Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reading with a Purpose

"Is there a more common lament among college instructors than, 'Why won’t students just do the reading?'" John Warner wrestled with that question in an Inside Higher Ed blog last week aptly titled "When Students Won't Do the Reading." Discussing both different types of deadlines and student workflow, Warner comes to the conclusion that any assigned reading must then be used within the class—something must be done with the information in order to contextualize it with the larger assignment. He says:
Rather than attaching a grade via a quiz or response, I’m trying to model a world where we can only get to the destination if we make the necessary stops along the way. If you think about it, this is how most of us manage to complete our non-deadline work, by seeing these smaller acts as part of a larger whole and working incrementally as we can. Students have very little practice with this, mostly because we’ve never modeled it, instead choosing to move from hard deadline to hard deadline.
Charles MacArthur of U Delaware adds:
Another solution to encourage engaged reading is online discussion. I post questions about the reading in an online discussion and invite students to participate in that discussion in the week before class. I tell students that I expect them to participate online at least 2/3 of the weeks, so I just need to monitor that level of participation. I also jump into the discussion occasionally but not too much, to support good thinking and encourage different responses. It also makes our class discussions better and includes more students. I can refer to a student's comments, especially one who does not often volunteer in class.  
Note that one good angle for questions is about the value or meaning of the reading for students' own lives. How would you use this? How is it related to your experience? 
Click here to read John Warner's blog post and be sure to check out the comments for some interesting additional discussion.

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