2006 AQIP SOTL Action Project Review


A)  Describe the past year’s accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.


Writing Project: The team working on the writing project has not met in several months because the chair has had a number of health issues and has been dealing with difficult family situations.  We have not found anyone from the Gallup campus to participate on this team; therefore, the ITV connection was discontinued. To include participation from the Gallup and Deming campuses, the team began to connect with these campuses through ITV. 


The research project which was going to be conducted during the Spring semester by 3 instructors of Composition has not been completed because there were conflicts among the three instructors.  It was originally thought that they would attempt to determine by means of a pretest and posttest, whether students are indeed learning what the instructors intend for them to learn.  The project has not progressed because it was learned that the three instructors were not presenting the same material in their composition classes.


A Faculty Survey in which regular faculty and adjunct faculty were asked to comment on the skills they believe our students do have in writing and the skills they are lacking to be successful in that particular discipline was distributed and the results were compiled.  A third of the faculty who responded to the survey felt that our students are lacking most in research skills.  Other things which they expressed should be emphasized in a composition class included the writing of essays, critical thinking, grammar, organization, summarization, comparison and contrast and sentence structure.  It will now be up to the Department of Humanities to insure that there is consistency from one instructor to another.  As an indirect result of this survey, approval was obtained from the Federal Government to use funds that left over from a Title V grant to have a combination language/writing lab where students may complete exercises as assigned by their instructors when they are found lacking in certain skills.  This laboratory should be up and running by the end of the fall semester, thanks to the leadership of one of the English/writing project members.


The English/Writing team also participated in a Writing Across the Curriculum Workshop led by an external expert.  The team had the opportunity to meet separately with this professional and do a SWOT analysis, after which she made suggestions.  These suggestions have not yet been implemented because of a hesitance by the English faculty to meet and discuss serious issues.


Student Workers Project: The Student Experience Team met monthly throughout the academic year and conducted the second of two campus-wide student surveys in the spring of 2006. (The first survey was done in the summer of 2005, and was administered to both students and supervisors.) The data gathered from all surveys were very useful in illustrating gaps in student employee support, as well as institutional strengths for which our work studies are appreciative. The gaps identified, most notably in the areas of consistent student employee orientations and training, provide the Team with the framework from which to build an orientation program and to compile a campus-wide student employee training manual. Future measurement of success with these two action items will be measured in the Noel Levitz survey, where we will be afforded three institution-specific “slots” to fill with student employee-related questions. Another Team goal for this year is to author and get approval for using these three survey questions.


2006 Review:  For obvious reasons, the project appears to have stalled (in the Writing Area). You have made good progress in the Student Experience area. Your use of data is in line with AQIP’s principle of Information. Your use of this data to identify both strengths and opportunities is commendable. The use of the “extra” questions on the Noel-Levitz survey is a great use of this survey, great job! One thing to consider, have you thought about breaking this out into two separate projects. It may be easier to allocate resources, and manage the logistics if it is seen as two separate projects.



B.  Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project. 


Writing Project: The selection of team members was accomplished in such a manner that persons interested in meeting the needs of different student populations could be included. For example, a person from the School of Education was selected because of her contact with prospective teachers who have difficulty passing exams, another from that same discipline was selected because of her work with the teaching of English/ writing to foreign students, others are concerned about the teaching of writing to bilingual students, etc.  A call went out to the General Faculty for volunteers and persons who are not faculty but hold positions which bring them in contact with diverse students populations were also asked to participate. As it turned out, each student population which is being targeted has at least one advocate on the team.


The membership of the team may need to be changed because one of the members is now an assistant in the Office of Academic Affairs, another has transferred to another campus office, one faculty member will be on medical leave and all the composition instructors have not been given the opportunity to participate. It was also the intention of the team to seek assistance from the Director of Faculty Development who had a great deal of expertise in assisting the under-prepared student.  The idea was to research different strategies that we may want to incorporate and adapt them to our student populations without having to totally reinvent the wheel.  Unfortunately, this person is no longer available on campus.


Student Workers Project:  Regular monthly meetings with ample reminders beforehand are what kept momentum going throughout the academic year. The Team did not meet during the summer; rather, the Team Leader took this opportunity to compile the spring survey results. (Unfortunately, the surveys were administered on paper, making compilation rather burdensome.) Campus-wide involvement was necessary in order to gather data from all departments. Many academic department secretaries were called upon to provide the Team with student employee training/orientation manuals. The student response rate for the spring survey was 47% (129 out of 276). Regular reports of Team progress are delivered at the WNMU Quality Council meetings.


