How should we introduce and facilitate communication?

When thinking about how to facilitate and reinforce the use of DQP/Tuning, it is also useful to ponder how the effort will be introduced to the campus community. Will it be introduced by faculty? By an executive leadership council? By a team representing members of each? In this, as with other elements of institutional readiness, the best approach will depend on what the institution is trying to accomplish as well as the institution’s history and culture, governance structure, mission, and student population. As outlined in the SACS report on use of DQP with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Reed, 2013), different processes were employed by the institutions to launch the DQP including both top-down and bottom-up approaches, but there was “no consensus that either approach was better or worse in accomplishing the task” (p. 25). The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has participated in both Tuning and DQP work through the AAC&U Quality Collaboratives projects, but they were intent on not beginning or ending the discussion with DQP; in fact, the language of DQP was not used. Conversations began, rather, with discussing student work and what faculty members wanted to see in student work, leading naturally to discussions of assessment and pedagogy. Still, in other instances such as several of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) participating institutions, academic leadership gave the DQP to faculty teams for their review and commentary—thus, faculty were given an opportunity to review the fit of the DQP as a tool for the proposed work.

Because both Tuning and DQP are faculty-led processes, time and space must be built into the process for faculty to think deeply over time about new teaching and learning approaches and appropriate outcomes assessment. The Tuning Indiana project did exactly this to make it possible for faculty to vent, re-evaluate, discuss, and examine different ideas that would strengthen student learning. Considering the system of communication and how academic leadership can create and provide supportive space for conversations to unfold is an additional element for consideration of institutional readiness.

The SACS DQP project utilized webinars, team meetings, trainings, and faculty retreats; the HLC DQP project offered an online collaboration process whereby participating institutions were able to share and upload documents and post questions; Tuning in Texas involved face-to-face meetings and webcam technology; and, after discipline team meetings with faculty members, Minnesota’s Tuning project held a statewide conference for sharing with the broader disciplinary community. Collaboration and discussions between two-year and four-year institutions have been valuable, with Tuning participants reporting that “faculty were eager and willing to talk to peers about student learning and opportunities for improvements” (Minnesota Office of Higher Education, 2010). DQP institutions where collaboration was strong were able to streamline transfer pathways for students based on faculty observations of students’ educational experiences.

Focused conversations about how students are learning and how curricular strategies contribute to the desired outcomes can cultivate a shared investment in enhancing the student accomplishment that the DQP and Tuning require. The best work in this area is usually iterative, unfolding over time and responding to changes in the external and internal environments. That is why establishing a strong campus-wide communication system that draws related committees and groups together helps militate against faculty remaining ensconced in their silos. (Appendix A contains resources to accompany this roadmap on change management and communication systems.)

In short, if the DQP or Tuning is something an institution would like to use, being clear about the value and the purpose of the work is paramount. Why these tools and why now? What is the benefit of utilizing them at this moment for our students? Outlining various constituents to involve (as well as their roles), delineating communication channels, and defining a plan for introducing the work to the campus community are matters that need to be considered prior to institutional or departmental use of the DQP and Tuning.