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EKU will seek to improve students’ critical reading skills across the disciplines through a new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), to be implemented in Fall 2017.

The QEP is a cornerstone of the University’s reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), representatives of which will visit the Richmond campus in Spring 2017.

The proposed new QEP calls for Eastern to develop critical readers through the use of metacognitive strategies and dovetails with the University’s current QEP, implemented in 2007, which is focused on developing critical and creative thinkers who communicate effectively. It has been developed through discussions involving a cross-section of EKU faculty, staff and students dating back to Spring 2015, according to Dr. Jill Parrott, co-director of the QEP Implementation Team along with Dr. Lisa Bosley.

The need to improve critical reading skills is not unique to Eastern, Parrott said. “National data show that college students are ill-prepared for the reading tasks before them. They are often not asked to read critically or held accountable for their reading in high school and may need help transitioning to the demands of their college reading.”

As it defined critical reading as “an active, reflective process of engaging in dialogue with texts of all modes,” the QEP Design Team, headed by Dr. Rose Perrine, identified three student learning outcomes, expecting that students will:

·         demonstrate critical reading of academic texts and materials.

·         report awareness of metacognitive reading strategies.

·         express confidence in their abilities as critical readers.

Dr. Sandra McGuire, a noted expert on metacognition, made a series of presentations on the topic to faculty and students when she visited EKU in November 2015. The common purpose was to enhance the teaching-learning process and student success with proven metacognitive strategies.

At the time, Dr. Russell Carpenter, director of EKU’s Noel Studio for Academic Creativity, explained that metacognition is “a process for thinking about the ways that we approach teaching and learning, or thinking about thinking. It helps us understand how students plan and learn best and then how classes can be designed to facilitate optimal learning experiences. If we as a campus community can become more aware of what metacognition is and how we can employ it – from student and faculty perspectives – we can make progress on learning outcomes and paths toward those outcomes. We can understand how significant learning experiences, habits and practices are created.”

Parrott said critical reading is “essential for developing the critical thinking skills needed for success in college, yet many first-year college students arrive with only surface-level approaches to reading that are inadequate for engaging with complex texts."

Also an associate professor in the Department of English and Theatre and first-year writing coordinator, Parrott said critical reading ability directly impacts writing ability.

Most importantly, she added, an increasingly complex global economy requires employees who can access, evaluate and organize information from a variety of sources. Yet, according to a study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, only 29 percent of employers reported that college graduates were prepared for these types of critical reading tasks.

Parrott said the inclusion of metacognition in the QEP focus statement was “an intentional plan to focus professional development on a specific set of strategies designed to improve reading skills.”

As the University moves forward with implementation, professional development workshops will be held for faculty as well as student leaders on how to use metacognitive strategies to improve critical reading. Four student-leader groups will be targeted: Noel Studio consultants, course-embedded consultants, tutors and first-year leaders.

“We want our students to be independent thinkers and lifelong learners,” Parrott said.