This is another in a series of interviews with staff, faculty, administrators, and students 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 Dr. Amanda Green, assistant professor of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work.
1. In what ways have you been involved with the current EKU QEP?
I began teaching at EKU in the Fall 2018. That’s when I enrolled in the QEP Professional Learning Community with Dr. Jill Parrott. It was a semester’s long course where we learned about the EKU QEP and strategies to encourage students to critically read for our courses.
After I took the course, I immediately began implementing QEP practices in my courses. It was urgent for me. At the end of my first semester at EKU, one of my best students came up to me and told me that she believed she was one of the only students reading for my course. My courses are really discussion-based, and to have a good discussion, students need to read – they need to have something to discuss! So, after that moment, I knew I needed to start QEP practices to achieve what I really wanted to achieve: a course where students feel like they’ve engaged in meaningful discussion and meaningful learning.
2. What ways have you implemented QEP in your courses?
In my course ANT 120, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, I implemented weekly Course Preparation Assignments (CPAs) – low stakes writing assignments that ask students to critically reflect on the reading. I grade these each week as complete or incomplete. These drastically changed the structure of my course. I use the CPAs to encourage students to read – they have to answer questions about the reading. But beyond that, I use the CPAs to get students to practice being cultural anthropologists. They do their own ethnographic observations, interviews, kinship charts, and critical analysis. The CPA format has opened up a new world of experiential learning for me and my students: each week students are engaged in a new research method that asks them to read, practice, and reflect on anthropological knowledge and research methods.
3. In what ways has QEP professional development impacted your work with students?
The CPAs have better connected me with students. Through the low-stakes writing assignment, I can read about their learning process, their interpretation of the readings, and the ways they can analyze their life experiences using anthropology. I think, and I hope, it brings me closer to students. In the same way, I think this format supports student learning by asking students to 1) do the reading and 2) share their own interpretation of the reading and really dig into what is most interesting and meaningful for them from that week’s reading and activity.
4. In what ways do you see the QEP supporting student learning at EKU?
Students get to bring their whole selves – their own life experience and own interpretation – to the CPA and to the course discussion. I think this supports student learning by allowing students to integrate what they learn in the course with what they already know from their lives. ANT 120 is a Gen Ed Element 5B course, which means one of our primary goals is to give students the tools to make informed choices about issues of personal and public importance. Giving students these tools has never been more important as our society confronts conflicts on several levels, from how we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to how we envision and enact a more just society. My hope is that the CPA format, combined with the opportunity to practice research methods and critical thinking in cultural anthropology, gives students the opportunity to think through how they might make those decisions.
In the Spring 2019 I applied for and received a QEP grant to study the impact of CPAs in ANT 120 on student learning. For three semesters I have been surveying students on how the CPA might impact their learning. Does it encourage them to read more for the class? Do they feel better prepared to participate in discussion? Do they feel more committed to the course? This research is significant because it will demonstrate whether or not CPAs and EKU’s critical reading QEP are positively impacting student learning.