Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Overview
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education. As part of the reaffirmation process, SACSCOC asks each institution to develop a plan to enhance student learning or the learning environment. A QEP must also be aligned with an institution’s mission, and integrated into its educational environment.
After listening to a diverse array of stakeholders and analyzing institutional data, UWF determined that professional communication skill development through the use of “high-impact practices” should be the focus of our 2016-2020 QEP. UWF is committed to its QEP by providing existing and additional support and resources. Data will be used to evaluate the progress and success of our QEP and guide the changes made to improve the plan over time. Our QEP was approved in March 2016 with no recommendations (read the original 2015 Proposed QEP and Executive Summary).
What is Professional Communication?
The QEP defines professional communication as any oral or written product that contributes to an individual’s academic, career, or civic pursuits. In all cases, the communication must be grounded in and reflective of professional expectations within the discipline. Such communication sets a proper decorum, and is ethical, audience-centered, sensitive to difference, rooted in the appropriate and strategic use of language, focused on building relationships, and purposeful. Examples include papers, essays, presentations, speeches, digital communications, technical reports, and interpersonal interactions.
Why Did We Choose Communication for Professional Success?
When developing its QEP topic, UWF evaluated student learning outcome data, employer beliefs, and feedback from faculty, staff, alumni and students. Results overwhelmingly indicated a need to improve students’ professional communication skills. Employers expect college graduates to have strong communication skills. Highlights of our 2013 findings included:
- Only 39% of academic departments assessed communication skills in their major coursework, whereas 61% assessed communication in their general studies coursework. (Source: UWF assessment reports)
- 82% of employers rated written and oral communication skills as very important; of those, 63% scored UWF graduates as possessing similar or higher skill levels when compared to other job candidates. (Source: Florida Career Consortium)
- 67% of employers reported seeking written and oral communication skills from job candidates. When examining a candidate’s resume, his or her written communication skills are the second thing employers look at—right after GPA. (Source: National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE)
In their 2011 book Academically Adrift, Richard Arum and Josipa Roska contend that many students lack the appropriate professional communication skills when they enter college. Furthermore, the improvement students’ make while in college is often marginal or incremental. By focusing our efforts on improving these skills prior to graduation, UWF believes its graduates will be better positioned to realize success in their chosen professions.
How Are We Building a Culture of Professional Communication?
At UWF, there is a growing consensus from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and employers that students need more opportunities to hone their professional communication skills. Communication for Professional Success was developed to address that need, and is intended to enhance the quality of our academic experience by focusing on student learning in major coursework. Central to these courses and experiences is professional communication skill development; however, such opportunities are also enhanced by incorporating various “high-impact” pedagogical elements. These elements, such as frequent feedback from faculty and peers, meaningful interactions, critical reflection, and the opportunity to demonstrate competence have been shown to engage students in deeper learning that is grounded in real-world expectations.
“If you want to change the culture, you will have to start by changing the organization.” – Mary Douglas
To transform culture, we must evaluate and measure our progress. The vision of the QEP is to promote a culture of excellence and quality enhancement at UWF. If we are successfully aligned with our vision, we should see four things:
- Our graduates experiencing professional success
- Quality high-impact courses and experiences
- An interest in developing and evaluating professional communication skills, and
- Synergies and meaningful collaborations across campus
What Do We Hope to Accomplish?
The outcomes we aim for students are focused on professional communication skill development. As a result of participating in QEP courses and out-of-class experiences, students will be able to:
- Use sources that are appropriate and relevant
- Exhibit spelling that is generally error-free –or– pronunciation and diction that are generally error-free
- Exhibit standard rules of grammar, syntax, and punctuation –or– grammar, tone, volume, and tempo
- Use language and content to serve the intended purpose of the communication
- Use language and jargon tailed to audience understanding
- State a clear conclusion that is consistent with the evidence presented
- Present work that demonstrates a professional level of polish