Experiential Inquiry and Research in the Curriculum
For the students who are the professionals of the future, developing the ability to investigate problems, make judgments on the basis of sound evidence, take decisions on a rational basis, and understand what they are doing and why is vital. Research and inquiry is not just for those who choose to pursue an academic career. It is central to professional life in the twenty-first century. (Brew 2007)
The focus of the QEP on experiential inquiry and research seeks to align the research and teaching mission of Rice in order to improve all undergraduates’ critical thinking and communication skills. The QEP originally called for the development of inquiry through support for individual faculty and courses. However, a survey of faculty and conversations with faculty and staff in Fall 2016 suggested that such an approach would yield little institutional impact as there is already a significant amount of inquiry-based learning occurring at Rice. Of greater concern is the lack of scaffolding of courses and experiences that would enable students to conduct progressively more advanced inquiry work.
In light of these findings, the QEP Faculty Council refocused the QEP on the scaffolding of experiential inquiry and research in the curriculum. QEP resources will be directed towards schools and departments in order to create intentional pathways for the development of inquiry-based skills. QEP staff will work with chairs and undergraduate curriculum committees to evaluate departmental needs, design appropriate interventions, coordinate resources, and assess student learning and curricular outcomes.
The goals of implementing the QEP at the school and departmental level are to:
- Provide schools and departments autonomy in identifying gaps in their pathways
- Encourage schools and departments to think holistically about the relationship between teaching and research in their discipline
- Engage faculty across all ranks to invest in a sustainable curricular pathway
- Enable departments to develop inquiry-based pedagogies authentic to the discipline
- Integrate the QEP into curriculum mapping and assessment already occurring in departments for SACSCOC
- Provide schools and departments with range of options to support curricular and co-curricular enhancements from teaching resources for an individual class to conference funding for upper-level students
- Enable the integration of key campus resources into the achievement of QEP outcomes: PWC for scaffolding of communication in the discipline with a focus on dissemination of results; Fondren Library for scaffolding of information literacy in the discipline; CTE for pedagogical strategies; and CCL for connecting faculty to off-campus partners.