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As the University prepares to implement a new Quality Enhancement Plan, Read with Purpose, a group of campus leaders gathered recently to celebrate the successes of Eastern’s QEP for the past decade.

Attendees at the QEP Appreciation Reception were encouraged to post their thoughts on three boards set up in the Grand Reading Room of John Grant Crabbe Main Library: Impact on Faculty, Impact on Students and Ongoing QEP Successes.

Together, the lists that soon filled the boards painted a picture of a profound and lasting change to the teaching and learning process: Common vocabulary. Focus on intentional teaching strategies to promote critical thinking. Professional learning communities. QEP coaches. Minor in Applied Creative Thinking. GSD 101 course. Succinct theme that saturated campus. Tools for students to understand and process their thinking. Stronger writing and verbal communication skills. And, finally, a prestigious national honor that stemmed largely from Assurance of Learning Day: the 2014 Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Eastern was one of only three institutions nationally to receive the honor.

The new QEP builds on its predecessor, which called upon the University community to develop critical, creative thinkers who could communicate effectively.

Speaking at the reception, President Michael Benson noted that he needed only to look a few feet behind and in front of him to see two by-products of the previous QEP: A thriving Noel Studio for Academic Creativity and faculty “with a profound impact on pedagogy,” respectively.

“This (the QEP) undergirds everything we’re trying to do at the University,” he said. “I can’t overemphasize how important it is.”

Dr. Janna Vice, senior vice president for academics and provost, said that as the University builds on the momentum gained with the previous QEP, “we will continue to raise academic excellence.”

Dr. Scotty Dunlap, who teaches in the College of Justice & Safety and has served as a QEP coach, said he learned during his years in industry that “success comes by design. We can’t just assume these things are happening organically.”

The reception was part of QEP Kickoff Days, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, two days of professional development sessions, classroom activities and giveaways designed to familiarize faculty, staff and students with the new QEP, which will be implemented beginning this fall.

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 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.

The need to improve critical reading skills is not unique to Eastern, said Dr. Jill Parrott, co-director of the QEP Implementation Team with Dr. Lisa Bosley. “National data shows that many college students are ill-prepared for the reading tasks before them. Often, they have not been asked to read critically or held accountable for their reading assignments.”

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 and use of metacognitive reading strategies.

·         express confidence in their abilities as critical readers.

Several critical reading workshops will be held throughout the spring as part of the Studio’s Teaching and Learning Innovation Series, and Bosley and Parrott will pilot a critical reading Professional Learning Community this spring with occupational sciences faculty. The two are also working with the many tutoring groups on campus to provide additional training to support students’ critical reading.

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