Beginning this fall, WKU will place a greater emphasis on teaching students to find, analyze and communicate information to better prepare them for the workplace.
WKU is sending graduates into an increasingly demanding work environment in which employers expect them to know how to think through and solve problems, work successfully and creatively in teams, and clearly and persuasively communicate the results of their efforts.
Recent surveys commissioned by the American Association of Colleges and Universities have shown that 68 percent of employers want to hire graduates with better preparation in locating, organizing, and evaluating information, and 89 percent of employers say written and oral communication skills need to be better developed in college.
For more than two years, WKU has been working toward reaccreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The Reaffirmation of Accreditation process includes the development of a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a five-year plan to enhance student learning in a specific area of need.
WKU chose the new QEP theme, titled Evidence & Argument, in response to these national trends and employer expectations of graduates’ abilities to evaluate information, problem solve, and communicate clearly.
Evidence & Argument is designed to develop students’ abilities in three specific areas: (1) evidence-gathering—assembling sound and relevant evidence to address an issue; (2) sense-making—analyzing and understanding this evidence; and (3) argumentation—articulating a logical and supported argument based on the analysis.
“There’s a lot of information out there, but students need to know how to separate the good from the bad, understand what it means, and be able to apply it,” according to Doug McElroy, Associate Vice President for Enrichment and Effectiveness.
Implementation of Evidence & Argument this fall will be closely tied to WKU’s newly implemented general education plan, called the Colonnade Program. This includes a first-year writing and communication experience focused on the three primary areas outlined in the QEP, with continuation of the new curriculum in key courses through the junior and seniors years. In addition to changes in curriculum, WKU will provide new professional development opportunities and online teaching resources to faculty across the University.
Through these initiatives, students will gain the skills to find, analyze, evaluate and correctly cite pertinent primary and secondary sources and to prepare speeches and written texts. They will strengthen their ability to recognize whether evidence is sound and reliable, distinguish between different kinds of evidence and how they function, analyze the credibility of the evidence and synthesize that evidence in order to determine its meaning and significance.
To assess whether these steps positively affect student learning, annual samples of student work from key courses will evaluate students’ abilities in evidence-gathering, sense-making, and argumentation. WKU will also participate in the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a nationally-normed instrument designed to assess critical analysis and argumentation skills.
“We are confident that, through the implementation of Evidence & Argument, student learning at WKU will be enhanced,” Dr. McElroy said. In so doing, WKU will bolster its mission of preparing “students of all backgrounds to be productive, engaged, and socially-responsible citizen-leaders of a global society.”
Every 10 years, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the regional accrediting body for degree-granting institutions in Kentucky and other southern states, must reaccredit each university in the southern region. The mission of SACSCOC is to assure educational quality and improve the effectiveness of its member institutions. A SACSCOC review team will conduct an on-site visit at WKU in April 2015 with the final commission review slated for December 2015. You can learn more about the reaccreditation process and about Evidence & Argument, The Quality Enhancement Plan for Western Kentucky University, at www.wku.edu/qep.
Contact: Doug McElroy, (270) 745-7009