QEP Resources


Executive Summary | Documents | Webinars | Glossary

QEP Executive Summary

The Brenau University Quality Enhancement Plan was developed over the past three years utilizing broad-based institutional involvement. An extensive literature review was conducted to ascertain prevailing trends in student learning theory. The university mission, vision, and strategic plan were considered to ensure the constructive alignment necessary for a sustained improvement plan. Institutional assessment data were analyzed to determine areas needing improvement. The culmination of this lengthy and comprehensive process was the selection of the improvement of undergraduates’ critical thinking skills as the focus of the QEP.

The QEP will begin in Fall 2011 and continue through Spring 2016. There are two complementary goals for the QEP: (1) to graduate students proficient in critical thinking and (2) to build an institutional culture that encourages critical thinking. There are three specified student learning outcomes. Students will be able to:

  • Evaluate the meaningfulness of data. (SLO 1)
  • Articulate and defend positions or arguments using evidence and logic. (SLO 2)
  • Create, develop or revise solutions to problems by using existing information and materials. (SLO 3)

A triangulated assessment process that integrates summative and formative approaches, internally and externally scored instruments, direct and indirect assessment, and embedded and add-on assessment instruments was designed. Assessment instruments include the Educational Testing System Proficiency Profile (ETSPP), National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric (HCTSR). Institutional support for the QEP includes dedicated personnel, including the creation of two new positions (QEP Director and QEP Research Assistant), dedicated funding, and physical resources. With institutional commitment and broad-based support from the university community, the QEP is positioned to achieve its goals and improve the critical thinking skills of our undergraduate students.

For further information please contact:

Dr. Heather Casey Hollimon, hcasey@brenau.edu



Metacognition: Thinking about Thinking (PDF)

Presentation by QEP director Heather Casey Hollimon designed to help students understand and improve their own metacognition

Grant Application Form (PDF)

All faculty (full-time, part-time, and adjunct) are encouraged to apply for a QEP External Training grant to be used to attend conferences and/or workshops designed to enhance their ability to teach and assess critical thinking. Description and form are included.

CT Practices Scaffolding (PDF)

Presentation by QEP director Heather Casey Hollimon to held faculty understand ways to scaffold assignments in order to elicit critical thinking


Alignment of Student Learning Outcomes and Assessments (CAT-HCTSR-ETSPP) (PDF)

This is a chart created by the QEP Advisory Panel to visually depict for faculty the connection between each of our QEP Student Learning Outcomes and the different assessment instruments being used by the QEP

Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric (HCTSR)(PDF)

QEP rubric being used to assess critical thinking at Brenau University

Critical Thinking LibGuide at http://libguides.brenau.edu/CT

Resources to improve critical thinking from the Brenau University Trustee Library




All webinars are available at http://ietrainings.org/brenau. Webinars are require Java, accompanying handouts are available in Microsoft Office formats.

Critical Thinking: Designing Instructional Strategies To Promote Critical Thought


Critical thinking is a concept that is widely used and has high visibility in the accreditation and mission statements of educational institutions across the world. However, many educators and institutions have difficulty clarifying the concept and knowing how to infuse it within curriculum and instruction. This three part workshop focuses on explicating those concepts and principles that inform a foundational, cross-disciplinary conception of critical thinking as well as how these fundamentals translate into concrete teaching and learning strategies that, when done well, help our students improve the quality of their thinking.

Session Titles & Descriptions:

Part 1: Introduction to Foundational Critical Thinking Concepts and Principles

In this first segment, participants will be introduced to a robust, cross-disciplinary conception of critical thinking. We will discuss what critical thinking is and explore how it can be substantively infused into our content areas and instructional contexts. It will be argued that critical thinking is not something that is merely added to our existing curriculum and workload, but should be the way we teach and learn. When critical thinking is treated as the organizing idea of teaching and learning substantive understanding will naturally result.

Part 2: Question Generating Concepts

The critical mind is the questioning mind. The extent to which students ask genuine questions and seek to answer them reflects the extent to which students take content seriously and think it through. The problem is that our students rarely know how to systematically ask questions that probe content by searching out assumptions, concepts, purposes, information, inferences and solutions, points of view, or implications. They rarely seek out intellectual standards to evaluate the quality of their thought and the thoughts of others: questions that target clarity, depth, relevance, validity, significance, and accuracy. We want to create a classroom culture where students actively, reflectively, and fair-mindedly question the content and each other. Such a culture cultivates important intellectual skills and abilities as well as virtuous dispositions like intellectual flexibility, empathy, humility, integrity, open-mindedness, and perseverance to name a few. This session will focus on the relationship between our ability to question and our ability to think critically. Participants will explore various ways to help students develop questions that analyze and evaluate content and their thinking.

