FAQ

For additional questions, contact the Director of the QEP, Lorena Russell at lrussell@unca.edu. She, or a member of the QEP Leadership Team will be glad to address your questions. If you have not done so already, please contact Lorena to schedule a visit to your department to discuss the opportunities the Inquiry ARC offers your faculty and staff and to address your questions.

What is UNC Asheville’s QEP?

The Inquiry ARC project will focus on enhancing students’ critical thinking through participation in academically rigorous experiences that involve inquiry, application, reflection and communication.

Although an inquire-apply-reflect-communicate experience may be present in a variety of forms in many courses at UNC Asheville, the QEP will provide professional development opportunities and other support to help educators enhance their students’ critical thinking throughout this experience.

Why do we need a QEP?

The Quality Enhancement Plan is a requirement for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It changes the focus of accreditation from “must” statements to improving student learning. The QEP allows an institution to identify an important issue related to student learning and design creative ways to improve student learning on that issue.

How did UNC Asheville develop its QEP?

The Inquiry ARC is the result of an extensive data gathering process during AY 2010-11 to identify the highest priority outcomes, themes and issues among our faculty, staff, student and alumni. Surveys, World Café sessions, focus groups and meetings revealed a campus united in its commitment to undergraduate education and eager to engage students in meaningful learning experiences that will enhance their critical thinking.

What are the primary goals of the QEP?

1) Students will learn the skills and dispositions needed to think critically, 2) Educators will improve their critical thinking pedagogy, and 3) Critical thinking will become an even more integral part of UNC Asheville course-based offerings.

Why do we need a QEP?

The Quality Enhancement Plan is a requirement for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It changes the focus of accreditation from “must” statements to improving student learning. The QEP allows an institution to identify an important issue related to student learning and design creative ways to improve student learning on that issue.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is a habit of mind characterized by intellectual curiosity and maturity, systematic and reflective thinking, and exploration of multiple perspectives. It includes skills in clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, breadth, depth, logic, significance and fairness.

Why is critical thinking important to UNC Asheville?

Critical thinking is embedded in the mission of UNC Asheville and is one of our University Student Learning Outcomes. Critical thinking is an essential foundation of a liberal arts education and an essential skill for success in the workplace.

What’s different from what we’re doing now?

We begin with the assumption that critical thinking is already a part of student learning at UNC Asheville. We also recognize that many UNC Asheville educators already use an inquire-apply-reflect-communicate framework in a variety of ways in their classrooms. What will our QEP (Inquiry ARC) add?

Inquiry ARC will allow us to become more intentional in our teaching of critical thinking.

Inquiry ARC will offer professional development opportunities to work with other UNC Asheville educators on improving our rough ideas for enhancing critical thinking in an inquire-apply-reflect-communicate process.

Inquiry ARC will provide a framework for sharing with each other our successful practices for improving critical thinking.

Inquiry ARC will strengthen the interdisciplinary collegiality on our campus.

Inquiry ARC will allow us to develop increasingly effective approaches to teaching critical thinking.  We will assess what we are doing and make improvements along the way.

How will students, faculty and staff benefit from QEP?

Students 

By participating in an Inquiry ARC experience, students will improve their critical thinking skills. The standards of clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, breadth, depth, logic, significance and fairness will become infused in their thinking and, in turn, guide them to better solve complex problems. The students will be energized by experiences that encourage them to ask relevant and probing questions from multiple perspectives and gather information from a variety of sources (inquire), design and implement a project (apply), periodically deepen their learning (reflect), share and dialogue about what was learned (communicate). During this experience, students will be involved in active learning experiences and may interact with the community to solve problems. They will learn a skill that is highly valued by employers. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to apply for grants to fund their projects and travel funds to present their projects.

Faculty

Faculty will get the opportunity for professional development that will allow them to develop their pedagogies for teaching critical thinking and assess what students are learning. The interdisciplinary nature of the learning communities will allow educators to learn from each other and strengthen our campus collegiality. Participating faculty will receive a stipend and will have the opportunity to apply for grants and for travel funds to present Inquiry ARC projects. Everyone will benefit from students who have increased critical thinking skills and dispositions. This will enhance all UNC Asheville course experiences and student performance in the kinds of complex problem solving we see in undergraduate research, service learning, study abroad, senior projects, internships and our other many programs.

Staff

Inquiry ARC will begin with course-based experiences; therefore, staff can partner with faculty to develop inquire-apply-reflect-communicate student experiences to carry out in their department, unit, or community organization. Staff are also invited to join critical thinking Learning Circles to share ideas with faculty and other staff members from across campus, building interdisciplinary collegiality and support.

What will the campus do during the implementation of the QEP?

UNC Asheville will 1) develop a definition of critical thinking that puts forward a shared standard; 2) provide opportunities for professional development that will allow educators to develop pedagogies for improving their students’ critical thinking; 3) initiate and improve the Inquiry ARC, a shared framework for the experience in which students can enhance critical thinking; 4) iteratively assess changes in students’ critical thinking; and 5) evaluate the assessment results and retool the enhancement plan as appropriate.

How will Inquiry ARC be infused into our curriculum?

The plan is to start small and grow over time. We will begin in AY 2012-13 with a pilot group of educators representing a variety of disciplines. In AY 2013-14, participation will be expanded to willing educators in LSIC 179 and 379 courses. In the following years, participation will continue to expand and will be offered to all educators in all campus courses and co-curricular offerings. Learning Circles began in AY 2011/2012 and professional development for the pilot group of educators will begin in May 2012.

How will improvement in student learning be assessed?

Inquiry ARC projects will be assessed with a rubric to identify student learning related to critical thinking skills. Skills will also be assessed indirectly with the Deep Learning Scale of the NSSE which is administered to sophomores and seniors every other year. Students’ critical thinking dispositions will be assessed with the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory which will be taken by freshmen and seniors in alternate years.

How can students, faculty and staff participate?

Students

Students who wish to participate can do so by signing up for one or more course with an Inquiry ARC experience.

Faculty

Faculty can participate by becoming an Inquiry ARC Teaching Scholar. In spring 2012, educators can apply to become a part of the group  who will pilot the plan. These faculty will attend professional development, pilot all aspects of the plan in academic year 2012/2013, and meet regularly to discuss their experiences.

In AY 2013-14, educators in LSIC 179 and 379 courses can apply to participate in professional development, incorporate all aspects of the plan in their 179/379 course, and meet regularly to discuss their experiences.

In the following years, participation will continue to expand and will be offered to all educators in all campus courses and co-curricular offerings.

Staff

In the early phases of the QEP, staff may participate by partnering with a faculty member who is teaching an Inquiry ARC course. Or if they teach a course, then they may also participate in all the same ways that faculty can.