Periodically, institutions such as WCU are required to undergo a self-study to determine that they meet certain standards, policies, and procedures identified as indicators of quality; this study is part of the process that reaffirms an institution’s formal accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Part of WCU’s most recent self-study was the development of a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), to be implemented over the next seven years to improve some aspect of the educational experience for students. WCU’s plan, entitled “Synthesis: A Pathway to Intentional Learning at Western Carolina University” includes student goals and associated learning outcomes that indicate that students have met these goals when they graduate from WCU.
The overarching goal of the QEP is to empower students to integrate knowledge and skills from their academic and co-curricular experiences to become intentional participants in their own learning. To that end, WCU hopes to impact students’ understanding of self, intellectual flexibility and versatility, and capacity for integrated learning. As a result, WCU expects that students:
- Identify their aptitudes, abilities, and interests and articulate their future goals and aspirations;
- Modify their behaviors and values in response to knowledge and skills gained from their academic and co-curricular experiences; and
- Recognize the synthesis of their university experiences relative to their future education and career plans.
To achieve the expected learning goals, WCU has identified a set of core skills and behaviors, known as outcomes, which are central to a student’s development as an integrated, intentional learner. These core outcomes include the ability to:
Integrate information from a variety of contexts – Students will demonstrate the ability to make connections between what they do in the classroom and activities that they engage in between classes, and relate the implications and value of these connections to “real world” scenarios and life after graduation.
Solve complex problems – Students will be able to apply their learning to evaluate information and use it to make decisions about “real world” problems, including deep reflection on the implications of decisions and problem solutions.
Communicate effectively and responsibly – Students will learn to recognize the audience for various formats of communication and be able to communicate appropriately and respectfully.
Practice civic engagement – Students will identify their roles and responsibilities as engaged citizens through awareness of diverse views, values and public policies, and will learn to act responsibly to affect public policy.
Clarify and act on purpose and values – Students will examine the values that influence their own decision-making processes, and take responsibility for their own learning and development in a manner consistent with academic integrity and their own goals and aspirations. They will intentionally use knowledge gained from learning experiences to make informed judgments about their future plans, and to bring those plans into action.
For more information about the rubrics that are used to evaluate these outcomes, visit the QEP website and click on the Document Library link.
The Education Briefcase
One of the strategies to help students meet the goals of the QEP is the Educational Briefcase (eB). This tool provides a place for students to collect and build “artifacts” from all aspects of their educational experience that demonstrate the ability to “integrate knowledge and skills from their academic and co-curricular experiences.”
Artifacts will consist of electronic files of original work – papers, graphics, photographs,
videos, or music – plus a description of how the work represents one or more of the
QEP learning outcomes. The artifacts can then be combined into electronic portfolios
that can be shared with advisors, faculty, and even graduate school recruiters and
potential employers as a representation of the wholeness of the educational experience