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 student, Adrian Bryant.
1. In what ways have you been involved with the EKU QEP, Read with Purpose?
As a Course-Embedded Consultant (CEC) at the Noel Studio, I have been a participant in many Read With Purpose workshops led by Dr. Lisa Bosley and Dr. Jill Parrott that focus on how CECs can teach students reading strategies that will aid them in not only the First Year Writing (FYW) courses, but in the myriad courses our students will have beyond their FYW course-load. My involvement with the QEP primarily occurs, then, at what I suppose we can call the ground level, where CECs and other student-peer tutors – as well as EKU faculty – disperse QEP values and ideas into the EKU student population.
Currently I serve as the Course-Embedded Consultant Coordinator at the Noel Studio. On top of the usual duties of a Course-Embedded Consultant (CEC for short; peak at Question Three for more information on the goings-on of a CEC), I conduct Professional Development seminars for CECs, I advise CECs on any issues relating to students and course material, and (hopefully) help to create a supportive environment in which all the CECs can learn from each other to advance the goals of the Noel Studio, QEP, and First-Year-Writing Program – those goals, of course, centering on the success of our student body. A lot of my time so far has been spent making and sharing resources to share with CECs on myriad topics. I must be sure that the resources I share with my colleagues are clear, concise, and enhanced by the thoughtful reading practices the QEP trains us to utilize.
Towards the end of the Fall 2019 semester I was selected as the Noel Studio's QEP Student Representative for the QEP Implementation team, where I attend team meetings and also serve on the QEP Professional Development Team. Since I am a relatively recent appointee, what I have done specifically with the QEP up to now is not much. But I am very much looking forward to working with the QEP Team throughout the remainder of my undergraduate career.
2. What impact is the QEP having on your own learning?
I don’t imagine I am alone in feeling like COVID-19 and all of its ills have affected almost every aspect of our daily lives. Working and schooling from home, virtual learning that is often asynchronous, fear over the livelihoods of my fellow humans, the way the virus’s handling and even existence has become politicized to reveal even deeper rifts in our nation’s politic, just to name a few – have broken my brain. I have struggled in many of my classes with focusing, motivating myself to actually sit down and do whatever work I need to, and sometimes even remembering that I have assignments to do on a given day. I am facing many of the issues that the students I work with find inhibiting their own scholastic performance.
What I have found incredibly helpful about the QEP in normal times but especially in COVID-World is how it breaks down the reading and learning process into very simple steps. I have always fancied myself a strong reader; many of the QEP reading strategies, through some natural inclination but also in having practiced those strategies explicitly for several semesters, are sort of embedded in my core as a student. Once you get in the habit of previewing, annotating, asking questions, making connections, summarizing, etc. with every piece you read, it becomes almost a second nature.
At least it seemed that way until the world imploded. Many of my academic skills and even my innate curiosity, something I have always considered to be a central tenet of my personality, have been pummeled by this overwhelming existence COVID has thrust upon my shoulders. I have basically had to relearn being a student, to the point where my first semester as a Senior feels very similar to my first semester as a Freshman.
The QEP’s resources have been tremendously helpful to my “relearning” because they are so accessible and so step-by-step that I can tackle readings in small components, explicitly telling my brain what I need it to be doing with the information I am tasked with learning. It is a silly thing to say, but I genuinely feel far less overwhelmed to tackle John Milton’s “Lycidas” or a thirty page chapter on data models in ArcGIS when I have the QEP bookmark by my side.
I fear I am discussing the QEP’s depiction of reading as a very mechanical process that one can master in three-easy steps. Of course, reading is an organic, active, even spiritual practice through which we form relationships with ideas, with people, and with ourselves. What the QEP does for me in a virus-ridden world is creates doorways through which I can walk into a vast expanse of energies and thoughts and realms. Without those doorways I would be confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated. I can’t imagine all of the life I would be shutting myself off from if QEP wasn’t around to guide me. For me, life is the connections we make with each other and reading is one of the deepest ways we can make connections. As hard as it may be to prioritize reading a book when so much else is going on, I am able to take a few deep breaths and help myself ease into a learning environment with the language and the tools I have gathered through the QEP.
3. In what ways has QEP professional development impacted your work with students in the Noel Studio?
Prior to my first QEP Critical Reading training, I started my work as a CEC being a fairly good consultant when it came to assisting students with writing but I had absolutely no idea how to begin to teach reading skills. I had the skills of a good reader, but did not really have the vocabulary to express those skills. The QEP has provided me with that vocabulary and given me various tools to teach those skills to the freshman I work with.
CECs work with students in corequisite First-Year-Writing courses (ENG 101R and 102R). These classes are all about reading and writing, and CECs are available to help students with essentially anything they are struggling with re: reading and writing. Often, students come to me wanting my help with any given reading and they most frequently: a.) haven’t read it because they are intimidated by it and don’t know where to start or b.) they have read it and don’t really understand what it’s arguing. Depending on the specifics of the situation, I can walk them through the QEP’s reading steps by modeling strong reading behavior. Essentially I will act out my thought process as if I were reading the piece for the first time, showing them how those skills manifest for me. That gives them a template to bounce off of to develop their own reading styles. Or, if they seem to be misinterpreting a piece or have a thin grasp, I will ask them to point me to where in the text they are getting their ideas about the piece from. The golden nugget of wisdom I always carry with me from the QEP is ask questions, as a student and a consultant. The student will point me to where they think the text defends what their comprehension of it is, and we can discuss how they are or are not right in making their conclusion. Often, though, in digging through the text they find their own error or find a sentence that changes their initial understanding. Questions beg engagement, and engagement begets learning.
4. In what ways do you see the QEP supporting student learning at EKU?
Given the nature of my work, I see QEP's support of students being done daily at the Noel Studio. Much of that work can be in my prior answer.
I also see it frequently as a student in a wide range of classes. I have taken a few Art History classes with Dr. Amanda Strasik, who provides Critical Reading tips and guides on Blackboard to help students work through the complex scholarly Art History articles that she assigns throughout the semester to guide learning and discussion. Last Spring I was in an online Macroeconomics class with Dr. Cynthia Harter, who has similar critical reading guides to help students analyze readings and video materials that can often be overwhelming for students with no background in economic theory. Dr. Robert Weise of the History Department makes great strides to emphasize and teach the importance of reading historical texts. The QEP works to teach critical reading skills university wide, and as a student myself it is exciting to see that vision being realized through the diverse disciplines and faculty who are vocalizing the importance of critical reading in their courses. The QEP is not just for fields we may automatically think of as "reading centric," such as History and English, but for fields as far ranging as Economics and Forensic Sciences.
I think my project with Dr. Freed illustrates that so many of EKU’s faculty are internalizing the philosophy of the QEP to create better courses for their students, and those faculty have made tremendous strides in ensuring a strong education for their students.