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This is another in a series of interviews with 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 QEP Spotlight series features Eileen Shanahan, assistant professor in the College of Education at EKU.

Q: In what ways have you been involved with the EKU QEP, Read with Purpose?

A: When I first heard about the QEP at new faculty orientation three years ago, I knew that I wanted to be involved. I recognize the need for this work and, as a literacy education professor, I continuously preach the need to teach reading and writing—not just assign it. Since then, I have participated in or facilitated a QEP Faculty Forum, TLI session on questioning strategies, and most recently, a semester-long PLC on the Reading and Writing Connection with Jill Parrott.

Q: In what ways is the QEP relevant to your discipline?

A: The QEP is directly related to my work in literacy education. I teach undergraduate and graduate courses for future and current K-12 teachers related to literacy across the disciplines, grammar and writing instruction, and English language arts methods. In all of these courses, a central theme is teaching reading and writing—not assigning it. It is much easier to simply assign work to students and assume that they will understand what they read and can produce writing related to those texts. But teaching the processes of questioning, evaluating, synthesizing, and creating is the essence of our work with students. So I aim to explicitly teach and model critical reading and writing with my own students so that they are, in turn, doing it with their future students. 

Q: In what ways has QEP professional development impacted your teaching?

A: Whenever I attend QEP professional development sessions, I leave feeling inspired to do better work in the classroom. Engaging in conversation with others across disciplines has proved to be significant for my own learning. I have found that there are many more connections between our work than differences, though even defining and clarifying the differences across disciplines has helped me refine my understanding of reading and writing in my own discipline. 

Q: What impact is the QEP having on student learning in your discipline?

A: I notice that when I do things like model my own thinking practices, offer clear guidance related to research and writing in my discipline, and teach students how to have informed, academic conversations, student learning is improved. Their frustration goes down and I also tend to be happier when listening to their conversations and when grading! When the opposite is true, I can usually point it back to my own teaching and can find places where I was not as intentional or explicit in my own instruction. 

Q: How does the QEP benefit the campus community?

A: It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the varying obligations each of us has as members of the campus community. But it has been important for me to make time for conversation surrounding teaching and learning. Offering QEP sessions as part of a sustaining effort and larger goal for critical reading benefits faculty and their students for years to come.

Q: How will you continue to promote critical reading in your courses, discipline, or across the university?

A: I will continue to refine my own teaching as I learn, listen, and read more about critical reading and its connection to writing. As I have personally benefitted from the QEP, I will also bridge these conversations with others in my department and encourage others to participate in QEP-related sessions and activities as well.