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Record Online - September 2010

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BCD faculty members' QEP topic chosen for the HSC

Two Baylor College of Dentistry faculty members are providing the vision and leadership for an innovative accreditation-required proposal to enhance student learning throughout the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Dr. Beverly York
                         Dr. Beverly York
Dr. Beverly York, assistant professor in restorative sciences, and Dr. Bob Hutchins, associate professor of biomedical sciences, submitted the winning proposal for the Quality Enhancement Plan, a specific accreditation requirement of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The health science center is preparing for a 2012 SACS accreditation review.

Much of the accreditation process examines what has already been accomplished. However, the QEP involves broad-based participation in selecting and focusing on a project that will enhance future student learning capabilities throughout the institution. The HSC has been in the process of selecting one student-learning topic for the QEP for several months.

Unlike many Texas institutions of higher education reviewed for accreditation, the health science center is geographically dispersed across Texas. Having a presence at several academic units in many locations ensures a variety in health education experiences, but also poses a challenge in gaining consensus for one institution-wide QEP topic.

To address this challenge, a QEP Topic Proposal Selection Group comprised of the HSC-SACS Leadership Team, three Faculty Senate representatives and a representative from the HSC-Student Government Association provided the broad based participation needed to review the 20 QEP topic proposals submitted last spring, and choose the top three proposals for further development.

The selection committee reviewed proposed QEP topics submitted by faculty from all educational and geographic components of the health science center.

Dr. Eric Solomon, Baylor College of Dentistry professor and HSC Director of Institutional Effectiveness, describes how the final phase of the QEP topic selection process worked.

"The selection group evaluated the initial 20 QEP topics on the quality of topic proposals and results of the HSC-wide QEP Topic Survey," he says. "Individuals and groups who submitted the top three proposals were invited to expand upon their ideas by presenting more details."

Dr. Bob Hutchins
                     Dr. Bob Hutchins
After broad and intense discussions, the SACS Leadership Team recently announced that York and Hutchins' proposal, "Improving Critical Thinking, Scientific Reasoning Skills," was selected as the QEP topic for the entire health science center. York agreed to serve as the director of the project.

"It is an honor and great responsibility to direct the QEP project," she says. "When I first heard about the QEP proposal, it encouraged me to share a vision to help students evaluate the sometimes ill-defined and often evolving problems encountered in health care. I appreciate the expertise and collaboration of my colleague Dr. Bob Hutchins in preparing this QEP topic, and look forward to directing this effort."

Hutchins agrees with York about the significance of the QEP.

"This is very important work for the entire health science center," he says. "Dr. York and I felt that most programs were already incorporating some elements of critical thinking. We felt that establishing a core set of critical thinking skills that would apply across disciplines would provide a unified approach in enhancing the health science center's curriculum."

And with that, the future of student learning at the health science center takes on new meaning, according to Dr. Rod McCallum, vice president for academic affairs.

"With the QEP process, we will begin discussions about how we can improve student achievement, but it won't end there," he says. "This discourse will become an integral part of doing the business of learning at the health science center. From the QEP process, we expect collegial cross-disciplinary ideas to emerge and subsequently to produce new student-learning models. It's not just about accreditation; it's about being the best we can be."