Thursday, April 30, 2015

[404] MTSU faculty, staff give input at MT Engage town halls

Several members of the Middle Tennessee State University faculty and staff had questions during a pair of recent town hall meetings to discuss MT Engage, the university’s next Quality Enhance Plan.

Dr. Dianna Rust, associate professor in university studies who’s heading the QEP process, gave a PowerPoint presentation to about 30 attendees at an April 1 meeting inside the Tom H. Jackson Building’s Cantrell Hall. It was the second of two such informational meetings to gain feedback from faculty and staff about the plan, also known as a QEP.

If implemented properly, “MTSU will be known as a campus that values engaged learning,” Rust told the group. “Students will be expected to actively contribute to their learning environment through class activities, collaborations, research, service, civic engagement. … Students will have a better understanding of themselves and their learning, as well as their skills and abilities through integrative and reflective thinking.”

The QEP is an accreditation review requirement by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional accreditation body for higher education institutions in the South. MT Engage will be a five-year initiative to improve student learning.

Since MTSU’s plan will need to be implemented in time for the SACS on-campus review in spring 2016, Rust said pilot courses will be launched in fall 2015. A survey of faculty found that 41 faculty members were willing to pilot an MT Engage course for the fall, Rust noted, adding that currently MT Engage would be an opt-in program for students.

“Time will be a factor” for both faculty and students, Rust said.

Among incentives being considered are MT Engage scholarships, mentoring programs, a recognition banquet and special designations on student transcripts.

A key aspect of the QEP is an e-portfolio that will allow students to reflect on their learning in the classroom and beyond the classroom. Rust shared that the e-portfolio will allow students to present:
  • Personal information about themselves;
  • A sample of the breadth and depth of work that the student has completed;
  • Reflective statements documenting how the student has grown and developed as a result of completing assignments;
  • Products or artifacts that demonstrate the students’ range of knowledge, skills, abilities, achievements, experiences, growth, development, and attitudes as a result of their educational experiences; and
  • Integration of learning experiences.

Dr. Philip Phillips, associate dean of the University Honors Colleges, asked about the format for the e-portfolio and suggested that the electronic document be pared down as students approach entry into the job market or graduate school so that their best work is showcased.

The QEP is still being developed by a committee and subcommittees representing a cross-section of faculty, staff and students.

MT Engage follows the university’s previous reaffirmation initiative, the Experiential Learning, or EXL, program, which emphasized hands-on activities and public service as an integral part of a student’s learning experience during their junior and senior years.

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