What's the QEP?: SACSCOC and "Thinking Critically"

What's the QEP brandingWhat is SACSCOC?
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC—pronounced “saks-cee-oh-cee”) is the regional accreditor of degree-granting colleges and universities in the southern states. It serves by creating common denominators of shared values and practices among the diverse institutions within the region.

Why is accreditation by SACSCOC important?
Accreditation by SACSCOC is important because:

  • It assures the public that the institution meets standards and requirements outlined in the Principles of Accreditation that are applicable to all colleges and universities in 11 southeastern states.
  • It assures the public that the college provides a quality education in fulfillment of its mission.
  • It establishes Meharry’s eligibility to participate in federal student financial aid programs administered under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Regional accreditation is a criterion for accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) and the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

What is involved in continuing accreditation by SACSCOC?
Meharry Medical College has been accredited by SACSCOC since 1972. SACSCOC conducts a full review of an institution’s compliance with the Principles of Accreditation to reaffirm accreditation every 10 years. Meharry Medical College is being reviewed this year, 2017.

Required Documents—The decennial review requires submission of a Compliance Certification Report that addresses all applicable core requirements, comprehensive standards and federal requirements. One of the core requirements is that the institution must develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that is designed to enhance student learning or the learning environment. The Compliance Certification Report, Focused Report and QEP are available for internal review from the Intranet home page (Meharrians only—User Name and Password required).

Reviews by Peers—Representatives from peer institutions are selected for an Off-site Review Committee and an On-Site Review Committee.

  • The Off-Site Review Committee reviews the information and documents provided by the College in the Compliance Certification Report and assesses compliance with each applicable standard. The committee makes a judgement of whether the information presented is “in compliance” or “non-compliance.” The college has an opportunity to address standards that were found “non-compliance” through a Focused Report.
  • The On-Site Review Committee reviews the Focused Report and Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) and visits the campus. This committee is charged with deciding if additional information and documents submitted in the Focused Report are sufficient to change the “non-compliance” finding to “compliance” and to assess the acceptability of the QEP. The On-Site Review Committee reports its findings and recommendations to the SACSCOC Board of Trustees. The final decision on reaffirmation of accreditation will be announced in December 2017.

When is the SACSCOC on-site visit?
A SACSCOC On-site Review Committee will be on Meharry’s campus March 7-9, 2017. During the visit, committee members will request interviews with specific administrators, faculty, staff, and students to obtain additional information about the academic program, institutional processes, and feasibility of implementing the QEP.

What is the QEP?
The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is a requirement for reaffirmation of accreditation by SACSCOC. Each institution must develop a carefully designed and focused course of action to address an issue related to enhancing student learning. Development of the plan must include a process for identifying key issues through institutional assessment, focusing on learning outcome and accomplishing the mission of the institution. The plan must also demonstrate institutional capability for initiation, implementation and completion of the plan; broad-based involvement of institutional constituents in development of the plan and its implementation and plans to assess achievement of identified goals. The QEP must be deemed “acceptable” by the On-site Review Committee to reaffirm accreditation.

What is the topic of Meharry’s QEP?
The development of the QEP began in 2015 when the campus community was asked to share ideas for the focus or topic of the QEP through meetings with various groups and a campus-wide survey. The top four responses to the survey were reviewed by the deans, curriculum committee chairs and academic affairs officers in each school to evaluate feasibility of implementing each topic. Critical thinking emerged as the focus/topic for the QEP because students in all degree programs can benefit from enhancement of these skills.  The title of the QEP is “Cultivating Students’ Critical Thinking at Meharry Medical College.”

How will the QEP work?
Beginning with the fall 2017 entering classes in the medical, dental, MSPH and doctoral degree programs, each cohort of students will:

  • Take the Health Sciences Reasoning Test (HSRT) as part of a series of assessments administered to all students during New Student Orientation. The score on this standardized test will establish a baseline measurement of each students reasoning in five categories.
  • Receive targeted information and instruction on critical thinking and the particular skill of inference during MAPS and selected courses during year one and year two of each degree program
  • Faculty will assess students’ application of inference through required course activities.
  • At the end of the second year, each student will take the HSRT again to see if there is an improvement of scores in the five categories (particularly inference) and overall.
  • Data from the HSRT and faculty assessments will be analyzed in the aggregate to ascertain if the efforts to enhance critical thinking have made a difference. The implementation of the plan will be assessed to see if goals have been achieved and if changes are needed to enhance student learning or other aspects of the QEP.

Why will implementation of the QEP help students?
Numerous studies have identified critical thinking as an essential skill for professionals in health-related fields. The application of these skills is relevant for providing quality patient care, improving public health in all communities and scientific investigation.
The goal of the QEP is to improve students’ ability to:

  • Clearly articulate reasons and evidence to draw conclusions, develop hypotheses, make recommendations and come to decisions
  • Draw logical conclusions after considering relevant and significant information
  • Distinguish between consistent and inconsistent inferences
  • Distinguish between assumptions and inferences and assess underlying assumptions
  • Demonstrate application of critical thinking skills through observed activities, such as medical OSCEs, interactions and treatment planning for dental patients and development of original research

Adequate development and application of these skills might contribute to students’ timely progression through the academic programs and long-term success in their respective careers.

Why do I need to know about the QEP?
The QEP is an important undertaking for Meharry Medical College. Knowing what the QEP is and hopes to accomplish benefits everyone—students, faculty, staff and administrators—who contributes to achieving the college’s mission and maintaining accreditation by SACSCOC, LCME, CODA and CEPH.