This is another in a series of interviews with staff, faculty and administrators across campus promoting the goals of EKU’s Quality Enhancement Plan. The current QEP, Read with Purpose, calls for Eastern to develop critical readers through the use of metacognitive strategies. Building on the past QEP, which focused on developing critical and creative thinkers, this effort represents the University’s commitment to institutional improvement, and provides a long-term focus for faculty and staff professional development and student learning.
This installment in the QEP Spotlight series features Dominic Ashby, assistant professor in the English department at EKU:
Q: In what ways have you been involved with the EKU QEP, Read with Purpose?
A: I attended several of the early workshops when the QEP, Read with Purpose, was rolled out and have continued to attend professional development workshops offered through the QEP. I work closely with Lisa Bosley, one of the QEP Co-Directors, in my role as Coordinator for Corequisite Reading and Writing. We collaborated on designing curriculum for ENG101R and ENG102R, courses that include Critical Reading and metacognitive strategies as core concepts. Through that collaboration, I was able to “sample” some of the ideas that went into the QEP before it was introduced to the rest of the university. From that early adoption of many of the ideals behind Read with Purpose, I’m a firm believer in its value as a way to enhance student success in the classroom.
Q: In what ways is the QEP relevant to your discipline?
A: As an English faculty member, the goals of the QEP align perfectly with my discipline. My area of specialization is in Rhetoric and Composition, which focuses on analysis and production of a wide range of texts. Critical reading of web sites or political speeches, for example, or evaluation of scholarly sources to determine audience and purpose are skills that my field has long worked to train students in. The QEP provides another set of approaches for doing that. More importantly, it shares those approaches across disciplines, which reinforces a key point that many of us in English Studies try to communicate to students: the reading skills we teach are relevant in many contexts, professional, academic, and in private life—they don’t just end when a student leaves their English classes.
Q: In what ways has QEP professional development impacted your teaching?
A: The QEP reminds me that many of the reading practices I take for granted are habits that I developed over time. They weren’t ways of reading that I just automatically did—although now they are. By making those strategies more transparent and intentional, I can help my students to develop similar good habits. So, I draw attention to how I approach different kinds of texts, and discussions about readings don’t only address content but also ways of reading and navigating through the text.
Q: What impact is the QEP having on student learning in your discipline?
A: It has opened up those discussions about ways of reading and habits of mind that I mentioned previously. It has provided a shared vocabulary that students find familiar across classes, not only within my discipline, but across disciplines. I see an important impact on student learning in General Education courses—the shared language and the shared goals of the QEP help to create another thread between Gen Ed courses. I work with many English Education majors; the QEP both helps those students with their own engagement with reading and, because it involves intentional, explicit training in reading strategies, it also gives them valuable tools for helping their own students develop similar habits of mind.
Q: How does the QEP benefit the campus community?
A: I really value the opportunities the QEP gives for having conversations about reading with my colleagues in other disciplines. Every time I attend a workshop, I learn a lot from the presenters, but I also learn from the other attendees—I gain a better understanding of the kinds of reading and the ways readings are used in their disciplines. I think this kind of contact helps me to make my classes more relevant to students in other majors, and the contacts and shared conversation helps to make the campus feel more interconnected.
Q: How will you continue to promote critical reading in your courses, discipline, or across the university?
A: I will continue to participate in workshops and to include explicit instruction about critical reading strategies in my classes. I am involved in a campus workgroup that has been piloting the use of Transparency in Teaching and Learning (TILT), the theme of the 2019 Pedagogicon. I see a lot of overlap between TILT and the QEP Reading with Purpose—both are about making strategies for success more explicit to students. One way I incorporate TILT practices in my classroom is through the use of a grade contract, which makes expectations and grade requirements very explicit. As a faculty member in English, engaged reading is very important in my classes, and so critical reading has a key presence in my grade contracts. I want to continue to improve upon how critical reading strategies are made explicit (or transparent) in my contract. This is a topic that I’ll offer a workshop on later this semester, as a cross-over event involving the QEP and TILT. Through this work, I’m hoping not only to help my students, but to provide other faculty with another strategy for meaningfully incorporating the QEP in their classes.