Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SACS: QEP Change

Last week at the NCICU meeting hosted at Guilford College, we were treated to a very nice lunch. (You can see where my priorities are.) We also heard presentations on finances, institutional effectiveness, QEP, and substantive change, as these pertain to our regional accreditation (SACS).Only those in the SACS region are likely to find the following significant.

I was particularly interested in the topic of creating and assessing a quality enhancement plan (QEP). Most of what I heard aligned with the notes I took from annual meeting, but there was one new twist related to us by SACS VP Mike Johnson, viz., a change in the wording in the Principles of Accreditation that reflects a broadening of what a QEP can be. Note that what follows is my unofficial interpretation, and I welcome corrections.

Here's the old version of the description of process, from the original Principles, pages 9-10.

The language to pay attention to is the part about "issues directly related to improving student learning." From the same document, the actual section 2.12 from the requirements:
Compare to the 2010 version of each. The first thing to notice is that the new version has more text.

The new language included in both references includes an option that wasn't there before. In addition to a focus on learning outcomes, it's possible to focus on the environment supporting student learning. My interpretation of the discussion at the meeting is that this also allows for some flexibility with regard to assessment, given that an environment is generally affective, not specific like, say a writing tutorial.

The specific example mentioned was that of a first-year experience, which may have many components working together to enhance student success. Because it's diffuse, the assessment of particular learning outcomes, with a "before and after" benchmark approach may not be reasonable. This seems like a good thing, because it will allow for more creative options with regard to both the construction and assessment of the QEP.

Sources: See the SACS website at for full documentation. Also, there is an email list for SAC-related questions, which you can subscribe to here.

Update: In addition to the changes noted above, there is a new comprehensive standard under institutional effectiveness that applies to the QEP. My understanding is that this allows reviewers to find an institution out of compliance with a comprehensive standard rather than a core requirement. The effect of the former can be remediated through  the usual report process, but a core requirement failure would be much more severe. So this gives institutions the same chance to fix things that other comprehensive standard failures do, which wasn't the case before. Here's the text:

It's interesting what this focuses on. Capability to execute, broad involvement, and assessment are on the list, but nothing about an appropriate focus on learning outcomes. Apparently if you get that wrong, it's still a deadly sin.

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