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College Prepares for Quality Enhancement Plan Site Visit

Pat Sellers
VP for Strategic Partnerships Pat Sellers

As part of the reaccreditation process required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Davidson College has developed a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), "a carefully designed and focused course of action that addresses a well-defined topic or issue(s) related to enhancing student learning." Deliberations about the QEP began in spring 2014, and faculty endorsed it in October 2015. Professor of Religion Trent Foley chaired the QEP committee, which developed the proposal.

Davidson's QEP is titled "Opening Wide the Gateways: Enhancing Student Learning and Promoting Inclusion in the Quantitative Disciplines." The plan seeks to shrink the grade point differential between majority white students and underrepresented students of color in six quantitatively-oriented departments.

The QEP notes that gateway courses in biology, chemistry, economics, mathematics/computer science, physics and psychology provide a critical introduction to concepts and analytical methods that build sequentially in those majors. Positive learning outcomes in those gateway courses are critical to success in more advanced work in the discipline. But, analyses of these courses over the last five years found dampened interest and lower performance among students from underrepresented groups compared to other students.

The QEP analysis concluded, "We admit students who have shown every sign that they are capable of doing the work of any major at Davidson. When students do not do as well as we–or they–expected, or when they are discouraged from pursuing an interest, it is incumbent on the college to address those issues, whatever the source."

The six departments mentioned above will sequentially become involved with the QEP during the next five years. In each of the participating departments, three faculty members who regularly teach sections of that department's gateway course will participate in the QEP, for a total involvement of 18 faculty.

The QEP also asserts that "The significant scholarly literature on inclusive pedagogy and practice–which is especially robust in the sciences–as well as the experiences of Davidson faculty, strongly suggest that connecting new pedagogies to gateway courses in these six quantitatively-oriented departments would lead to measureable improvement in learning outcomes" for all enrolled students.

During a five-day workshop in May, many of these faculty members discussed new ways of teaching intended to address the challenges identified in the QEP analysis. The QEP has received formal endorsement by faculty, students via the Student Government Association, exempt staff via the Administrative Advisory Group, the Principal Executive Staff representing all divisions of the college, and the Board of Trustees.

The QEP is intended to reflect the opinions of all on-campus constituencies, and it is important that all members of the community become familiar with it. SACSCOC reviewers will be on campus Oct. 17-20 to review the QEP and Davidson's overall submissions for reaccreditation. The reviewers will likely ask people on campus informal questions about the QEP.

You're invited to prepare yourself for that possibility by visiting the QEP resource page.