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I. Background
The QEP Topic Selection Task Force reviewed College institutional effectiveness data over the past several years in order to identify areas of student learning that indicate a need for improvement. System-wide assessments, VHCC course-embedded assessments, Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) results, and feedback from business and industry partners were analyzed, identifying opportunity for improvement in the areas of written and oral communication.

A. System-wide data
Each college within the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) assesses a general education skill among its graduates the spring semester prior to graduation. In reviewing this institutional effectiveness data over the past several years, the Task Force noted weaknesses in both oral and written communication skills.

1. Oral Communication

During the 2006, 2007 and 2013 assessments of oral communication, VHCC graduates scored lower than the VCCS.

2006-2007 Oral Communication Core Competency Assessments

Table 1. Oral Communication Core Competency Assessment results for VHCC and VCCS students, 2006 and 2007.

Group 2006 2007
VHCC 59.75 59.26
VCCS 60.87 60.91

2012-13 Oral Communication Core Competency Assessment

VHCC Outcome: 80% of VHCC transfer students will score at proficient level.
Results: 48% of VHCC students received a proficient score compared to 51% proficiency at system level. Virginia Highlands scored lower than the system on 7 of the 8 competencies identified in the assessment.

2. Written Communication

The 2010 assessment of written communication skills revealed VHCC students scored higher than the VCCS on the pre-test. However, a comparison of pre and post-test scores indicates that VHCC students did not improve as significantly as VCCS students.

2009-10 Written Communication Assessment

Table 2. Written communication general education assessment for all VHCC students, VHCC degree-seeking students, and VCCS students.

  Student Group Pre-test Post-test
  VHCC - All Students 3.98 4.22
  VHCC - Associate degree seeking 3.90 4.26
  VCCS 3.7 4.2

B. VHCC course-embedded assessment data:

The College conducts faculty developed course-embedded assessments of general education skills. The Task Force reviewed this data over the last several years and also noted weaknesses in the areas of written and oral communication.

1. Written Communication

In a pre and post-test assessment of written communication skills, while faculty noted improvement, the improvement was not statistically significant and weaknesses were noted.

2012-13 Written Communication Assessment-Course Embedded-Pre and Post Essay (ENG 111)

Target: 75% of VHCC transfer student’s scores will increase by an average of 1 point on the pre-post essay rubric.

Results: 82% of Students’ scores increased by an average of .365. The target was not met but improvements were noted. Weaknesses were also identified allowing faculty to focus on these areas in future courses.

2. Oral Communication

In a recent assessment of oral communication skills, while VHCC students scored proficient overall, weaknesses were noted in several areas.

2012-13 Oral Communication Course Embedded Assessment in CST 100

VHCC Outcome: 70% of students will score at the proficient level

Results: 100% of students were proficient in all areas of the rubric except two. Low performances were noted in “Speech Structure” and “Source Citation.”

C. Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) data:

A review of CCSSE and additional student success data also revealed opportunities to improve student learning and/or the environment supporting student learning. The CCSSE Key Findings Report identified how VHCC scored on five benchmarks in comparison to other groups of colleges (see Figure 1). While VHCC exceeded the comparison colleges in three of the five benchmarks, opportunities for improvement were noted in both Student Effort and the Active and Collaborative Learning benchmarks. VHCC met the mean cohort score on Active and Collaborative Learning and fell below the mean in Student Effort. The Task Force reviewed specific items located within these benchmarks in an effort to identify specific areas for improvement, determining that opportunities exist in the areas of both written and oral communication, with specific items in CCSSE addressing students’ perception of the number of draft papers submitted and presentations given. Additional data indicates a significant percentage of new VHCC students need remediation with written communication skills and enroll in developmental English courses.

QEP Figure 1

Figure 1. 2015 CCSSE data for the benchmarks of Active and Collaborative Learning, Student Effort, Academic Challenge, Student-Faculty Interaction, and Support for Learners, comparing VHCC to the 2015 cohort and top-performing colleges.

D. Business and Industry Partner Feedback
The Task Force also obtained feedback from the College’s business and industry leaders, who underscored the challenges associated with communication in the workplace and expanded the conversation to include limited skills in soft skills for workplace readiness. In addition to communication, these include professionalism, problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork.

Collectively, the data suggest that opportunities for improvement of student learning exist by focusing on a) adopting a broad focus on enhancing soft skills, including communication or b) focusing specifically on enhancing communication skills, with a focus on written communication. After reviewing data, best practices, and soliciting input from College constituencies, the following two proposals emerged. 


  1. Proposal 1:  Building Soft Skills Through Experiential Learning
  2. Proposal 2:  Enhancing Written Communication Skills Through Intensive Support
Last updated: 2/11/2016 1:25:46 PM