2006 Review:  You are doing a great job in involving a lot of people from the campus. You show good agility and collaboration skills in getting individuals involved in assessing the surveys! 47 % is a very good response rate!


C.      Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.


Writing Project: The student population which has not yet been served at all in the course of this project is the Spanish-speaking student, either foreign-born or born in the United States, who has limited English skills. This population is growing at a very rapid rate, especially at the Deming campus, and more advanced courses in ESL will need to be developed soon if the university is going to continue to recruit these students.


With respect to the bilingual, English dominant student who may have interference from the Spanish language, the team is planning to consult with professionals at the Doña Ana Branch Community College and perhaps adopt some of the materials that are being used there.


The analysis of the Faculty Survey will be refined and a follow-up done as well. Formal recommendations for changing the curriculum in the composition classes will be drafted by the committee and presented to the Vice-President of Academic Affairs.


Student Workers Project:  The next steps to be taken by the Student Experience Team will be: (1) Publication of spring survey results in the WNMU student newspaper; (2) Drafting of recommendations for a new student employee orientation (using input from surveys and possibly focus groups of students and supervisors), to include activities, materials covered and resources provided; (3) Drafting of Noel Levitz survey questions; (4) Compilation of existing student employee training manuals/policies/procedures


2006 Review:  You appear to have set an excellent direction for both areas of this project, great job!



D.  Describe any “effective practice(s) that resulted from your work on this Action Project.


Writing Project: The Writing Team is not yet at the point where effective practices can be shared with other institutions; however, it is hoped that by the end of the second or third year we will have made enough progress in the teaching of writing to bilingual students to be able to share the strategies which were instituted.


An indirect practice which has resulted not only from the efforts of the English/ Writing team but from those of other collaborative groups is the realization that there needs to be a great deal of communication with other stakeholders whenever a project is taken on. This was particularly evident when the plans for the language/writing laboratory were in progress. Persons from the Maintenance Department, from Instructional Technology, from the Business Office, etc. were not necessarily consulted from the very beginning, which would have prevented some conflicts.


Student Workers Project:  The “next steps” detailed above will take us to the point at which this Team’s “effective practices” will be defined. In the mean time, the Team has had the opportunity to collect valuable student feedback on what best practices are already in place for our student employees, including being given the opportunity to work in a professional environment (82%) and receiving positive support from supervisors (the second most common response, after “making money,” to the question of “What do you like most about your job?” was the answer, “My supervisor”). 


2006 Review:  You have made an excellent observation with respect to communications among stakeholders. Have you looked into an improvement project to address this finding?


E.     What challenges, if any are you still facing in regards to this Action Project? 


Writing Project: The biggest challenge will continue to be finding an ideal time to meet.  The persons on this team are busy with other institutional activities and commitments and there are always time conflicts. Last semester it seemed as if every Friday was taken up with some kind of workshop or activity which required the faculty’s presence and it became impossible to find a meeting time. Another challenge was to have the student representative in attendance because he was often asked to cover the Humanities office on Fridays in the absence of the secretary. The importance of having the student representative present at all meetings will be conveyed to the department chair to avoid these types of conflicts. 


Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a Co-Chair for this particular project so that the progress of the project would not depend solely on the schedule of the person chairing it now.  It will be important to decide what needs to be done and to delegate tasks in order for progress to be made more rapidly.


The fact that the improvements that many of us want to make are outside of our discipline continues to be a challenge.  Although we have had a great deal of participation from the Department of Humanities, care must be taken to include the opinions of the entire composition faculty and not just the senior faculty.      


Student Workers Project:  Challenges to this project remain the same: resources (most notably Team members’ time, and the time of others upon whom we will prevail for input and documentation.)


2006 Review:  In regards to the meetings, is it possible to select a different day/time to meet? You may also consider online/email type meetings?


F.  If you would like to discuss the possibility of AQIP providing you help to stimulate progress on this action project, explain your need(s) here and tell us who to contact and when?


Writing Project: One of the Co-Chairs of this action project (a member of the Humanities Department but not an instructor of English composition) could use some assistance regarding politically correct ways to suggest improvements in someone else’s discipline.


Student Workers Project:  The Quality Council and Special Assistant for Quality Initiatives provide the Student Experience Team with ample motivation and support in this project.


2006 Review:  Has this individual considered taking a course in this? There are many resources available; most are available on the internet that can teach these skills.