Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How do I get Students to do the reading?

It is the second week of the semester and already I am having trouble getting students to do the reading. I do not want to assign weekly quizes because I feel that infantilizes the students. I would much rather treat them as adults. I also do not want to require them to write weekly summaries or responses to the reading because frankly with over 80 students it would be a lot of work to grade. On the other hand verbal cajoling to do the reading has so far been ineffective. Does anybody have any suggestions?


Chris O'Byrne said...

Otto, here is what I found from my years of teaching high school (and your students are probably not much older or different).

Most students are not in college to learn. They are in college to obtain a degree that they can use to get a job that pays well. If they could get that job without the college degree, most of them would skip college.

What college students want is a clear and navigable path to that degree. They think concretely and they want rigid structure that they can understand and follow. Give them that structure. They will not read your assignments unless there is a fairly immediate reason to do so, by which I mean a quiz or other means to test and grade. You can make these easy on your, however. Design weekly assignments where you can see at a glance if they actually read the assignment or not and then give a pass/fail grade and points.

A very powerful and useful technique is to give a random pop quiz on the reading. Make sure it is worth a significant amount of points, otherwise it will not be as powerful. Tell them that this quiz will come every week, but at a completely random time. This technique of intermittent rewards is well documented as to its effectiveness. Here is an interesting article about it: http://therawness.com/the-compliance-recipe-part-3-intermittent-rewards/.

Let me know how this situation works out for you.

WR said...

I tried summaries and quizzes, and somehow if a student doesn't want to do the reading, he'll spend twice as much time figuring out a way to pass the quiz or write the summary without doing the reading (or so my spies told me). Verbal cajoling definitely doesn't work. I've found the only thing that works is to have a section on the midterm and final that has passages from the readings, and the students have to identify the author and discuss the context of the passage.