This is the first in a series of interviews with campus QEP leaders – those 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.
The first installment in the series features Dr. Lara Vance, director of the Student Success Center:
Q: What is your role in helping EKU achieve the goals of the QEP, Read with Purpose?
A: I am currently on the Implementation Team and was involved in developing elements of the QEP, but the most exciting things I do with the QEP involve my role in the Student Success Center (SSC). One focus of our program development in the SSC has been with critical reading. We have developed “Read with Purpose” workshops for students and have delivered those on several occasions to students in the SSC. Additionally, our Gurus have received this training, and some of them now deliver those workshops, as well. Metacognitive strategies have been part of our tutor training since the beginning of the SSC, but now they are also intentionally tied to critical reading. After I completed the Reading Apprenticeship program, I used the framework to rework our Guru training so they are aware that the framework is a good way of looking at students holistically, as readers and learners.
Q:How has the QEP impacted the work you do in the Student Success Center?
A: When our campus tutors can implement these strategies themselves, they realize the importance of critical reading and pass that on to the students they assist. Because these metacognitive strategies have become part of the language and culture of the SSC, they naturally work their way into tutoring and mentoring sessions. The Gurus can also use the Reading Apprenticeship Framework training to assess areas of struggle in the classroom with the students they are helping. This ties in well to the training they have received from our Graduate Assistant about Occupational Therapy theories. Connecting all of these theories and strategies helps our staff approach each student according to their individual needs.
Q:What impact is the QEP having on student learning?
A: It is so much fun to see these strategies resonate with students. We have even had graduate students in our workshops who told us they wish they knew about these approaches to reading as undergraduates. We have not done formal measurements of student impact yet, but our reading workshops get favorable reviews from students. We are also bringing these workshops to some of the GSD courses through our Success Coaches, so we will start reaching a wider audience and have them all engaged in critical reading using metacognitive strategies earlier in college.
Q:How does the QEP benefit the campus community?
A: From a practical standpoint, it is impossible for us to have enough tutors to cover all the courses offered at EKU. We can help our students across all disciplines, however, when we equip our tutors with tools to help students improve their critical reading skills. Because this is our QEP, students are beginning to hear consistent messages about the importance of critical reading as well as receiving information from faculty and staff about metacognitive strategies they can use. This investment from faculty and staff also demonstrates to students that we care about their success. When they connect these strategies to their learning processes in all of their courses, all departments benefit because they have students who are more prepared to learn both in and out of the classroom. When professors push students out of their comfort zones and challenge them, having these skills will encourage students to tackle the tough assignments that they previously found intimidating. From a larger perspective, EKU is a “school of opportunity,” according to our Mission Statement, and a responsibility of that commitment is to prepare students to be lifelong learners. Critical reading is a skill that any student can take with them beyond EKU, prepared to be an asset to any workplace but, most importantly, to our society, making them active, informed citizens.