Part 3: Focus on Instructional Strategies that Promote Critical Thought

This session will build on the foundational critical thinking concepts and principles addressed in the first session. In doing so, participants will explore the intimate relationship between what it means to think critically and how we can design instruction to promote critical thought. Based on best practices in teaching and learning, participants will engage and discuss specific instructional strategies designed to foster critical thought and the cultivation of higher order thinking skills. The instructional strategies act as examples of what instructors can do on a typical day of class, so at the end of the session participants should have a short list of practical strategies they can immediately incorporate into their instruction.

Reflective Judgment: Teaching Students To Think Critically In A Time Of Information Overload

Each day, Google users perform more than 2.9 billion searches. Wikipedia claims over ten million articles in two-hundred and fifty-three languages. Today’s students have greater access to information than ever before. As Keeling (2004) articulated in Learning Reconsidered: A Campus-Wide Focus on the Student Experience, “…knowledge is no longer a scarce – or stable – commodity. (It) is changing so rapidly that specific information may become obsolete before a student graduates and has the opportunity to apply it” (p. 4).

And while this vast quantity of often conflicting information should make students less confident in what they know and believe, it seems often to have the opposite effect. For many college students, highly dubious information passes as truth based only on the credibility of the Internet or some other source they believe to be authoritative. Most students lack the skills to evaluate the claims of these sources.

Despite decades of research, few teachers or practitioners can claim mastery in eliciting critical thinking or reflective judgment in others. This session will provide practical, hands on activities to help participants gain the skills they need to enhance their own critical thinking and reflective judgment in order to improve these skills in their students in a variety of contexts.

Creating Tests That Assess Higher Order Thinking Skills:

This presentation will begin with Bloom’s Taxonomy and look at writing test questions that will assess more than knowledge and comprehension.  Different types of questions will be covered.  Advantages and disadvantages of each type of question type will also be presented. Participants will receive a detailed copy of the PowerPoint that will include instructions for all activities presented in the webinar. Attendees will also participate in a follow-up discussion group to develop test items using the guideline presented in the workshop. In addition participants will analyze questions developed by other instructors and have their test items analyzed.

Critical Thinking and the First Year: Pedagogy, Challenges, and Assessment

This session will open with a discussion about critical thinking—how it is defined and who gets to define it—and will outline the challenges in such an endeavor. A second segment will then move into an applied example—how critical thinking was implemented into the curriculum of a first-year program and pedagogy planned for the teachers. Examples of actual classroom materials will be showcased. A third segment will explain and illustrate how assessment data was gathered and reviewed. And the success of the endeavor will be demonstrated through statistical evidence as well as student course evaluations. A final segment will demonstrate how the critical thinking model was applied in across the curriculum so that students have transferable skills – useful in all classes as well as in life-long learning.




HCTSR: Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric. A qualitative tool, developed by Insight Assessment, being used in courses across the curriculum (in AS100, liberal education courses, major courses). There are four rating levels, from weak to strong, of critical thinking. The rubric is linked directly to the SLOs. The rubric can be found on the above in documents and http://intranet.brenau.edu/assessment/content/rubrics/QEP%20Critical%20Thinking%20rev.docx.
ETS Proficiency Profile (formerly MAPP): Nationally normed assessment given to first-year and senior students that rates abilities in 4 areas, including critical thinking skills. We are using the results to determine the value-added of our critical thinking instruction.
NSSE: National Survey of Student Engagement. National survey given to first year and senior students to determine students’ experiences in college, inside and outside the classroom. We are using select NSSE questions to gauge the culture of critical thinking (institutional effectiveness in teaching critical thinking).
Formative Assessment: Assessment activity done during a learning activity (class, course, or program) for the purpose of monitoring and guiding learning while it is still in progress. Assessments that occur during a learning activity are also referred to as embedded assessments.
Summative Assessment: Assessment activity done at the end of the learning process to judge the success of that process at its completion.
Bloom’s Taxonomy: A classification of levels of intellectual behavior in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom. Bloom identified three domains (Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor). There are six levels within the cognitive domain, from the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order which is classified as evaluation.
Goals: General aims of the program or curriculum. They are the broad, long-range intended outcomes. The QEP goals are to graduate students proficient in critical thinking and to build an institutional culture which encourages critical thinking.
Student Learning Outcomes: What the student will master; knowledge, skills, attitudes and/or behaviors of the learner at the end of the learning activity. These are listed above.
Objectives: Description of the skills, knowledge etc students will gain. They are the intended results or consequences. We set 100% Acceptable ranking on the HCTSR, 100% proficiency in critical thinking on the ETSPP as our objectives.
**All assessment instruments are flawed to some degree or another. We are using multiple, distinct instruments to triangulate the data to enhance our perceptions of student performance. **