The IQP & Global Studies

At his first Town Meeting on September 9, 2004 President Dennis Berkey announced his plans to form seven groups of faculty, staff and students to help develop strategic plans for the future. One of the groups was Commission B on the IQP and Global Studies. Commission members were appointed in November and began work in January, 2005. This report summarizes the work of the Commission, its findings and recommendations.

The IQP

Project-based learning and the IQP have been referred to as WPI’s signature or centerpiece. Students commonly describe the IQP as a transforming experience. Recent outside evaluation studies and national awards reinforce this notion. Further, there is ample evidence that the key features of our IQP (teamwork, contribution to society, technology applications to social, political, economic issues) resonate with the current generation of students better than any since the WPI Plan was conceived in the 1970s. Commission B reaffirms the relevance and centrality of the IQP in the WPI undergraduate curriculum.

Goals and Outcomes

Overall, the Commission developed the sense that there is some confusion between the IQP and Global Studies. While about half of all IQPs are done off campus, current documentation of expected student IQP outcomes shows no reference to geographic location. On the other hand some programs, like overseas Sufficiencies, seem to have study-abroad goals but the Commission has found no evidence of institutional discussion of intended study-abroad student outcomes. This report recommends that specific desired learning outcomes be established for a WPI study-abroad program and that IQP student learning outcomes be fine tuned.

Global Studies

We believe that a more robust study abroad program would enhance the WPI academic culture and provide students and faculty with more options. This could be distinct from the IQP abroad, or a companion. For example, the seven-week IQP could be followed immediately by a seven week sufficiency experience. Commission B recommends that a broader range of study-abroad options be defined and institutionalized.

Quality

The IQP has probably been the most studied and evaluated component of the WPI undergraduate curriculum. Studies have found that student performance for off-campus projects consistently exceeds that for on-campus projects. The Commission recommends several strategies for improving on-campus IQPs, including the creation of thematic on-campus centers which resonate with faculty research interests. Some pilot experiences suggest this approach will lead to improved faculty interest as well as student performance.

Student Preparation

The Commission found a great disparity between the level of student preparation for the off campus IQP vs. the on-campus IQP. It was also found that some key skills areas are not being fully addressed for both on- and off-campus students, such as writing and critical thinking. This report recommends a focused program of preparation for on-campus IQP students, informed by the ID/SS 2050 course and the PQP. It is strongly recommended that an across-the-curriculum program in writing and critical thinking be instituted, at least for the first two years leading up to the IQP.

Faculty Preparation, Commitment and Involvement

Faculty commitment and involvement in the IQP program are key to its success. Overall, about 50% of the IQP projects are advised by fewer than 10% of the faculty. Commission B recommends strategies for widening the circle. This includes creation of on-campus IQP centers which relate to faculty research interests, and more explicit recognition of IQP advising in tenure, promotion and other aspects of faculty evaluation.

Publicity and Recruiting

The Commission recommends stronger publicity and marketing efforts with a focus on the salient points of the IQP. Prospective students and others are not as aware as they ought to be of the nature and value of the IQP. Among the problems with building this awareness is the name Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP). It is recommended that the name of the IQP be changed to better describe its essence and resonate with the key interests of prospective students and their parents and better market the IQP.

Administration and Management

The Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division is responsible for administration of IQPs (onand off-campus), international student exchange, off-campus MQPs, Individually Sponsored Research Projects, off-campus Sufficiencies and interdisciplinary majors. It also assists faculty and students prepare for the IQP and off-campus experience.

Several recent outside consultant reports indicate that IGSD is an efficient operation, accomplishing considerable results with limited resources. It is difficult to calculate the cost of delivering off-campus IQPs because of the many intermingled variables.

While IGSD technically has responsibility for both on-campus and off-campus IQPs, there is an impression among some that the on-campus IQP does not have a home. The Commission recommends that IGSD undertake aggressive efforts to change that impression, and that WPI give institutional backing to IGSD’s current efforts to become a more effective facilitator for the IQP program in general.

 

 
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