What is a Quality Enhancement Plan?

------ Formal implementation of Trinity's "Expanding Horizons" QEP concluded as planned in summer 2013. Web pages maintained for archival purposes only.---

The QEP is part of the ten-year re-affirmation of accreditation required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). However, it is an independent section, distinct from the certification requirements. Briefly defined by the SACS Handbook, the QEP

    describes a carefully designed and focused course of action that addresses a well-defined topic or issue(s) related to enhancing student learning. . . . the QEP is forward looking, and thus transforms the process into an ongoing activity rather than an episodic event. (21)

Thus the emphasis is on the future; while the rest of the reaccredidation process focuses on establishing that we are doing what we say we are doing now, the QEP takes something we are doing and expands upon it. Therefore the QEP is institutionally “organic,” growing out of the potential of how we currently see ourselves.

SACS defines student learning as including

    changes in students knowledge, skills, behaviors, and /or values that may be attributable to the collegiate experience. Examples of topics or issues include, but are not limited to, enhancing the academic climate for student learning, strengthening the general studies curriculum [analogous to the curricular reform we have instituted and are fine-tuning], developing creative approaches to experiential learning, enhancing critical thinking skills, introducing innovative teaching and learning strategies, increasing student engagement in learning, and exploring imaginative ways to use technology in the curriculum. In all cases, the goals and evaluation strategies must be clearly and directly linked to improving the quality of student learning. (Handbook 22)

There are five crucial characteristics of a successful quality enhancement plan: consensus, relevance, significance, feasibility, and assessiblity.

    1. Consensus: SACS mandates that the entire university community (students, faculty, staff, administration, alumni, and trustees) be involved in the process of devising the topic and come to a consensus that the specific QEP can be “significant, even transforming” in improving student learning (Handbook 22).
    2.Relevance: whatever we choose to focus on must be something the university community believes is relevant to our existing mission and practices.
    3.Significance: Our goal is to see through the abstractions of the SACS definition of “student learning” into something concrete that will affect either a small-to significant aspect of all our students’ experiences, or a major aspect of a significant portion of our students. SACS uses the terms “creative” and “vital” to describe the topic.
    4. However, “significant” must be understood in the context of feasibility: the focus or topic must be something that Trinity is able to do in practical terms—the final plan must be quite detailed about how we intend to implement the topic, moving from philosophy to goals, to objectives, to actual steps. The scope of the plan also means that we need to define the resources we will need, ranging from personnel to equipment to actual funds.
    5. Finally, assessiblity. Any Quality enhancement plan must have built in forms of assessment, to assess our process of implementation, the stages of the actual plan, and the final outcomes of student learning.