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Accountability for Higher Education

Williamsburg, Ky. – “In higher education like University of the Cumberlands is someone out there making sure that the students are getting the education they need?” asked director of the QEP, Bill Garris.

The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) at Cumberlands, with the help of their regional accrediting agency Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (also known as SACS), is doing just that.

SACS’ mission is “to improve education in Southern states through accreditation.” SACS requires you to work together to establish, practice, and implement a campus-wide program to improve the educational processes within each of their schools. This program is called the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). Each school has a different QEP, anything from the formation of an academic resource center to the enhancement of online education.

Cumberlands’ QEP is to enhance the student’s ability to think better critically. The purpose of this QEP is to see an improvement in the student’s thinking capability, which is marked by clarity, discernment and integration. According to Garris, clarity is the ability to identify information specifically and accurately. Discernment is the ability to analyze information with insight and judgment, and integration is the ability to evaluate and synthesize information efficiently and effectively.

These qualities will help the students’ reading and writing abilities, their oral communication and ability to evaluate and use information.

Instead of limiting the learning of critical thinking to just one course, the QEP Committee decided students would best learn if the skills were utilized in all general education curriculum courses. The program is to officially begin in fall 2006.

“My goal is to see a positive improvement in the skills taught to the students in two to three years,” said Garris.

Before the students can go through the QEP, faculty are to practice intensive professional development in critical thinking and related classroom issues. Small groups of teachers begin training in June.

During training, teachers are encouraged to involve students more, to lecture less, and to offer more one-on-one question and answering sessions with students.

Although some may think the professors could be reluctant to change, some are already signing up for the training.

“I figured because I’ve been teaching for so long now that I would be the most old fashioned, so I volunteered to participate in the QEP first,” said Owen Carmical, professor of history.

University of the Cumberlands, located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, is a private liberal arts college in its 117th year of operation. UC offers four undergraduate degrees in 37 major fields of study, 30 minors and 9 pre-professional programs, as well as online and accelerated, non-traditional programs for adults.