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New Student Program Encourages “Learning By Doing”

A program called Learning by Doing: Inquiry-based Experiential Education is a new educational plan underway on campus, and it will focus on developing the hands-on experience that UT is built on.  

“[Learning by Doing] is about getting all UT students to focus more on inquiry-based activities, research and creative works that apply learned skills to solve a problem. It also focuses on better and more internships for students,” said Joseph Sclafani, Professor of Psychology and Director of Reaffirmation for UT. 

Learning by Doing ties into The Quality Enhancement Program for UT, a requirement for the reaffirmation process through the agency, the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). UT has to select, create and implement a QEP every 10 years for regional accreditation through SACSCOC. The process for the QEP started in Spring 2013 and will debut in Fall 2016. 

The QEP is defined as addressing “student learning by focusing on specific student learning outcomes or improving student learning environments,” according to the summary of the QEP for UT. The inquiry-based activities will be funded per year by the university in the amount of $1.2 million.

“As a psychology major in pursuit of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in science, I believe that if the QEP program carries out what it was designed for, that it will be quite beneficial to improving the research experience of all majors, particularly science,” said Victoria Sunseri, freshman and psychology major. 

The program is composed of a three-tier approach. The bottom tier begins during the first year of the undergraduate degree. The goal is to build a foundation and get first-year students interested in inquiry-based explorations, according to the Summary of the QEP for UT. 

The middle tier will be where students begin to learn discipline-based skills, such as “information/reference searching; quantitative literacy; work techniques; creative thinking; or problem solving,” according to the Summary of the QEP for UT. These skills will be tested through courses that already exist, courses that are modified and new courses in the major. 

The top tier will include select juniors and seniors who will apply for activities that are inquiry-based, which can be in the form of a presentation or recital. “The project will be student-driven and faculty mentored: students will identify skills they will apply to a discipline-specific outcome,” according to the Summary of the QEP for UT.  “These will have faculty mentoring and would result in a final product that the student would publicly share.”

The QEP also highlights relationships between faculty and students through research that is inquiry-based, internships and creative works. 

“I am hopeful that there will be a number of group internship experiences that will provide students an opportunity to provide the specialized knowledge of their academic discipline alongside that of students from other disciplines as they work for an employer to solve some kind of problem that they are facing,” said Tim Harding, Associate Dean of Career Development and Engagement. 

A site visit will take place on Feb. 9-11 to review all of the documentation and discuss the QEP. 1,700 GTW students and 800 random upper class students will be given QEP T-shirts during the week of Feb. 2 and are encouraged to wear them on Feb. 10.

Zoe Fowler can be reached at

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