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Executive Summary/Overview

Norfolk State University chose Close Reading for Effective Writing (CREW) for the theme of its second Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).  Here, significant stakeholders of the University – espeically, faculty, staff, and student leaders – will seek to improve the reading comprehension and writing competency of undergraduate students in both general education and major capstone courses.  CREW will seek to build upon key components of the University's core competencies to develop a signature program to promote reading and writing across the curriculum. By providing undergraduates with reading and writing intensive experiences both inside the curriculum and through co-curricular programming, CREW is expected to teach at least two-thirds of the undergraduate student population, over 4,000 students, throughout the five years of the plan.  I​n spring 2019, select sections of HIS 101, SOC 101, ENG 101, and ENG 102 will use close reading strategies to achieve more effective reading and writing from the students involved. By the second year of the Plan, first-year students will be introduced to CREW during the summer before matriculation through the University's Common Reader program. Designated classes of communications, humanities, social science, and natural science will become certified as CREW sections, engaging students of all classifications and disciplines. Eventually, even capstone courses in each major will be impacted by CREW pedagogy and assessment. 

​​Reading and writing are essential components of thinking and learning, and it is with this in mind that the University selected its theme for its second QEP. Indeed, the compelling need for this theme came out of the data from the University’s first QEP on the enhancement of critical thinking skills, which showed that students need help in reading and writing before they can do critical thinking. From this data and a review of relevant scholarly literature, the broad-based, University-wide QEP Committee – consisting of faculty, staff, and student leaders – also discerned the complementary effect of improving reading skills in order to achieve more effective writing skills. Hence, the QEP's Learning Goal and Student Learning Outcomes are as follows:

     Learning Goal

  Develop close readers and effective writers, as defined by the AAC&U VALUE Rubrics.

     Student Learning Outcomes

       1.   Students will analyze academic texts and materials by applying “close reading” strategies.

        2.  Students will demonstrate effective academic writing through “close reading” strategies.

Effective writing has long been an emphasis for the University, but making it a uniform reality has been much more elusive. In the 1980s, for instance, the University embarked upon a writing across the curriculum program that attempted to increase the number of writing assignments in all majors, and, in 2001, the University adopted its own examination of writing competency to gauge the writing skills of its undergraduates. In 2012, the University expanded its Common Reading program to include the reading of a common text by first-year students, and guided discussions during first-year orientation, integration into the first-year seminar course, and author talks. Yet, not until the emergence of CREW was there an intentional, systematic attempt to use close reading as way to inculcate effective writing across disciplines and throughout the University community.

The rationale for the development of CREW was influenced by the University's vision for the future, as well as its past. The core values of the University's 2019-2025 Strategic Plan, "Forging Onward Toward a New Horizon," such as academic excellence, student-centeredness, and engagement also expect students in all majors to be able to read texts of all kinds and to be able to write about what those texts mean in a clear and concise manner.

To achieve the student learning outcomes of CREW, University faculty and staff, collaborating with trained student leaders, will use and teach strategies that promote close reading as a shared intellectual experience, and learn how to use that close reading experience to improve writing. Through professional communities of inquiry, workshops, online resources, and scholarly endeavors, University faculty and staff, along with trained student leaders, will explore and develop innovative pedagogy to help a significant majority of undergraduates to become close readers and effective writers. Faculty development and concurrent student leadership training will be initially targeted to first-year courses that impact nearly all students within the general education core. Student Affairs staff will also be integral to the success of CREW, helping to foster an immersive culture of reading and writing that bridges divides between students’ lives inside and outside of the classroom. To assess student success in the second Plan, we will use the American Association of Colleges and Universities' VALUE rubrics for reading comprehension and writing competency, which have been vetted nationwide for their comprehensiveness. By 2023, we hope to move most students to the 2nd level (on a 4-level scale) on these rubrics in the general education courses, and to the 3rd level for the disciplinary capstones. Other formative assessment and process evaluation measures for this QEP will include standardized tests on reading comprehension and writing competency, as well as locally-developed, course-embedded assessments. The timeline and cycle for these assessment measures will begin in the spring of 2019 and will continue through at least 2028.

The Provost will appoint a Director of Quality Enhancement in the summer of 2019 with a 75% course release in order for the Director to have enough time and energy to implement and oversee this QEP. Furthermore, in order to fund the CREW activities fully, the University will budget $768,625 over the first five years of the Plan for programming and staffing, in new, shifted, and in-kind resources.