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SACS Bridgewater College QEP

The Bridgewater College QEP: “ Academic Citizenship”


Academic Citizenship is focused on two key components of the college experience.
1) ensuring student’s academic success by developing a specific set of skills needed to engage in academic, interpersonal, and extracurricular offerings at the college.
2) providing students with the skills needed to engage in civil society. If students are able to practice such skills in our academic community, they will be prepared to practice those skills throughout their lives.

The goal of “Academic Citizenship” is to craft a coherent context for much of what we already do at Bridgewater. Additional educational opportunities would be added and existing educational structures would be accentuated and diffused throughout the community as long as they met the core mission developed through a campus wide conversation centered on the idea of academic citizenship. What makes a good citizen of an academic community? What prepares students to be engaged citizens in a democracy?

The following list of student learning outcomes is subdivided to highlight the key areas of academic and civil engagement, but they should be understood as interdependent in terms of their ultimate goal of enhancing student engagement both inside the classroom and beyond the classroom’s physical walls.

Student learning and learning environment outcomes:

“Academic Engagement”

a) The development of students’ argumentation and facilitation skills to enhance discussions both in and out of the classroom.
b) Adapting and designing various campus environments for greater educational enrichment. This might include the creation of gathering spaces that include campus residences and/or areas where “students and faculty may naturally come together in ways that promote student engagement.”[i] In addition, this shift in the learning environment might aid greater discussion of ideas from readings or class with peers and/or faculty outside of class.

c) The development of faculty in designing pedagogies that emphasize various forms of student engagement which shift students’ perceptions toward a focus on a mastery of the material rather than simply completing course requirements.[ii]

“Civil Engagement”

a) The development of conflict transformation skills for students/staff/faculty.

b) The development of skills for engaging civil discourse—which challenge the current models of polemical debate and extremism found in the media. These skills would aid students’ development as citizens both in the classroom and beyond.

c) The development of ethical decision making skills; by re-emphasizing the Honor Code and Code of Ethics and generating greater understanding of personal accountability and responsibility.

d) The development of “engaged” leadership skills defined by an active role of service both to members of our immediate community (at the level of the classroom, dorm, campus life) and out into the broader community.

Background and Rationale:

This QEP topic focuses on ensuring that we achieve our mission to carry out our work in a “learning community....with high standards of integrity and excellence, affirming and challenging each member.” In particular, the objectives of this QEP seek to address shortcomings in the baseline data that we have from the 2007 National Survey of Student Engagement. Analysis of this data suggests that we score below the mean on pertinent questions related to “Levels of Academic Challenge,” suggesting a particular need to address the perceptions of “Academic Citizenship” at the college [iii].

The current research examining student success in college suggests that the degree to which a student is academically prepared for college is not the sole criterion that ensures that a given student will remain in college and graduate. Rather, the literature reveals that students who take advantage of the educational opportunities they encounter are more likely to succeed in college. But mandating that students take advantage of the opportunities at Bridgewater College is not a realistic course of action—and runs counter to the notion of independence we seek to instill in young adults. “If individual effort is the critical determinant of the impact of college, then it is important to focus on the ways in which an institution shapes academic, interpersonal, and extracurricular offerings to encourage student engagement” (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005, p. 602)[iv].

Additionally, the goals of this QEP work seamlessly with many of our pre-existing programs, such as the PDP, Service Learning, Internships and Study Abroad opportunties. This program would seek to brand our efforts to create educational environments designed to encourage students to develop into citizens who are curious, disciplined and passionate. The skills, attitudes and behaviors that would contribute to a thriving liberal arts culture on campus would be the same ones that will make students into responsible, active and thoughtful citizens of a thriving democracy and an interconnected planet. The Academic Citizenship project would provide a focal point for our efforts and demonstrate how they are intertwined in the development of the whole person. Such a focus could help us change the quality of the Bridgewater educational experience. It engrains a social structure of curiosity into the curriculum and co-curriculum and conveys a sense that college should be about the generation and celebration of ideas.

We want to model the heart of a democratic approach to society – people engage in sincere conversations about ideas, practices and policies in an atmosphere where competition takes place within a larger, mutually beneficial framework of collaboration.

[i]cited by Rhonda Gabovitch, based on literature about “DEEP Schools.” See also: Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter by George D. Kuh, Jillian Kinzie, John H. Schuh, Elizabeth J. Whitt, and Associates. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,Inc. (2005).

[ii]Marilla D. Svinicki • University of Texas-Austin Student Goal Orientation, Motivation, and Learning. accessed at, 3/16/10.

[iii]Based on the 2007 NSSE results we currently score below the mean at a statistically significant level on students perceptions of how often they do the following tasks in class: Analyzing the basic elements of an idea, experience, or theory, such as examining a particular case or situation in depth and considering its components; Synthesizing and organizing ideas, information, or experiences into new, more complex interpretations and relationships; and Applying theories or concepts to practical problems or in new situations. We score above the mean at a statistically significant level on students perceptions of how often they memorize facts and how often students come to class without having done the reading or completed an assignment. (see the NSSE Narrative Summary completed by Jim Josefson and the Institutional Effectiveness Committee).

[iv]Pascarella, E. T. & Terenzini P. T. How College Affects Student: A Third Decade Of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

To learn about the On-Site Review, click on On-Site Review.