Office of the Faculty Teaching Fellow

Ensuring Students Complete the Readings

Using a “flipped class” model relies on the fact that students complete assignments (reading or watching video content) before class.  What are some strategies to use to ensure that students complete the assignment?

It is important to consider the larger context around students completing the assigned reading.  There are a variety of issues that impact whether or not students complete the reading.  These being:

-          Students’ perception of the connection between course reading and academic success.  Is it critical to do the readings to be successful in the course?  Some students rely on the fact that teachers most often discuss the most important points from the reading in class.  Therefore, careful structuring of class time and student involvement will highlight to students the importance of completing the readings.

-          Students do not understand why readings are selected and made “required”.  This can easily be addressed by instructors previewing the course readings with students.  Instructors can tell students something about the reading (a “teaser”) and explain why the reading is relevant and important.

-          There is a mismatch between course text literacy levels and students’ reading abilities.  Particularly significant for freshmen, taking the time to assess students’ reading abilities (and connecting the student with support services/resources) could proactively address incomplete readings.

Resources:

-          “When Students Don’t Do the Reading.”  Retrieved from The Teaching Professor website:  http://www.teachingprofessor.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/when-students-don%E2%80%99t-do-the-reading

-          “Idea Paper #40:  Getting Students to Read:  Fourteen Tips” by Eric Hobson, Georgia Southern University.  http://www.theideacenter.org/sites/default/files/Idea_Paper_40.pdf

STRATEGIES

Interteach Method

The interteach method is a learner-centered teaching method that involves peer instruction.  The method lends itself to writing intensive courses as well as problem-based learning.  The method is successful at achieving the following teaching goals:

-          ensures universal participation in completing the reading before class

-          integrates varied work models  - independent and small groups

-          requires students write and verbalize complex ideas

-          engages students in active participation in class discussion, encouraging students to re-evaluate their ideas

-          creates a class structure students are satisfied with

The “interteach” technique was created by Philip Hineline, a professor of psychology at Temple University.  Interteach integrates already known methods of instruction; it simply regulates their use.

Before class:  Students read the assigned reading and complete a study guide (answer questions about the reading).  Students must read the text carefully in order to answer the questions.

During class:  Students discuss the study guide answers with a partner.  Working with a different student each class period, students cannot escape responsibility to do well at this task, otherwise they will face a disappointed peer during the peer-teaching session.  Students enjoy the opportunity to talk about the material in the less stressful one-on-one interteach sessions.  In so doing, they are practicing valuable communication skills in which they sustain a conversation on complex topics, and they are more likely to speak up in class after having practiced articulating their thoughts with a peer.

The professor lectures only on the more intractable questions.  Students are thus prepared to listen carefully to the lecture/seminar discussion in which questions they had struggled with are answered, so that they can do well on the weekly quizzes that are generated from a subset of study guide questions.

Resources:

-          Stephanie’s presentation on the method:  http://prezi.com/c4xgs4to-gyl/copy-of-peer-teaching-interteach/  Feel free to contact Stephanie to learn more about the method.

Mazur’s “peer teaching” method:  “teach by questioning not by telling”

This method integrates two strategies, accomplishing different goals:

  1. Students complete questions about the reading and submit online before coming to class.  This ensures students complete the reading and are prepared for class.
  2. Students teach one another.  This helps students build conceptual understanding and makes the class more active and engaging.

Before class:  Students must complete the reading and answer questions about the material by posting online.  The last question is always, “What’s one question you have about the reading?”  Instructor reviews students’ responses to determine content and activities for the class.

During class:  Instructor begins with a short (10-20 minute) lecture on a key concept (determined by students’ responses).  Then, instructor assesses student understanding by posing a multiple choice question to the students.  Students respond via clickers or mobile devices.   The instructor can record/log the responses.  Then, students discuss the question (“try to convince your neighbor”) for a couple of minutes.  The instructor then asks the students the question again.  Many more students select the correct answer after talking with a peer.  The instructor moves on to the next concept.

Resources: 

-          American RadioWorks:  “Don’t Lecture me” by Emily Hanford.  http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/tomorrows-college/lectures/

-          This website published by Monash University offers a wealth of information on peer instruction:  http://arts.monash.edu.au/philosophy/peer-instruction/

Short Online Reading Quizzes

This strategy involves students completing a short, online quiz consisting of open-ended questions, due a couple of hours before class.  Final question on each quiz is “What’s one question you have about the reading?” (taken from Mazur).  The important consideration with this is to grade based on effort.  Most often instructors give full credit since this is students’ first pass through the material. 

Reading prompts

Reading prompts serve to help students connect with content and to assess comprehension and critical thinking skills.  Terry Tomasek describes the purpose behind using reading prompts, “The purpose of these reading/writing prompts is to facilitate personal connection between the undergraduate student and the assigned text.  The prompts are simply questions used to orient students with a critical reading stance and to guide their thinking as they read.”

