The University of Mary Washington Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, is designed to help improve our first-year seminar, producing better researchers, writers, and speakers. With the QEP we will implement five specific student learning outcomes for all first-year seminars. All students who complete a first-year seminar (FSEM) will:

  • Utilize a variety of research techniques to retrieve information efficiently, evaluate retrieved information, and synthesize information effectively to support their messages or arguments;
  • Improve development and organization of written arguments;
  • Demonstrate the ability to edit and revise in the writing process;
  • Apply the basic theories and principles of oral communication;
  • Communicate effectively in a variety of settings, including public speaking and group discussion.

UMW established first-year seminars in 2008, and all first-year undergraduate students are required to take an FSEM. This requirement makes FSEMs an important facet of our first-year students’ academic transition. FSEM courses vary in topic from “Mozart and Amadeus,” “Finding Fashion,” and the “Graphic Novel” to “Infographics,” “Cinderella and Harry Potter,” and “Energy Resources in the 21st Century.” Our diverse FSEM courses and the aforementioned student learning outcomes help students cultivate the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind necessary to succeed in all of their undergraduate courses and in their careers beyond UMW.

Our three academic support centers, the University Libraries, the Writing Center, and the Speaking Center, are important partners with FSEM faculty in implementing the QEP. As the learning objectives of the QEP fall within three skill areas,

  • Improving information literacy or research,
  • Improving written arguments, and
  • Improving effective oral communication,

each academic support center will help engage students with the QEP outcomes inside and outside the classroom. The QEP supports staff and student tutors in each center through training to ensure that they understand first-year student needs, both in general and in connection to QEP learning outcomes.

The QEP is designing a series of online learning modules that introduce and reinforce basic research and communication skills. Each module is an interactive online application that focuses on discrete ideas and introduces a topic or a basic skill to students, instead of conducting an in-depth examination. Over a three-year period, the plan envisions the creation of at least twelve modules distributed among the three skills areas. Three modules, one in each skill area, have been developed by the QEP and distributed to FSEM instructors for integration into their courses. By the fall of 2015, the QEP will have created six more modules for FSEMs.

The QEP will support faculty development workshops in which FSEM teaching faculty will focus on the differences between the current FSEM curriculum and that of the QEP. Faculty participating in the QEP will:

  • Add the revised student learning outcomes to their FSEM courses’ learning outcomes;
  • Assign one or more online learning modules to all students in their course;
  • Develop and implement student experiences that engage them in the QEP student learning outcomes;
  • Encourage and support student interaction with academic support staff and/or student tutors about QEP learning outcomes.

We are very excited about the QEP because:

  • It is a significant update to our students’ transition during their first year;
  • It is a strong program that advances our mission to support high-quality instruction and experiences in which faculty, students, and staff share in the creation and exploration of knowledge;
  • It is a carefully designed course of action that addresses a focused topic related to the enhancement of student learning.

Please browse the QEP website for additional information about FSEMs, learning modules, and other faculty resources. If you have any questions about the QEP, please do not hesitate to contact the QEP Office.