The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for improving general education courses has four inter-dependent parts, all designed to support each other in developing and teaching best practices and uses of the technology for student learning:
This center for excellence in teaching and learning will provide faculty training and professional development to ensure that all are using technology to the fullest extent possible. One aspect of this training will be the Faculty Mentoring Program.
A key component of our QEP is the Faculty Mentoring Program. Those mentors who are chosen will be given a 3-hour (one course) reduction in both the Fall 2014 and the Spring 2015 semesters and will be released from their teaching duties in the May 2015 term. Up-to-date technology, including iPads and MacBook laptops, will be provided. Mentors will be asked to participate in workshops, and travel funds will be provided when necessary.
Fast Forward Mentors will be expected to re-develop at least one entry-level course which they usually teach in the Fall 2015 semester to use learner-centered approaches and 21st century tools in order to promote critical thinking. The chosen course will be assessed in several ways, and the mentor will be asked to complete some of these assessments (such as surveys and rubrics) for the course he/she is teaching.
The Fast Forward Mentor Program will provide professional development opportunities, such as workshops, travel to conferences, and one-on-one instructional design assistance, to those teachers in general education whose courses are studied as part of the plan. The first group of faculty mentors will begin their training during Year 1: 2014-2015. The mentors will complete 12, 4-hour, bi-weekly sessions, 6 in the Fall 2014 semester, and 6 in the Spring 2015 semester. This training will follow the curriculum described below. The Faculty Mentors’ schedules will be adjusted so that attendance at these workshops will be convenient to all.
This training will follow the curriculum described below.
Session 1: Introduction to Technology: Basic iPad use, Apple TV, Cloud
Session 2: Critical Thinking Concepts
Session 3: Assessing Courses for Learner-Centered Teaching Strategies
Session 4: Universal Design and the Development of Online Materials
Session 5: Challenge-Based, Project-Based, and Place-Based Teaching Strategies
Session 6: Becoming an Effective Mentor
Session 1: Creating iBooks and iTunes U Courses
Session 2: Creating Instructional Media
Session 3: Apps for General Education Courses
Session 4: Planning for Fall 2015
Session 5: Mentor Showcase I
Session 6: Mentor Showcase II
Fast Forward Mentors will also agree to mentor two faculty members from their respective departments during the Fall 2015-Spring 2016 year, and they may be asked to present workshops for future mentor training or the entire University community.
In Spring 2014, faculty members will be chosen from General Education (100 or 200 level) courses to receive an iPad and participate in a Study Group that will provide research results on this initiative for analysis. Prior to Fall 2015, these faculty will receive extensive training, and their training will continue throughout the research period. The QEP will then focus on students entering as first-time freshmen in Fall 2015. Every freshman student will receive an Apple iPad.
These freshman students will be given the opportunity to experience different methods of training in the use of the chosen technology. This training will be required for students in the Study Group. There will be two control groups: those students enrolled in sections of General Education course sections where iPads are used to explicitly teach critical thinking through learner-centered approaches, and those students enrolled in General Education course sections where the iPads are not used in these particular ways.
Student assessments consistently report that our students are weak in the area of critical thinking. As a result, the Jacksonville State University Strategic Plan has specifically identified this deficiency and the need for continuous improvement. Our strategy involves employing new methodologies and technologies in the classroom and has challenged the faculty to effectively use technology to support learning, research, information management and evidence-based decision-making.
By providing the technology and the delivery methodologies in conjunction with mentoring and training programs mentioned above, significant progress should be made toward preparing and enhancing 21st century critical thinking skills among the student body. These skills include communication, collaboration and the ability to locate and acquire information using current technologies in order to derive solutions to existing problems or create new knowledge.