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History of The Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action

Beginning in summer of 2010, James Madison University initiated efforts to meet one of the primary goals of its 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC): the Quality Enhancement Plan or QEP. The QEP is a proposed course of action for enhancing educational quality via student learning.

In true JMU fashion, an extensive and inclusive proposal request process ensued. We asked students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members for their ideas to enhance student learning. A cross-divisional planning committee evaluted each of the 76 initial ideas and gradually pared them down to five, identified for further development, feasibility studies, and community feedback. Of these five extraordinary ideas, two were selected as JMU's Quality Enhancement Plan that would address citizenship and educating for responsibility. A skill set underlying these two concepts emerged: ethical reasoning. 

The purpose of the JMU QEP is to teach ethical reasoning skills that students will be able to apply across many personal, professional and civic situations from people close at hand (friends, neighbors, co-workers) to people at a distance (other Americans, global communities).  The ability to evaluate ethically the implications of different courses of action for ourselves, others and the community is at the core of JMU's Mission Statement, "preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens."

JMU's QEP was named The Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action to reflect the university-wide cooperation experienced during planning and in anticipation of the collaborative efforts of the university community for its success. The end of the name, "in action," was added to emphasize the practical application of ethical reasoning. The cognitive process is not the end of the idea - it is our individual and collective decision making and resulting actions that demonstrate the spirit of the Madison Collaborative.

JMU and the QEP received "no recommendations" from SACSCOC and the official reaffirmation was confirmed in December 2013.

Development of the JMU Quality Enhancement Plan



Introduction to the Madison Collaborative - President Alger introduces JMU's Quality Enhancement Plan topic of ethical reasoning in action.

Putting Ethical Reasoning into Action - JMU faculty and staff talk about being part of the solution to the disconnect between what we hear in the news about unethical behavior and most people's self-reported claims of "I'm an ethical person!"
ethical reasoning video


The Eight Key Questions - Faculty discuss JMU's new ethical reasoning framework, the Eight Key Questions that can be used to evaluate the ethical dimensions of a problem.

Madison Collaborative Eight Key Questions

The QEP is For Everyone - This video again features faculty involved in creating the QEP, but it gives specific examples of how they envision integrating the “Eight Key Questions” into existing course work. It’s a fascinating look at how The Madison Collaborative can make its way into nearly every discipline across the curriculum.

QEP is for Everyone Video

MC History and Implementation - The Quality Enhancement Plan was in development for two and a half years, led by Dr. Lee Sternberger. In this video, Dr. Sternberger provides a detailed discussion of the process we followed to develop the QEP, how student ethical reasoning skills will be assessed, funding for the effort and a timeline.

Related Information

QEP Proposal (PDF)

JMU and SACSCOC Reaffirmation of Accreditation