SAILS data shapes Samford QEP effort

Asia Simone Burns, Editor-in-Chief

After officially announcing and implementing the quality enhancement plan, Samford’s QEP committee is now focusing on ensuring that its success is adequately measured.

The plan, “Level Up: Transformative Learning through Powerful Assignments,” focuses on encouraging information literacy in classrooms at Samford.

“This is taking a school that is already pretty well-known for teaching and is doing a pretty good job of it, and taking it more seriously,” geography professor and QEP director Eric Fournier said.

The QEP, he added, is based on a series of proficiency assessments that Samford students may already be familiar with.

“The QEP is born out of existing elements on campus,” Lauren Young, instruction coordinator for the Samford library said. “I’ve worked with QEP’s at other institutions, and one of the things they often tell us is ‘build on something you’re already doing.’”

This QEP concerns critical thinking and literacy skills—skills that Young calls the “bedrock of a liberal arts education”—by improving assignments based on data collected by Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills.

Project SAILS has been administered every year at Samford since 2011 and is one of the data points used to measure the QEP’s success.

“Project SAILS is an assessment that is built to measure information proficiencies and literacies in our undergraduate students,” Young said. “So we have administered it several times, but 2011 and 2014 have been tracked to measure these information proficiencies and literacies from one class from when they entered as freshmen to when they graduated as seniors.”

Young said the decision to partner with the QEP was made based on indicated weaknesses in the SAILS data.

“The QEP is supposed to address a strength or weakness on campus,” Young said. “Our SAILS results indicated no growth in select information literacy skills from freshman to senior year.”

A second data point is the National Survey of Student Engagement, which measures the academic challenge and rigor students believe they experienced while at Samford.

Additionally, the QEP is not based solely on long-term assessments. Young said it will also take benchmark assessments into account.

“In a given class in a given semester, we are going to be doing some work with rubrics and surveys during class,” Young said.

Fournier said that though this QEP is centered around enhancing the assigments students see in classrooms based on assessed weakness, it would not result in an increased workload for students.

“It means more focused work.,” he said. “I think it means more meaningful work. It means less busy work.”

To learn more about Samford’s QEP, follow @SUQEP2017 on Twitter.

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