This article details explores five techniques that can be utilized to “get students to do the reading”. Use the techniques that resonate with your own particular needs in the classroom.
- Align your reading with your assignments and the unit’s learning goals.
- Develop a repeatable flow for a typical week of the course. Consider carefully how readings fit into this flow.
- Tie a formative assessment or an activity to the reading. Incorporate the reading into your class discussions.
- Have students reflect on how readings and resources were incorporated into their assignments/projects.
- Explain how you want students to do the reading.
Align your reading with your assignments and the unit’s learning goals
Backward Design, is a technique that was originally promoted by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe as part of the Understanding by Design framework. It has become the standard way in which curriculum designers write curriculum.
The basic concept is to follow these steps (in this order):
- Figure out what you want students to be able to do at the end of the unit
- Determine how you will assess whether students have achieved the desired learning outcomes. Determine the assignments / projects that students will do.
- Plan the readings, learning experience and instruction
By assuring that the readings align tightly with the goals of the unit and the assignments / projects the students are doing, students will intrinsically see the relevance of the readings to the work they are doing.
We have developed a simplified Course Planning Form that can help you design your course.
Develop a repeatable flow for a typical week of the course
Consider carefully how readings fit into this flow. Do students read the text before you introduce the concepts in class or do you lecture first on the topic before they read about it.
Here is a diagram of the flow used in an introductory programming course at Champlain College. This diagram was presented to students during the first week of class in order to familiarize them with the expectations of the course.
Tie a formative assessment or an activity to the reading
Basically, have an assignment or quiz for every reading in your course. Here are three examples that have worked well in other courses. Contact the CLT if you are looking for more ideas or require help setting these up in Canvas
Using the Canvas Quiz feature create a quiz for each week. For each quiz, start with the same question:
- Did you find anything difficult or confusing in the reading? Which parts? If you didn’t find anything difficult or confusing, describe what did you find most interesting. What questions about the reading do you want to see answered in class?
Each week add a few additional questions that test students understanding of the material and whether they did the reading. This is based on techniques developed and researched by Erik Mazur.
Use an open-ended question tied to the reading to stimulate the discussion. Your discussion prompt should have no single right answer. Use the online discussion to begin a discussion that you will continue in class. A simple grading rubric can make grading these online discussions much easier.
Some example prompts are:
- How will you apply the concepts you learned in the reading to your final project?
- Connect the concepts in the reading to a current event. How do these concepts inform your understanding of the event in the news?
An in class quiz is a classic technique to test understanding in the moment. You can elevate this technique slightly by utilizing Google Forms. Google Forms will allow you to project on the screen a summary of the results of the quiz while keeping this display anonymous for all of the students. Because Google Forms is integrated with our Champlain accounts, it is easy to automatically and securely collect student names. Additionally, students can easily take google form surveys directly from their mobile smart phones.
Incorporate the reading into your class discussions
While seemingly straight forward, surprisingly often we forget as instructors to highlight and refer to the readings in class. This simple activity demonstrates for students the relevance of these texts.
Have students reflect on how readings and resources were incorporated into their assignments/projects
Incorporate a reflective component in student assignments. This can be as simple as a few paragraphs as a seperate document attached to a project. Typical questions students are often asked to address are:
- What they learned through this project / assignment
- How they might complete things differently in the future
- How the readings and concepts discussed in class were incorporated into their project / assignment
Explain how you want students to do the reading
Sometimes the problem is that students struggle to know how to do the reading.
Should students be actively taking notes as they do the reading? Is the reading meant as a resource, and they should use it directly in conjunction with some activity? Are there parts of the reading that can be skimmed and others that require careful reading?
Communicating this explicitly with your students will better support them and demonstrate the importance of the reading.