Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) Degree Qualification Profile (DQP) Pilot Program

Dr. Kerry Fulcher, Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Dr. Margaret Bailey, Vice Provost for Program Development and Accreditation Liaison Officer
Dr. Maria Zack, Professor and Chair of the Department of Mathematical, Information and Computer Sciences

PLNU is liberal arts, mission focused university combining traditional residential undergraduate student population (2,400 students) with professional graduate programs (1000 students) located at three regional centers. The discussions around the DQP pilot have been primarily focused on the undergraduate programs even though the graduate program deans and chairs have been asked to think about the challenges and benefits of implementing the DQP framework at the master’s degree level. PLNU began discussions about the DQP early in the fall 2011 semester when both WASC (PLNU’s regional accreditation association) and the Council of Independent Colleges invited universities to participate in pilot projects. PLNU is participating in both pilot projects.

The initial conversations at PLNU centered on the fact that the DQP reflects skills and knowledge developed both in the student’s major program of study and in general education courses. At that time the academic major programs were fully immersed in their well-crafted assessment activities and it was unclear how DQP could inform or add to those assessment activities. However, the General Education Committee was reevaluating how to assess general education learning outcomes and how to use that data to assist with general education curricular redesign. In November of 2011 WASC announced the new requirement for more in-depth assessment of graduating seniors in five basic proficiencies: oral communication, information literacy, written communication, critical thinking and quantitative literacy. These skills link very clearly with the DQP Intellectual Skills Outcomes. Rather than approach each important assessment of student learning as a separate activity, the DQP Task Force believed it important to think more strategically and move toward using the individual majors’ culminating experience (e.g. capstone, senior exhibition, senior seminar, research project, recital, etc.) as a place to assess these five competencies, additional components from the DQP and student learning in the major.

The DQP Task Force’s first challenge was to identify the culminating experience for each academic major including both similarities and differences. The Task Force conducted a survey of the undergraduate majors and found significant structural variations (e.g. number of units, length, requirements, assessment activities, etc.) among the culminating experiences. The data from the survey also indicated variation in what skills and knowledge were being assessed in these culminating experiences. While there are many discreet activities occurring to build an assessment foundation for the DQP, the Task Force decided to invite academic units that already have significant capstone courses to pilot the DQP in spring semester 2013. The faculty and courses selected represent both colleges, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies as well as the School of Education.

In fall 2012 the Task Force identified the guidelines and essential learning outcomes to be assessed. The faculty are currently designing assessment assignments and reviewing and adapting the AAC&U Essential Learning Outcome Rubrics for the assessment activities. The assessment outcomes, assignments and rubrics are available on the PLNU Assessment site. Following the spring 2013 DQP assessment, a study will be undertaken by the DQP Task Force and the Provost Council examining the implications for requiring every academic unit to have some culminating experience with common assessment strategies including items from the DQP. The study will include an analysis of the fiscal and academic impact including faculty load implications, degree requirements, financial implications and potential for an interdisciplinary component.

For additional information, please read the Point Loma Nazarene University case study.