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UST Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)

aquilad@stthom.edu
713-525-2164
 

Toward a Culture of Writing Write Well. Think Well.

Toward a Culture of Writing. Write Well. Think Well. 

UST's overall mission is to educate leaders of faith and character.  To that end, it is essential that these leaders are able to communicate effectively both within and across their respective disciplines.  Our QEP mission is to improve students' writing skills across the curriculum, which we believe will foster critical thinking, effective communication, and professional success.

UST Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)
The UST Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), “Toward a Culture of Writing,” will advance the University Mission by improving students’ writing skills so that they are able to
  • communicate effectively within and across disciplines
  • think critically  
  • achieve professional success  

Working from clearly articulated educational values for writing, and through a careful analysis of available data in Core subjects, the UST community will

  • evaluate existing practices, resources, strategies, and outcomes to determine their effectiveness
  • identify and address our weaknesses
  • build on our strengths and our unique identity as the Catholic liberal arts university in the heart of Houston
  • educate better writers and thinkers in all disciplines.
 
QEP - Frequently Asked Questions
What is a QEP?

A QEP is a Quality Enhancement Plan. Our regional accrediting body, SACSCOC, requires that we develop and implement such a plan within the next five years. According to SACS, “the QEP describes a carefully designed course of action that addresses a well-defined and focused topic or issue related to enhancing student learning.”  This well-defined and focused topic must be derived from an analysis of comprehensive data, i.e. it must address a known area that needs improvement at UST, and its goals and outcomes must be measurable over the entire life cycle of the QEP.  Finally, the university must have both the financial and administrative where withal to execute the QEP they choose.
What is the UST QEP topic?

The University of St. Thomas QEP focuses on improving student writing and creating a culture of writing at the University of St. Thomas.  In short, we want our students to:

  • Use writing to explore, reflect, and develop sound arguments using logic, persuasive rhetoric and sound grammar.
  • Produce writing suitable for academic purposes in all disciplines such as the Humanities, Sciences and the Arts.
  • Receive, where applicable, assistance in developing sound writing skills which are in keeping with current best practices in regard to remediation.
  • Become more engaged in the creative process of writing through the student writing group, The Aquinas Writing Scholars, which will expose student writers to the world of professional writing in the disciplines.  

How will the UST QEP improve student writing? (In other words, what’s new about this program?)

The QEP proposes actions in five areas:

  1. Sequencing courses in three of our cores courses (English, Philosophy and Theology) to both coordinate desired writing outcomes and develop writing skills by building on writing competencies accumulated in each successive course.
  2. Annually assessing student performance relative to both newly established university wide writing outcomes as well as departmental writing outcomes within designated core classes as well as in all majors.
  3. Insure that selection of students for writing remediation be done in a systematic fashion utilizing recognized standards for remediation that are in place nationally as well in the State of Texas in keeping with best practices.
  4. Standardize precisely what is meant by an intensive writing course at the University of St. Thomas.  
  5. Starting a new student group, the Aquinas Writing Scholars, which will help those students who wish for a more immersive writing experience gain exposure to professional authors via the Young Writers Workshop.  Members of the AWS may also eventually serve as peer tutors beginning in their third year at UST.

The Director of the Quality Enhancement Plan will serve as the liaison between the administration, staff and students and integrate the various aspects of the QEP.  In addition the director of the QEP will assist in the continuous cycle of writing assessment for all undergraduate students at the University of St. Thomas working closely with the Office of Institutional Assessment.

When will all this happen?

Starting in the late spring of 2015, the University of St. Thomas will begin recruiting for the first cohort of Aquinas Writing Scholars.  The Aquinas Writing Scholars (henceforth AWS) student group will be open to all entering first year students.  Joining the AWS student group will entitle members to reduced tuition for their first English course at UST (either ENLG 1310 or ENGL1341) and a monetary stipend upon graduation provided the students remains with the AWS during their time at UST.  Also beginning in the spring of 2015, students who fall below UST’s regular admissions standards for the 2015-2016 school year will be given a standardized writing placement test to accurately place them in their first English class.   

An interim QEP director will be appointed in early summer of 2015 to coordinate all aspects of the QEP writing program (annual assessment, faculty development, the Aquinas Writing Scholars student Group, the annual Young Writers Workshop, etc.).  A national search for the permanent director of the QEP will begin in the fall of 2015.

Also in the fall of 2015, all entering freshman enrolled in the core courses of English, Philosophy and Theology (approximately 78% of each entering class) will begin the coordinated sequencing of these nine (9) classes, a process which takes on average two years to complete. The first official assessment of this freshman cohort will take place towards the middle of the fall semester in 2015.  In addition, in the fall of 2015 the AWS will be stood up as a student group which will begin planning the first annual Young Writers Workshop which will take place in the spring of 2016.  In all subsequent years of the QEP out to 2020, the process outlined above will take place.

Is this only about freshman writing?

No.  Although UST’s QEP exerts a lot of effort coordinating the initial core classes for first year students which emphasize writing, the establishment of university wide and departmental writing outcomes will enable UST to monitor and assess student writing throughout their time at the University of St. Thomas.  From a student’s first English class in the first semester of their freshman year to the last capstone course in their major before they graduate, the QEP will track students in writing outcomes during every step of their college career.  Additionally, the AWS student group will, by definition, be in place throughout a student’s entire time at UST with the ability to become a peer writing tutor in their third and or fourth year at UST.

Why this topic and not another for our QEP?

The Topic Selection Task Force and other committees worked for more than two years to decide upon and develop the QEP topic. Why did these faculty, staff and students choose to focus on improving writing in UST’s QEP?

  • Was the No. 1 response in the faculty and staff survey conducted in 2013
  • Was the No. 1 response in regard to proposal submissions when ranked by the QEP steering committee in terms of SACSCOC requirements
  • NSSE/FSSE data from 2006-2012 indicated that UST was slightly below peer institutions in both faculty and student desired outcomes in terms of writing.
  • Dominated discussions of the QEP Steering Committee, Faculty Listening Sessions, Dean and Director meetings, etc.
  • Is integral in educating leaders of faith and character
  • Is essential to students in all disciplines
  • Is valued by alumni, employers and graduate schools
  • Is deeply connected to our institutional history and mission

Who Developed UST’s QEP?

Over the course of the last two years over a hundred faculty, staff and students contributed to the current QEP either through serving on the numerous committees and sub-committees which spearheaded the project or by participating in campus listening sessions and surveys.  After eleven distinct proposals from multiple disciplines were reviewed by the QEP steering committee in April of 2013, Student Writing and Assignment Coordination (renamed with the far catchier Toward A Culture of Writing) was unanimously selected.   

How will UST’s QEP be judged?

The SACS team of evaluators will judge our QEP using a fairly elaborate set of criteria. These criteria are sometimes framed as “guiding questions,” and they include the following:

  • Has the institution provided a comprehensive and clear analysis of the crucial importance of the QEP for improving the learning environment?
  • Has the institution demonstrated that various institutional constituencies have been involved in the identification of the topic for the QEP?
  • Has the institution identified a significant issue related to student learning and justified its use for the Quality Enhancement Plan?
  • Does the QEP provide evidence of careful analysis of the institutional context in which the goals will be implemented and of consideration of best practices related to the topic?
  • Has the institution provided evidence of sufficient financial, physical and human resources to implement sustain and complete the QEP?

Perhaps most importantly, the QEP must center on clearly defined student learning outcomes that are achievable and measurable.  Simply put, we need to be able to do what we set out to do and prove that we have indeed done it.

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