We love it when students come to class well-prepared, engaged by the material, and ready to learn. But what happens when they don't do the reading? What can you do aside from giving (still more) quizzes, or dismissing the students to come back another day, or (shudder!) assigning less reading (lowering your standards)?
The Resources listed below offer some terrific suggestions. Take a look; try one; and share the results by emailing me (Cheryl Spector). With your express permission, I'll post a summary of what you did and how well it worked to address your classroom challenge.
Photo credit: Katia Kelly at www.pardonmeforasking.blogspot.com
- Bean, John C. "Helping Difficult Students Read Difficult Texts." Tomorrow's Professor, Message #1145 (19 Jan 2012). Mirror blog: http://derekbruff.org/blogs/tomprof/. Excerpted from John C. Bean, "Helping Difficult Students Read Difficult Texts," Ch. 9 in Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. Second ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.
- Bruff, Derek. "Getting Students to Do the Reading: Pre-Class Quizzes on Wordpress." Guest post on ProfHacker, a Chronicle of Higher Education blog: http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Getting-Students-to-Do-the-/23066/. 25 March 2010.
- Davis, Barbara Gross, "Motivating Students." Tools for Teaching. Google Book. Jossey Bass/Wiley, 2009.
- Hobson, Eric. Getting Students to Read: Fourteen Tips (.pdf file). This is paper #40 at The Idea Center. With 14 tips, surely at least ONE will be useful.
- Immerwahr,John. "Reading Assignments." Teach Philosophy 101. 21 Apr. 2009.
- Romack, Jennifer. "Enhancing Students' Readiness to Learn." The Teaching Professor, 27 Sep 2006. Abstract available online; full article in CIELO. An instant classic by a CSUN faculty member, this article is quite brief and also readily adaptable to suit a broad variety of courses.
- Wallace, Cindy, and Joni Webb Petschauer. "Admit/Exit Cards." Instructor's Resource Manual and Test Bank to Accompany Power Learning by Robert S. Feldman. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003. 149. In essence: have students write their names on a 3x5 card along with something (you decide what) drawn from or about the day's assigned reading. (Such as: a key quote copied verbatim on one side, and their description of why it matters on the other side; or, a question they have about the reading). Only students with the card in hand are admitted to class on the day or days you collect them. But they should prepare a card for EVERY class. (They do have to buy 3x5 cards but as these are readily available and cheap, that shouldn't be a problem.) Exit cards are another variation but they don't work as well as Admit cards when the aim is getting students to complete the reading in advance of class.
- Weimer, Maryellen (editor-at-large of The Teaching Professor): "When Students Don't Do the Reading." Posted 20 Nov. 2008.
- ---. "Two Strategies for Getting Students to Do the Reading." The Teaching Professor, January 2011, 6-7. Overview of Weinstein, S.E., and Wu, S. "Readiness Assessment Tests versus Frequent Quizzes: Student Preferences." International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 21 (2), 181-6. Recommendation: quizzes are quicker but readiness assessment tests are more effective.
- Weir Rob. "They Don't Read!" Instant Mentor, Inside Higher Education, 13 Nov 2009. Accessed 17 Nov 2009.
- Zucker, Kiren Dosanjh (Faculty Development at CSUN) offers this suggestion, adapted from a 2003 ALSB conference presentation by Andrea Giampetro-Meyer, Law & Social Responsibility Department, Loyola University, Maryland: "Whether you already take attendance in class or not, add in a second form of attendance: the 'Participation' sign-in sheet. By signing the Participation Sheet, students indicate they are prepared for class--they have completed the assigned reading--and are ready to answer questions you will pose during the class session." Whatever point system or approach you devise for the Participation Sheet, Kiren recommends that it be clearly explained in the course syllabus and consistently applied. If you add this system in mid-semester, make sure that you give students advance notice (both in print and electronically) of the change. Ideally, you would have included in the course syllabus a statement that it is subject to change. Benefits: you can expect students who sign the Participation Sheet to be able to answer at least basic and introductory questions about the material. Students who don't sign get no participation points. You get a higher level of discussion (in theory). Kiren adds that you can also deduct points for people who sign the Participation Sheet but who in fact clearly are not prepared (a judgement call: you make the call).