Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 2013: COA to Focus on Problem Solving

For Immediate Release
 August 1, 2013
CONTACT: Jessica Bursenos,
Web Content Manager
Release No. 28JB-PR-2013
 COA to Focus on Problem Solving

Problem solving skills will become a focus for courses and programs at College of The Albemarle beginning this fall.

As part of the college’s regional accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), COA is implementing a five-year Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that will enhance students’ ability to apply varied problem solving strategies and will also reinforce skills in evaluating possible solutions.

In July, COA appointed Chris Perry as the QEP coordinator who will oversee the implementation of the QEP over the next five years. Perry has been a faculty member Department of Math and Sciences at COA since 2005. In addition to his new position, Perry will continue to teach classes. Commenting on his expanded role, Perry says, “I am excited about leading the focused effort to enhance our students’ problem solving abilities. Problem solvers are essential for our communities and workplaces.” Through December, Laura Morrison, Assistant Professor, Communications, will continue to serve as co-coordinator as the QEP transitions from planning to implementation.

Beginning in the Fall of 2010, the college sought input and feedback on what skills and abilities were essential for COA graduates. Using a consensus-building process involving various community and internal college stakeholders, the general topic of critical thinking was selected and then approved by the Board of Trustees in early 2012.  Feedback from one business indicated that they seek employees who have the “ability to think through and plan on the move.” Another employer hoped for workers who make “fewer and fewer repetitive mistakes.”  

All input and feedback was examined and evaluated by the QEP committee who narrowed the focus from general critical thinking to problem solving. Since then, the committee worked to evaluate problem solving strategies currently being practiced in the courses and programs, revise learning outcomes, and finalize a plan that would focus on facets of critical thinking that were still needed.  

Critical to the college’s continued accreditation, the QEP Committee has worked to ensure that this upcoming project has a lasting impact on our students and the community. To ensure this project truly expanded the current practices and would be appropriate for accreditation, the committee shared the plan with Dr. Steven Sheeley, a vice president at SACSCOC who visited COA as part of its accreditation review. As a result of his consult, faculty members expressed enthusiasm for applying the strategy of “recursive problem solving.”

Thus, the QEP Committee has developed the outcomes, to specifically change students’ attitudes to empower them as critical thinkers. These goals are:

·        Students value problem solving.
·        Students apply problem solving skills.
·        Students feel empowered to solve problems.


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