What is a QEP?
Palo Alto College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Every 10 years, colleges and universities across the nation must undergo reaccreditation; part of that process is the creation of a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a five-year project to improve the quality of our students’ education. This reaccreditation authorizes the college to continue to award degrees, ensure credits transfer, and grant federal student financial aid.
What is Palo Alto College’s QEP?
Palo Alto College’s focus for the QEP is a type of active learning, and our slogan is Make It RREAL! Relevance + Reflection + Engagement = Active Learning. As the QEP develops, our active learning focus means students will have more opportunities for hands-on activities in the classroom such as group work and discussion.
How was the QEP chosen?
The QEP was chosen based on the results of surveys and focus groups with faculty, students, staff and administrators. These results indicated that students wanted more opportunities to connect coursework to the “real world” and that students learn best by “doing.” The topic was further refined by the QEP Committee who researched active learning best practices and determined that Problem-based Learning (PBL) would be the best focus for our students.
What’s Problem-based Learning (PBL)?
Problem-based learning is an educational strategy that attempts to connect course concepts and content to the real world. PBL traditionally involves a small group of students working together to solve a challenging, multifaceted problem related to a specific discipline. Students work collaboratively to analyze their problem, research their problem, and generate a workable solution.
Where did PBL come from?
Problem-based Learning is a strategy developed in the early 1970s to revitalize medical education by relating classroom theory to actual hands-on practice. Since then, PBL has been successfully used in a variety of disciplines across the curriculum.
Why focus on Problem-based Learning?
Academic literature and research on employers’ needs emphasize the importance of critical thinking, problem-solving, collaborating, and communicating AND that students are graduating and entering the workforce with deficiencies in these areas. PBL addresses all of these skills in an engaging, hands-on way. Additionally, as mentioned above, discussions and surveys of PAC faculty, students, staff and administrators revealed intense interest in fostering tangible connections between course concepts and the “real world.” Finally, focusing on skills like criticalthinking, problem-solving, and communication aligns with PAC’s mission and strategic plan to provide an exemplary education for all of our students.
What are the goals of the QEP?
For the five-year project, the college has targeted “high-risk” courses; these are courses that have a less than 70% success rate. Therefore, one goal of the QEP is to improve the success rates in these courses. Another important goal of the QEP is to increase students’ satisfaction with their learning experience at the college.
What are the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) of the QEP?
The QEP will focus on four student learning outcomes:
Collaboration: Students will actively engage with each other in accomplishing the group’s common goal. Critical Thinking: Students will investigate, analyze, and synthesize relevant information. Communication: Students will communicate what they learned orally and in writing. Reflection: Students will examine their learning process.
When will this take place?
The QEP is NOT YET in progress; the college has been creating, organizing, and promoting the plan. Once SACS approves our QEP, the program will launch in fall 2012 and build over five years. In 2017, we will submit a progress report on the success of the QEP.
What if I have more questions?
The college will be choosing a QEP Director to guide the project; when that occurs, the Director may be contacted via email. Until that time, please see other links at the QEP website (www.alamo.edu/pac/rreal) for more information.