Quality Enhancement Plan coats campus

At the beginning of this week, many students were surprised to discover the sudden appearance of stand-up table brochures and new T-shirts across campus adorned with the mysterious acronym “QEP: SHSU.” Though the slogan may seem meaningless initially, it in fact marks the beginning of a new chapter for Sam Houston State academics.

As part of its accreditation reaffirmation process, SHSU will begin offering a new science course next fall as part of its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The QEP is of critical importance to the Southern Organization of Colleges and Schools (SACS), SHSU’s outside accreditation bureau. Every ten years, SACS examines every part of its member universities to ensure that they are providing quality education to their students. If SACS deems this to be the case, then it will reaffirm that university’s accreditation, essentially making degrees offered by that university valid and valuable.

SHSU’s version of the QEP will take the form of a “Foundations of Science” course. The new course is designed to enhance the critical thinking and scientific reasoning skills of undergraduates by integrating a case study approach designed to address and examine many of sciences’ “big questions.”

According to Dr. Marcus Gillespie, professor of geography and head of the committee that designed the course, the class will enter into the catalog as a fulfillment for the core science requirement. Unlike other core science classes, it will address a wide range of issues across the scientific spectrum, paying close attention to the commonly presented and recognized questions of science.

Slated to be discussed in the course is a plethora of topics ranging from Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to the Bermuda Triangle to the evidence behind UFO sightings. Though the topics may seem a little more like science fiction, the course is designed to integrate logic, critical thinking, and scientific reasoning as they apply to these widely discussed questions.

“We’re not going in there saying that everything is wrong,” Gillespie said. “We’re going in there and saying, ‘what’s the evidence for this?”

Ultimately, it is the development of these skills that is the goal of the course. The integration of the case study approach is designed to give students an opportunity to develop these skills and transfer them over to the rest of their academic and professional careers, meeting the QEP initiative’s objective of enhancing aspects of student’s learning.

“73 percent of college students are scientifically illiterate because understanding and critical thinking are absent,” Gillespie said.

He believes that with the help of this course “[students] can start sorting out and making decisions about these sorts of things.”

The Foundations of Science course is designed for non-science majors and will first be offered in Fall 2009 under BIO/GEL/GEO 146. It will include a lab portion and fulfill a core curriculum science credit.

More information can be found by visiting academic advisers.

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