This is another 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.
This installment in the series features Courtnie Morin, English and interdisciplinary studies instructor:
Q: In what ways have you been involved with the EKU QEP, Read with Purpose?
A: My participation in the QEP Implementation Team allowed me to work with the EKU’s QEP in a number of ways over the last few years. Members of the Implementation Team collaborated to revise and make suggestions toward the creation of the QEP. Once the QEP was finalized, I participated in a presentation to SACSCOC board members about our QEP and how we planned to implement it across campus. In addition to discussing the QEP with school board officials, I helped to market the QEP to EKU students, staff, and faculty by canvasing on Powell corner and the library. The conversations held during these canvasing events were enlightening, always furthering my excitement for QEP and Reading with Purpose. Currently, I still serve on the QEP Implementation Team within the professional development subcommittee.
Q: In what ways is the QEP relevant to your discipline?
A: I teach both in the English department and in Interdisciplinary Studies, specifically within the Applied Creative Thinking minor. The connection between reading and writing is fairly clear: In order to be an effective writer, you have to be an effective reader. The new QEP has brought this relationship to the forefront of the first-year writing classroom. In the creativity classroom, reading may be viewed more as a chore or a secondary task to more innovative activities. However, students in these courses discuss how ideas are formed, often coming to the conclusion that ideas are generated from previous experience and knowledge. Since reading is one of the major venues in which students can encounter new knowledge, viewpoints, or experiences, creativity students are encouraged to view reading as a necessary part of the creative process.
Q: In what ways has QEP professional development impacted your teaching?
A: My involvement with the QEP has helped me reevaluate and reframe these relationships for students, making my reading instruction more explicit than implicit. Recent studies by the Pew Research Center show that only about half of the students of who graduate from college are proficient at reading. This data indicates students need more explicit instruction and practice with reading. In the Spring 2018 semester, I participated in a professional learning community (PLC) based on critical reading. During the PLC, facilitators and participants discussed strategies for explicit reading instruction and engaging students in critical reading across the disciplines. I have found that I am much more confident in teaching reading in a variety of fields because of the conversations held in the PLC.
Q: What impact is the QEP having on student learning in your discipline?
A: In the past, many first-year writing instructors focused on students’ writing ability and skills much more than their reading skills. In my discipline of English, reading is of the utmost importance. Students read not only to gain information, but also to study writing style. It seems that many of the instructors in our department have bought into the idea that reading instruction must be as explicit as the writing instruction. In the discipline of applied creative studies, students learn and experience how influential reading materials can be on the final product. While we certainly discuss practical reading strategies in the creativity classroom, many of our discussions and focus center on the different types of texts available to consumers, how those texts are created, and the influence texts can have on a creator’s thought process and final product. My participation in the QEP Implementation Team has helped me arrive at this nuanced stance on reading that I can pass on to my students.
Q: How does the QEP benefit the campus community?
A: Reading is one of the common skills and activities that bring people from across the disciplines together. Nearly every field uses sources or texts of some sort to convey information and new knowledge. The implementation of the QEP has sparked further critical thought about reading by both instructors and students. Scholars can discuss variations in reading and the most effective reading strategies for their own disciplines. Recognizing the difference between reading a historical account versus a novella, for example, is useful. The conversations stemming from these different approaches to varying texts or discipline result in a more productive engagement in the reading process.
Q: How will you continue to promote critical reading in your courses, discipline, or across the University?
A: Outside of my courses, I have continued to serve on the QEP Implementation Team and the QEP Implementation Team’s Professional Development subcommittee. Most of the promoting for critical reading that I do is in my courses. Two of the strategies that I use most often to promote critical reading in all of my classes are previewing and discussing annotations. Previewing a text by skimming, reading a just the introductory material, or providing contextual information in the class before a reading is due can help students to activate prior knowledge on the subject and gain more motivation to read. When discussing a reading, the class addresses both the content of the reading and how the students read it. For example, before discussing the meaning of a text, I may start class off by asking students what they underlined or if there were any words they did not know in the passage. With this approach, students understand that the process of reading itself is valuable, even if they did not fully understand the text upon their first reading. These two strategies promote the process of reading and highlight the amount of work that goes into reading. Being transparent and explicit with students about the work that goes into reading, and that they are more than capable of succeeding in this work with practice, is the my main approach to promoting reading with purpose.