The process for the development of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) at the University of South Alabama (USA) was aligned with planning principles as delineated by Litman (2012). The process included broad-based involvement of all potential stakeholders. These stakeholders included students, faculty, staff, and administrators. During the pilot and implementation phases of the project, the QEP Advisory Committee consisted of students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and administrators.
During the QEP planning process, there was a careful review of student data including, but not limited to, six-year graduation and retention rates, ETS Proficiency Profile Test scores, Graduating Senior Surveys, National Survey of Student Engagement collaboration and critical thinking scores and course-level student learning outcomes. During the planning process, the most critical areas identified after this review were (a) mastery of learning outcomes, (b) critical thinking skills, (c) collaborative skills, (d) engagement, and (e) retention. It was also determined that these needs were more critical in STEM courses.
After the identification of the areas in need of improvement, the QEP process included a thorough and inclusive concept development and selection phase. At the completion of this phase, collaborative teaching and learning was selected as the QEP topic because collaborative pedagogical strategies will help improve student learning in STEM courses, including improvements in content acquisition, critical thinking, collaborative skills, engagement, and retention. Team-Based Learning (TBL) was selected as the collaborative learning strategy best suited to address the areas noted in the analysis of student data.
Team-Based Learning is a special form of collaborative learning that utilizes a specific sequence of individual work, group work and immediate feedback to create a motivational framework in which students increasingly hold each other accountable for coming to class prepared and contributing to discussion (Michaelsen & Sweet, 2008). The use of TBL has been supported in numerous studies (Clark, Nguyen, Bray, & Levine, 2008; Haberyan, 2007; Thompson, Schneider, Haidet, Levine, McMahon, Perkowski, & Richards, 2007) as an effective learning strategy across multiple disciplines including STEM.
The purpose of TEAM USA is to improve student learning in STEM courses by increasing student critical thinking and collaborative skills through the utilization of Team-Based Learning instructional strategies. The goal of the project is for students to achieve higher mastery levels of course content and application through the development of critical thinking and collaboration. TEAM USA is aligned with the mission of the university to “apply knowledge in service to the people of Alabama as citizens of a global community” and also with goal #1 of the University’s strategic plan, “To build upon the academic quality and learning environment of the University.