Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It can sometimes frustrate college teachers when they realize that their students don't read well (who am I kidding--it confounds and frustrates a lot of us!).  Students have most likely been given instruction on active reading either in high school or during a composition course; however, it may not be habit for them and students may not be accomplished at or confident about college-level reading. 

There are strategies to encourage students and offer help. Articles from the Teaching Professor Blog can help you decide on an approach.  "How Students Read Textbooks" discusses a study on the "sink or skim" methods used by most students--who either "sink" the knowledge by careful reading or "skim" their texts, often the day of or the day after a lecture.  Assessments designed to hold students accountable for careful reading vary from assigning journals to given a "just in time" quiz before class (see the article on reading quizzes: "More on Students and Reading").

As for whether it makes a difference if the text is print or e-book, the active reading strategies may vary.  Consider the reading support provided in many e-books (often they come with glossaries, linked indexes, and dictionaries).  However, before you throw away a student's option to read a print text, you might want to consult the following article: "Another study points to advantages of printed textbooks."   The study by the University of California Libraries cites the advantages of e-books (including e-highlighting, annotation, and downloading options), yet shows that print books have other advantages in terms of deep learning.  Readers will move to print copies for "reading, note taking, text comparison, and deep study" (see the May 2011 study).  This preference is shown more by students in the arts and humanities (the same group that scores highest in writing and critical thinking, according to the authors of Academically Adrift).   What is most interesting is the reported preference for print-on-demand options for textbooks. 

So, as you plan for courses next year, consider how to integrate reading into your courses--and how to encourage your students to adopt deep reading strategies!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer News

Summer, for many of us, is a time to catch up on news in higher education and to spend a bit of time reading more than the headlines. Here's some recent articles of interest:
Do you think about the future of education?  Check out the 2020 Forecast which provides ideas for you to explore, in terms of drivers of change, trends, signals, and learning agents.

Ever wonder about the debate between the effectiveness of lecture versus active learning?  There is a great deal of research supporting the effectiveness of pedagogies that engage students.  Take a look at this recent article on the results from research on an undergraduate physics course, "Applying science to the teaching of science"; "according to Dr Deslauriers and his team, their result is the biggest performance boost ever documented in educational research."

Want to learn more about options for new classrooms and learn about new trends (and possibly throw in your recommendation with an administrative committee?).  Campus Technology has an interesting article on new "active learning classrooms" that integrate technology for positive results. http://bit.ly/j43Rw6

And finally, read the new Faculty Focus special report on Course Design and Development Ideas that Work.  You can download the report for free.  There are several relevant topics to teaching at a university today, and my eye was caught by the discussion of scaffolding (supporting) learning:

"But the point of teaching cannot be to eliminate or even reduce the likelihood of failure. To eliminate failure throttles the learner. For the student does the learning. The student must be free to think and act and, in so doing, err—and recover. That is the cost of learning. To prescribe that teachers enable learning is a tautology. Of course that is what we want to do—the question we beg is: “How?” If scaffolding is to help answer that question, it should illuminate the differences between what the teacher does and what the student does. It should get us to think about the instructor as a planner and initiator of activities that invite students to develop their own goals and strategies. As we know, learning grows out of the students’ previous knowledge and skills. But the assignment must challenge without being so difficult as to discourage learning or so easy as to evade it. Both student and instructor have to be active."