HBU to Embark on “Mission Metacognition”

The News Magazine of HCU

What is a Quality Enhancement Plan? 

A QEP, or Quality Enhancement Plan, is a plan of action to improve student knowledge, skills, attitudes, values or behaviors, or to impact the student learning environment and student success.

SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) defines the QEP as an integral component of the reaffirmation of accreditation process and is derived from an institution’s ongoing comprehensive planning and evaluation processes. It reflects and affirms a commitment to enhance overall institutional quality and effectiveness by focusing on an issue the institution considers important to improving student learning outcomes and/or student success.

A QEP has the following characteristics:

  • A topic identified through ongoing, comprehensive planning and evaluation processes
  • Broad-based support of institutional constituencies
  • Focuses on improving specific student learning outcomes and/or student success
  • Commits resources to initiate, implement and complete the QEP
  • Includes a plan to assess achievement

Learn more at HC.edu/QEP.

Dr. Lisa Ellis, Assistant Professor of Biology; Chair of the QEP Action Plan Subcommittee

“Having authored part of the original QEP plan, I am very proud of ‘Mission Metacognition.’ The QEP Development and Implementation Committees have done a great job shaping the QEP into a campus-wide program.”

Dr. Saul Trevino, Associate Professor of Chemistry; Member of the QEP Implementation Committee

“I am very proud of the new QEP as I firmly believe that improved metacognitive learning skills will help many more of our students be successful in their courses, and that they will even help those who are doing well to get to higher levels of learning.”

HBU endeavors to produce graduates who are knowledgeable in their fields and who are well-rounded citizens and lifelong learners. While improving the trajectory of students’ lives, University leadership is also committed to continually improving and becoming more effective at serving students. A Quality Enhancement Plan, required of institutions by SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges), HBU’s accrediting body, carries HBU’s mission even further.

Ritamarie Tauer, Associate Provost for Academic Operations, said the SACSCOC requirement for a QEP is that the topic be a result of each university’s assessment of institutional effectiveness. The QEP is centered on an area that stretches standard emphases and creatively improves the education that students receive.

“From my perspective, they’re looking to put some pressure on institutions to focus on a real issue related to student learning. That’s why they make the implementation five years – that’s a long time,” Tauer said. “The focus is on a real need as identified by assessment to improve student learning. They want you to get down in the weeds on a particular need that will impact students directly, and it needs to be measurable. Sometimes you start with something that’s too broad, but we must do something in which quantitative measures of improvement can be seen.”

For the first QEP requirement in 2012, HBU submitted “Writing for Wisdom” to the accrediting body. The organization directed HBU to focus the program in specific classes and areas in order to better target the plan’s goals. Over the next several years, HBU implemented the program, helping grow students’ abilities in writing organization and grammar.

The difference between student writing pre-tests and post-tests was marked, Tauer said. “We had students say they couldn’t get over the improvement in their writing.” One student wrote concerning the program, “This course has helped my writing more in this single semester than all my years of high school combined.”

Lisa Covington, HBU Director of Assessment and Compliance, said the results were encouraging. The first QEP helped the University understand what processes worked well.

“It’s beneficial when we can clearly measure a difference between when students come in and when they leave,” Covington said. “We are making sure students are getting the educational components they need.”

SACSCOC accreditors were impressed with the “Writing for Wisdom” results too. They chose the program to be a QEP example in their resource room and asked Tauer to present on the program at a conference.

With a successful initial QEP experience, Tauer assembled a second QEP Development Committee in the fall of 2018 that would serve as a cross-section of the University. The Committee members were Dr. Brenda Whaley, Chair of the Committee, SACSCOC Administrative Assessment Officer, and Professor of Biology; Vicki Alger, Assistant Professor of Psychology; Allyson Cates, Director of Graduate Admissions; Chris Hartwell, Assistant Professor of Cinema, Media Arts and Writing; Page Hernandez, Director of Alumni Relations; Jean Tarrats-Rivera, Projects and Reports Analyst in the Registrar’s Office; Dr. Hannah Wingate, Associate Professor of Biology and Faculty Assembly President; and students Taylor Kollmorgen, Jessica (Tran) Nguyen, Sidney Salazar and André Walker.

The committee called for submissions for the University’s second QEP in the spring of 2019. Campus constituents were asked to submit ideas for a project that would improve student learning outcomes and student success, and would serve to bolster the University’s next accreditation reaffirmation. RFPs (Requests for Proposals) came in from across the University, reflecting ideas ranging from speaking to finances that would address an identified need among the learning population.

Of the seven proposals that came in, two of them especially stood out to the committee. They were based upon Saundra Yancy McGuire’s books, “Teach Students How to Learn” and “Teach Yourself How to Learn.” At the invitation of Dr. Saul Trevino, Associate Professor of Chemistry, a faculty learning community of 16 members had spent the academic year studying “Teach Students How to Learn” and had become champions of the concepts, Dr. Whaley said.

While each of the seven proposals had unique strengths, the committee believed the concept of learning how to learn is so foundational to students’ achievement that it was a clear direction. The QEP Development Committee put together “Mission Metacognition,” a QEP that would assist students in receiving, understanding, retaining and retrieving important information. Importantly, the curriculum is applicable for both in-person and remote learning. Its measures of success include increased student retention, pass rates and graduation rates.

Whaley explains, “Online modules that teach the metacognitive skills described in Bloom’s Taxonomy, the learning approaches described in ‘The Study Cycle’ popularized by Dr. McGuire’s book, and ideas of growth mindset will be used to convey the curriculum in Freshman First-Year Experience classes. This will be supplemented with in-person instruction from faculty when class size permits in high D, F, W (drop, fail, withdrawal) classes. Follow-up assignments that reinforce metacognitive skills will be assigned in courses where the ‘Mission Metacognition’ curriculum is taught. HBU students will receive a consistent message concerning metacognition, the study cycle, and growth mindset. Student Success coaches will also reinforce this information when meeting with students. Finally, student tutors in the Academic Success Center will be trained to utilize this information during student tutoring sessions.”

A QEP Implementation Committee will help pilot the project in the fall of 2021 before its official launch in the fall of 2022. From there, “Mission Metacognition” will be applied for the following five years.

“We’re thankful for everyone who has worked to formulate this plan and we look forward to its results in the years to come,” Tauer said.