedback and assessment.

Learning Goals Teaching and Learning Activities   Feedback and Assessment
What do we want students to learn in our classroms? What strategies should we use to involve students in their own learning? How should we gauge the success of our strategies?
    Do the students have a significant learning experience?

 

 

As this chart indicates, the learning process has three stages, at the end of which students will have been involved in a "significant learning experience." This result is not possible, of course, without the elements of foundational knowledge, application, integration, and learning how to learn. With proper course redesign, and with the embedding of multiple pedagogical methods, which may include new technologies, we hope that the students will be active participants in a transformational experience in their Core Curriculum courses. Active learning serves to strengthen and stimulate students' performance by consolidating new knowledge, integrating basic skills, and synthesizing information. Through course redesign, the QEP promises to achieve these ends.

To accomplish these objectives, the QEP phases in the redesign of the selected pieces of the Core Curriculum. At the conclusion of the five-year plan, a substantial percentage of the Core courses will be redesigned so that the questions Fink asks are answered and the various redesigns are implemented. Using the current data as the baseline for the performance measures of each course, programs will:

The assessment results for each redesigned course will be evaluated against the baseline data for the course prior to the redesign, and course syllabi will be scrutinized for the alignment between content (as measured by the student learning outcomes) and pedagogy (as measured by the delivery mechanisms that convey and inculcate course materials). The details of this process of evaluation are described in Section VIII of the plan.

Furthermore, the plan will use an electronic data management system to collect, aggregate and disseminate data from the various courses within the Core Curriculum. It will also gather data from indirect measures, such as surveys from students and faculty, whose perceptions will be important to measure if there is to be true institutional buy-in for the wide-ranging redesign of selected course in the Core Curriculum that the QEP envisions.

First, the system will allow the University to collect scores from rubric evaluation, test scores, and other means of assessment used to measure student outcomes in the selected Core Curriculum courses. In addition, the University will also use the system as a document and program evaluation-reporting database. Documents such as course syllabi (before and after redesign) will be stored in our system, and qualitative content analysis of syllabi (both current and redesigned) will address issues pertaining to active learning, as well as new pedagogies and technologies. This will allow the QEP Steering Committee to conduct a content analysis of what significant changes were made to the course through the redesign process.

For some of the indirect measures, perception surveys about the vitality and success of active learning in redesigned courses will be distributed. Questions will include perceptions of how courses are taught and how students are assessed (e.g. What percentage of class time is devoted to lecture, discussion, group work, review of previous content, or debates? What percentage of the grade for this course is determined by written exams, attendance and participation in class, written essays or reports, individual projects, oral presentations, or research papers?). The surveys would be administered to both faculty and students.

Using such a centralized management system will allow an efficient and streamlined method of collecting the data from the various programs. Data will be aggregated on a yearly basis and stored in the system. Moreover, using a centralized system allows various faculty members teaching Core Curriculum courses to assess the data and to collaborate on possible changes. Finally, the system will allow faculty members from various programs to collaborate with each other to improve the Core Curriculum based on aggregated data. An electronic data management system (such as Task Stream) will allow both individual programs that oversee particular Core courses and the QEP Steering Committee to collect data every year and evaluate the progress of the redesigned courses.


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