Quality Enhancement Plan
As Houston area attracts more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)-based corporations, there is an increased need for a well-trained STEM workforce. Houston Community College (HCC) has developed a comprehensive Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) focusing on improvement of student learning, engagement, and success in the sciences. To complement the plan, STEM faculty at HCC have written multi-million dollar grant proposals to purchase up-to-date science and technology equipment, and offer scholarships and research opportunities to the students. Faculty have also developed articulation agreements with other colleges and universities so that STEM students can successfully continue with their education after they leave HCC classrooms.
HCC INSPIRE (QEP) Module Incorporation of State Core Objectives Positively Impacting Student Learning
So far, an estimated 10,420 students in 523 sections of gateway science courses (BIOL 1406, CHEM 1411 or PHYS 1401) have participated in the QEP case study module experience. Developed by HCC science faculty in Summer 2012 as a way to explore contextualized, active & collaborative learning strategies together, each comprehensive module covers an entire textbook chapter and starts with an attention-grabbing crime. Student teams must learn the science in order to solve the crime. Soft skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, communication, and quantitative & empirical skills are also paramount. Incidentally, Texas Higher education Coordinating Board has identified these same skills as essential core objectives in core science courses.
Where possible, departmental final exams have been co-opted to measure medium-term student learning. Despite some initial fears on the part of faculty that active & collaborative learning might be detrimental to covering gateway course basics, overall, students in QEP sections slightly outscored non-QEP sections on multiple choice exam questions. Most impressive were the results of a short answer essay question on the module topic of cellular respiration on the BIOL 1406 final exam. In Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 a total of 2468 student essay answers were scored by a validated scoring rubric. On this question, QEP students significantly outscored non-QEP students. Given the newly mandated Texas state core objectives, it was not surprising to find that the oral group presentation turned out to be a key component. Among QEP students, those who were asked to present their findings in an oral presentation significantly outscored those who did not.
Faculty teaching BIOL 1406, CHEM 1411 or PHYS 1401 are highly encouraged to contact QEP Director Tineke Berends for more information on joining the growing QEP faculty community. Implementation stipends are $300 for first-time QEP module implementers or $100 for repeat QEP module implementers.