r † l³: read to learn. read to lead. read to live.
The St. Catharine College Quality Enhancement Plan
Evidence supports the need to impact student learning through an emphasis on the development of student reading skills and the advancement of student reading habits from two specific perspectives.
First, the national, state and local trend as isolated by ACT scores indicates students are entering college under-prepared in the area of reading. Compensating for this gap requires intentional academic interventions. Secondly, SCC students are not closing the gap in reading ability before graduation as is reflected on CAAP reading subsection scores, particularly in comparison with cohorts completing a baccalaureate degree. Again, this concern can only be addressed through deliberate and concerted efforts.
Two research-based, educational theories serve as the framework for implementing this plan. The first is the Social Learning Theory proposed by Albert Bandura which identifies the concepts of modeling and self-efficacy. Modeling of a desired behavior and/or skill, in this case, a greater emphasis on reading supported by improving the ability to read effectively will reinforce the learner’s replication of the actions. Teaching students to accept ownership of their learning experience opens the door to self-efficacy. Learners develop the skill to apply a series of learning strategies, then are taught to determine in a given situation which strategy might work best. Students monitor their use of the strategy and adjust the process moving ever closer to desired results. The second research-based component of the plan is found in the work of Chickering and Gamson, specifically the Seven Principles for Good Undergraduate Education. These principles purport the relationship between student learning and controllable environmental factors. The focus is on engaging students in the learning process and aligns very closely to the concepts of modeling and self-efficacy.
Implementing the r†l³ plan will focus on three fundamental areas of improvement: building internal capacity, academic initiatives, and environmental changes. Recognizing the need to develop a thorough and applicable understanding of postsecondary literacy practices and pedagogy, the first step to impact student learning will be to impact faculty know-how. Actions toward this end include hiring a field specialist to serve as an internal resource and voice for the program. They further include an emphasis on relevant professional development. Reinforcing the adopted model of General Education competencies, the academic focus on improving reading skills will permeate disciplinary degree programs through course embedded instructional approaches. Students will develop reading proficiency as it is defined by their choice of major. Bringing reading to the forefront of the campus conversation and bolstering the cultural value for reading as an everyday activity through changes in the physical environment will foster students personalizing the benefits of the reading experience. Stated quite simply, students who can read well and who value reading will read more.Providing specific strategies and approaches for teaching postsecondary reading, the Reading and Learning Strategies documented by Simpson, Stahl and Anderson-Francis in their Recommendations for the 21 st Century marry the educational theories described to classroom instruction. The Recommendations advise a programmatic intention supported by specific “best practices” and techniques. The pattern of monitoring need, applying a targeted action and evaluating its effectiveness is identical to the student learning pattern only practiced on a programmatic basis.
Measuring accomplishment will result in quantitative and qualitative data which will fuel the continuous improvement approach of this plan. Routine assessment of every component from the text chosen by a single reading group, to the resources available in the library, to the programmatic evaluation of the concentration on reading will infiltrate campus decision making.
The faculty and staff of St. Catharine College have endorsed a specific plan of action, the Quality Enhancement Plan, to address the needs identified. The Student Learning Outcomes of the r† l³: read to learn. read to lead. read to live. initiative target the development of college appropriate critical and content reading skills defined by five linguistic characteristics. This initiative further addresses the social disengagement with reading as a beneficial component of life through an aggressive shift in cultural and environmental emphases and valuation of reading on the SCC campus. Goals developed for this plan provide a considerable challenge for the SCC community. They are considered both ambitious and attainable and their achievement will generate a source of great pride within the organization. It is not anticipated that the life of every student will be dramatically changed through this effort, what is envisioned is that the lives which are changed will see a dramatic difference. The faculty and staff fully expect the lives we change will include our own.