January 2011: A GPS view of accreditation

January 21, 2011

accreditationTrue achievements in quality education are always the result of a lot of hard work. So say those who steer the accreditation process for the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC). These guides are currently gathering to ensure that TAMHSC degrees are recognized and accreditation is accomplished. However, those who steer the process are not the only ones who will be called upon to help with reaccreditation. The entire health science center community will be called upon to support this effort.

In just one year, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) review team will be visiting the health science center to assess our institution. Successful accreditation will depend upon TAMHSC-wide support.

To orchestrate such a feat, a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is being developed to focus on one topic of student learning across the health science center. That topic is teaching students to CARE (Critically Appraise Relevant Evidence).

Roderick E. McCallum, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs, says the health science center is required by the accrediting authority to show a process to improve student-learning outcomes.

“The QEP must focus on a topic of importance to student learning, and in our case, critical thinking skills and decision-making,” he says. “This is not simply a project but a process that will be integrated into most of our health science curricula.”

Dr. McCallum says the SACS on-site visit in spring 2012 will critically evaluate the health science center’s QEP plan as well as how effective the institution could be in implementing it over the next five years.

“The QEP doesn’t have to embrace all academic components of the health science center, but we are dedicated to developing a plan that has wide application and can improve critical thinking skills and decision-making of all our students,” he says.

To that end, the health science center gathered members of various components together to form a QEP Plan Oversight Committee. As the QEP evolves, this committee will educate faculty, staff and students about the plan to demonstrate broad-based support of student learning.

Eric Solomon, D.D.S., M.A., executive director for institutional research, explains this charge from a GPS point-of-view.

“With the health science center landscape and subject diversity spanning across the state of Texas, it’s important to both broadcast our common student learning message and seek participation in the accreditation process throughout the institution,” he says. “The QEP Plan Oversight Committee can guide us all through this process. The committee will identify faculty members who teach critical thinking skills and solicit their support to enhance student learning.”

The QEP Plan Oversight Committee
  • Beverly York, D.D.S. – QEP Co-author, BCD
  • Bob Hutchins, Ph.D., M.B.A., QEP Co-author, BCD
  • Bobbie Ann Adair White, M.A. – COM
  • Regina Bentley, Ed.D., RN, CNE – CON
  • Jennifer Griffith, Dr.P.H., M.P.H. – SRPH
  • Steven Peterson, Ph.D. – COP
  • Eric Solomon, D.D.S., M.A – Central Admin.

QEP Co-author and Baylor College of Dentistry faculty member Beverly York, D.D.S. explains the objectives of the committee.

“It is my hope that the committee will maintain a collective focus for this important area of curricular enhancement for our students…i.e., student’s ability to Critically Appraise Relevant Evidence. ‘Evidence’ is not only extrinsic (evidence in the literature) but also intrinsic (knowing what to assess and how the available evidence applies to the specific problem at hand). Although HSC faculty members may have different philosophies, we all have the same purpose. This gives us the best opportunity to actually make a difference in student’s overall academic experiences at each of our respective components. And, after all, that’s the real point anyway, right? This way, any creative license that individual campuses need to take will still maintain the core essence of the QEP and ultimately, this will make the entire HSC a better institution. Hopefully, this will be a committee that creates a purpose that all faculty members will embrace and that will truly help our graduates become more competent and confident professionals who have been trained in the skills/habits of lifetime learners.”

Dr. McCallum emphasizes the importance of the QEP.

“This QEP will constitute an essential component of accreditation review in the spring of 2012,” he says. “Each individual in the health science center community can contribute to successful accreditation by supporting student learning.”

The meetings are conducted in an open format where other interested faculty members who are involved in the various stages of teaching critical thinking skills are invited by the respective Planning Committee members to attend. For more information about the committee, contact any of the members listed above.

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