One area that I have found frustrating as I teach a course or lead staff development has been incorporating readings into active learning activities. Readings can serve as the jumping point for group discussions or further training. Unfortunately, students and staff do not always read the articles. Conducting some research and analyzing the problem, I have found that students don’t read for two reasons: Student ability, and student motivation. For whatever purpose, some students have not developed the metacognitive processes that allow them to process readings into concrete learning. Students’ lack of reading skills discourages them from wanting to read. They also avoid the readings because they don’t see their purpose and are unable to translate reading concepts and make it their own. Students also have a difficult time being motivated to read due to distractions, such as socializing, activities/clubs events, entertainment, technology, exercise, and interacting with others. These social activities may also prevent students from seeing the value of readings, and actually reading them.
Realizing the type of students with whom we work, I developed the following strategies for reading incorporation.
• Ensure that requirements for text reading are listed on the syllabus. Have readings due each week and incorporate an activity around that week’s reading. For example, have a one-minute paper in the beginning of class asking students what was the common theme in the readings.
• Early on the first day of class or training, explain why the text was selected, how it supports the course content and how it’s organized. Emphasize the need to bring the text to class.
• Talk about the text during instruction so I serve as a role model to students. I will highlight points with page numbers from the text in class, and incorporate specific text examples into my discussions. This will model reading integration on an ongoing basis.
After laying the foundation for reading and understanding student’s abilities and motivation, I developed several strategies to use to incorporate readings into active learning activities.
Use of a Reading Skills Inventory
The inventory may look like this:
- Highlight as I read along
- Scan text at first, then read text in detail
- Write notes/comments in margins
- Write outline of main points in notebook
- Write up summary of ideas in few sentences
- Talk with peers on content of topic
- Seek internet sources of text concept for better understanding
- Email instructor for clarification on text content
- Have students break into small groups and talk about strategies they think they will employ for this course (as well as write down any additional strategies).
I administer the inventory mid-way through the semester and at the end of the semester. Each time, collect the inventory, gather the data, and report back to students on the data. The purpose of this is to assess if students are utilizing, developing, or avoiding reading strategies. Advise them appropriately and adjust class activities as needed. Additional suggestions for encouraging reading:
- Utilize online blogs or discussion boards. The use of discussion boards on weekly readings takes advantage of the need for social interaction, as well as allows students to construct their own understanding of the course material.
- Clearly state expectations in the syllabus. Grading points, expectations of due dates, and a method of assessing the blogs should be included.
- Be present in the online discussions. Respond to various postings to demonstrate your investment in students’ engagement on the topic. This allows you to role model how to analyze the reading into your own words. Additionally, students will be compelled to write on the discussion boards since they know that you will be responding to their postings.
- Use of a Classroom Assessment Technique (CATs) such as RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Comment, and Connect).
- Ask students to write down a one-sentence summary on that week’s reading.
- Collect and compare students’ responses to assess whether the students connected the readings to the overall course
- Bring this data back to the beginning of the next class in order to close the loop on assessment and maximize student learning.
- Discuss with the class on missed points from the readings, review areas that they need additional information on, and connect the reading to the overall course. This will display to students your investment in their developmental, as well as assist them in understanding the purpose of the readings.
By incorporating reading in multifaceted approaches, students and staff will see the relevance of the readings, develop skills for reading comprehensiveness, and ignite their motivation to read. Reading will no longer be seen as an extra assignment; rather, it will drive everything that happens in the course or work unit.