Quality Enhancement Project enhances teamwork, research, and writing skills

Dr. Holly Hutchins, Associate Professor in the Human Development and Consumer Science Department and Dr. Jamison V. Kovach, Assistant Professor, Information and Logistics Technology Department, and the UH Writing Center, are collaboratively working on a $10,000 Quality Enhancement Project (QEP) Curriculum Development grant that applies action research to an undergraduate Quality Improvement Methods course, TELS 4342.

Action research is a reflective process of progressive problem solving to gain a deeper understanding of a "real world" issue or problem that improves a team's approach to solving a problem. Using the action research framework within assigned teams, students are learning to apply quality improvement tools and methods to investigate a real-world problem, while enhancing teamwork and research skills and their writing competency. Undergraduate student teams are exploring, gathering, and analyzing data for several Houston area businesses. Their quality improvement projects include reducing the number of defective donuts and kolaches for Shipley's, reducing patient no-shows for Texas Surgery Medical Center, reducing employee turnover for the Houstonian Youth Department, improving the efficiency in distributing merchandise to customers for Home Depot, improving customer satisfaction ratings for Advanced Auto Parts, and reducing the customer waiting time for JPMorgan Chase Bank. At least one member of each team is a full or part-time employee for the participating businesses. Dr. Hutchins is also collecting data on how students experience anxiety and uncertainty when conducting research as part of this project. "Now in its second semester, preliminary findings suggest that student satisfaction and learning have increased because of this novel approach," said Dr. Kovach.

Teams will complete their projects at the end of the Spring 2012 semester.

The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is designed to link the missions of research and education at the University of Houston. By equipping students with competitive skill, the student-centered QEP addresses the needs of the University's diverse student population. The Discovery-Based Learning Initiative promotes an undergraduate research culture on campus by enriching the quality of education for our students while engaging alumni and the Houston community.