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 Starr Wentzel, Director of First-Year Courses and Learning Communities at EKU.
Q: In what ways have you been involved with the EKU QEP, Read with Purpose?
A: I was introduced to the QEP when First-Year Courses and Learning Communities began incorporating arc assignments between learning communities. Paired GSD and ENG, PSY, or COM instructors collaborate on a text and assignment that are utilized in both courses. For example, a paired PSY instructor would communicate a chapter in the text that students tend to struggle with and the GSD instructor would use that text in class to practice reading strategies. Using these assignments and seeing the outcomes motivated me to apply for a QEP grant that allowed me to complete the Reading Apprenticeship to learn additional strategies I could do in my class and implement across all GSD courses through instructor training. A second QEP grant has let First-Year Courses lead a PLC with Student Success Seminar instructors focusing on the QEP and the Reading Apprenticeship Framework where instructors will develop assignments based on critical reading strategies to share with all seminar instructors in the fall.
Q: In what ways is the QEP relevant to your discipline?
A: Many first-year students come to college and do not know how to read critically or study. First-Year Courses is now incorporating valuable reading strategies that complement instruction they receive in English and other courses to assist our students in gaining the proper skills they need to be successful in college.
Q: In what ways has QEP professional development impacted your teaching?
A: Completing the Reading Apprenticeship has truly changed almost every aspect of my teaching. I am integrating the Reading Apprenticeship Framework into my assignments. My assignments are more intentional and instead of covering study skills and reading strategies for one day, I am covering them throughout the curriculum.
Q: What impact is the QEP having on student learning in your discipline?
A: Students are becoming more comfortable with and confident in their reading and study skills. Because of the continued practice throughout the semester and using different types of texts, students are developing the skills they need to read critically. They are also learning strategies that allow them to comprehend the text, and it is taking them less time.
Q: How does the QEP benefit the campus community?
A: I believe it is important for our campus as a whole to make the commitment to assist students in critical reading/thinking strategies. The more a student is exposed to a practice, the better they will become. If a student is exposed to positive critical reading strategies for four (4) years, then the student should have sufficient skills to use these strategies in the workplace. This will also translate to better writing skills for students as they progress to their major courses.
Q: How will you continue to promote critical reading in your courses, discipline, or across the university?
A: First-Year Courses and Learning Communities is making every effort to ensure our Student Success Seminar instructors are knowledgeable of the QEP and the importance of critical reading strategies. Our office has collaborated with the EKU Libraries and Noel Studio to develop assignments to support our learning outcome to “become a more efficient thinker and problem solver by learning how to think more critically and creatively.” Additionally, we will continue to create meaningful arc assignments that can be used by our paired instructors within our Learning Communities. In Fall 2018, First-Year Courses had six (6) Learning Community sections. This Fall, we have twenty-six (26). First-Year Courses is striving to assist our students in transitioning from high school to college, develop the study and critical reading skills needed to be successful, and learn strategies that will help them to persist to graduation.