Students respond to a prompt (1-2 paragraphs) before coming to class.  Students can either hand in their responses (via paper), email the professor, or submit online (Bb or other web-based platform).  Points can be awarded for responses and even peer responses.

Tomasek frames prompts within various categories, drawing upon various levels of critical thinking.  These types of prompts emphasize connection or engagement with the content as opposed to comprehension.  Here are Tomasek’s six categories and some sample prompts from the article:

-          Identification of problem or issue—This “lens” is used to create a “need to know” viewpoint for readers. (pp. 129-130)

  • What problem is the author identifying? Who does the problem relate to?
  • For whom is this topic important and why?

-          Making connections—These prompts helps students think critically about course content, what they are reading, and their own knowledge. The goal is to get students to integrate their experiences with what they are reading.

  • How is what I am reading different from what I already know? Why might this difference exist?
  • What new ideas are here for me to consider? Why am I willing or not willing to consider them?

-          Interpretation of evidence—These prompts are best used when students have been assigned a case study, have viewed a video clip, or are reviewing each other’s work.

  • What inferences can I make from the evidence given in the reading sample?
  • What relevant evidence or examples does the author give to support his or her justification?

-          Challenging assumptions—The goal of these prompts is to encourage students to identify and critique assumptions.

  • What kind of assumptions is the author making? Do I share these assumptions?
  • What information builds my confidence in the author’s expertise?
  • If the opportunity arose, what questions would I pose to the author?

-          Making application—Here students are challenged to use what they have learned.

  • What advice could I add to this reading selection? On what basis do I give this advice?
  • Looking toward where I want to be in two years, what suggestions from the reading make the most sense to me?
  • Taking a different point of view—Students develop critical perspectives when they are encouraged to consider diverse ideas.
  • What would I point out as important about this topic to others who either question or disagree with my point of view?

Resources:

-          “Using Reading Prompts to Encourage Critical Thinking” by Maryellen Weimer.  Retrieved from the Faculty Focus website:  http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/using-reading-prompts-to-encourage-critical-thinking/

-          Tomasek, T. (2009). Critical reading: Using reading prompts to promote active engagement with text. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 21 (1), 127-132.

Peer Evaluation of Student Discussion Participation

This strategy approaches the problem of getting students to complete the reading by re-structuring class discussions on reading, assuming discussion participation is a significant portion of the student’s overall grade.

Given that it is difficult for instructors to promote and facilitate stimulating class discussions while also trying to evaluate the quantity and quality of individual student participation, Mainkar has developed the Attendance and Discussion Participation System (ADPS).  ADPS is a strategy that engages students in a daily review/evaluation of their peers’ participation.  Research shows the correlation between instructor and peer scores are higher than those between instructor and self-assessed scores.

Each day 1-2 students evaluate the contributions of the rest of the class (20-30 students) using a sheet that lists all students by name and differentiates contributions into three categories:  attendance (awarded for being present but not contributing), straightforward comments (adequate contributions), and insightful comments (superior thinking).  Each student earns 0-3 points for each class.  The daily points are averaged for the semester, and the average is converted to a number between 0 and 100 using a preannounced scale, which becomes a student’s discussion-participation score for the semester.  Evaluators get three points for the day.

Tips:

-          Do not start using system until week 3 or 4, until students are comfortable

-          Use the first class period to describe in detail the system

-          Provide students with incremental numeric feedback every few weeks.  Average daily score and converted score.  Essential not to reveal points earned each day.

-          Evaluator forms explain in detail how to differentiate the quality of contributions.  (See Manikar article for template.)

Advantages:

-          Reduces the top-down, instructor-driven culture in the classroom

-          Frees the instructor to focus on facilitating the discussion

-          Builds students’ ability to evaluate and provide feedback

-          Transparency of structure around participation

Disadvantages:

-          Evaluators have a hard time digesting content discussed.

-          Slightly more administrative work to calculate point averages, etc.

Mainkar also discusses the importance of accounting for individual differences when it comes to discussion participation, explaining that some students (introverts) may not be comfortable participating.  He suggests giving students the option to choose the weights for discussion participation and other components that make up the overall grade.  Giving students choices (i.e. participation can be 15% or 20% of your grade) retains some instructor control while empowering students.

Resources:

-          “A Novel Approach to Encouraging Class Participation” by Maryellen Weimer.  Retrieved from the Faculty Focus website:  http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/a-novel-approach-to-encouraging-class-participation/

-          Mainkar research paper “A Student-Empowered System for Measuring and Weighing Participation in Class Discussion” can be found online here: http://jme.sagepub.com/content/32/1/23.full.pdf+html