Want students to read the chapter? Have them discuss it before teaching it

Want students to read the chapter? Header imageOne of the challenges I often hear instructors discussing is that their students do not read the assigned chapters. Frequently, students do not have to read the chapters because instructors will rehash the chapters rather than entering into a deep-dive discussion. Here is one idea I would like to share to increase readership and enrich discussion.

Recommended assignment

On pages 14 and 15 of the Faculty Focus Special Report: 11 Strategies for Getting Students to Read What’s Assigned, Sara Coffman writes about how to get students to read what you assigned. I specifically want to point out suggestion number 5 because it happens to be one of my favorite strategies; I typically use it in an online course:

“Prepare three to five questions for each reading assignment and have your students write answers before coming to class. Get students on board with this activity early in the course. Grading their worksheets can be time consuming—you’ll need to develop some efficient approaches, but your students will benefit greatly by having something to turn in. You’ll benefit by having students able to intelligently discuss the material.”  (p.15)

I am recommending that you assign the chapter reading at the end of the week (Friday) and require an online discussion in Blackboard over the weekend. For this discussion activity, have students write  their answers to questions you provide as well as have them make 2-3 responding posts to fellow students.

Personally, when I assigned discussions on reading materials, I used the IRA (Insights-Resource Sharing-Application) model for the discussions. Students pushed back initially on this type of assignment (because it was different than other instructors) but by the end of the course they really came to enjoy it. Some students recommended it to their other instructors. The IRA model taps into what is meaningful to the individual. The IRA model also leverages Malcolm Knowles’ Andragogical Assumptions by focusing on the learners’ experiences and application of the content.

In terms of grading, a participation grade for the assignment normally suffices. The grade across the term should at least count as one letter grade.

What it does for the instructor

By assigning a discussion ahead of time, you can gain a sense of who has read the chapter or not, what their interests are, where they are having difficulty, etc. Rather than rehash something they have read, you can explore the topic in more depth, highlight student discovers, or clarify misconceptions.

More reading recommendations

What strategies are you using to get students to read your assigned readings? Please share.

Stan Skrabut, Ed.D.

Stan is Director of Technology-Enhanced Instruction. He has over 20 years experience working as an instructional technologist and trainer. He has a master’s degree in computing technology in education and a doctorate in education specializing in instructional technology.

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