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 EKU English professor, Erin Presley.
1. In what ways have you been involved with the current EKU QEP?
My involvement with the QEP began in 2017 with the integration of critical reading into EKU’s General Education curriculum. As the assessment coordinator for the QEP and General Education, I worked closely with GE faculty to revise assessment activities and rubrics to integrate critical reading into their assignments and instruction. We found that most faculty already expected students to engage texts closely, so we just needed to clarify the necessity of critical reading across the GE elements.
As a faculty member in the Department of English, I’ve also been a participant in several QEP professional development workshops and always leave with ideas for the classroom. Most recently, I facilitated a TLI workshop on supporting critical reading in General Education courses in which I drew on my own implementation of critical reading in GE courses such as First-Year Writing, Introduction to Appalachian Studies, and Appalachian Literature.
2. What ways have you implemented the QEP in your courses?
Critical reading is foundational in all of the classes I teach, and the QEP has made me much more mindful of direct reading instruction. I’ve implemented several activities suggested by the QEP such as previewing readings and modeling for students how I engage texts. Dr. Lisa Bosley modeled a “think-pair-share” critical reading assignment during a workshop for the Department of English, which has become one of my favorite in-class activities. This activity asks students to read a poem, to annotate as they read, and to decide which one word is most significant in the piece. After they choose a word, they share their thinking in a small group. From there, the whole class comes together to discuss their chosen words and reasoning. Poetry can be intimidating for students, especially non-English majors, so this activity provides a welcoming invitation to engage closely with the text and sparks lively classroom discussions.
3. In what ways has QEP professional development impacted your work with students?
Thanks to the QEP’s professional development workshops, I now make the importance of critical reading transparent to students. In the past, I just assumed my students were ready to engage texts critically, but now, I realize they benefit from support with reading in order to grow as thinkers and writers. I’ve also found that the critical reading activities build community among the students and lead to more meaningful and engaged class discussions.
4. In what ways do you see the QEP supporting student learning at EKU?
Since the connection between reading and writing is inextricable and writing is epistemic, foregrounding critical reading is essential for student learning. By helping students develop critical reading skills, especially in General Education classes, we’re supporting their ability to engage more deeply in all of their coursework. In the long term, the QEP’s emphasis on metacognitive strategies provides students with a transferable toolkit they can use throughout their time as students at EKU and in their post-collegiate lives.