Is Our Children Learning?
Over at In Socrates Wake there’s a discussion going on about ways to get students to actually read the material that is assigned in a course. If any students are out there reading (heh…) — yeah, we know that many of you never read. In fact, some studies have shown that students (on the whole) tend to read about 20% of what is required in a course. Obviously this is pretty horrendous as a description of the “state of affairs” that goes for education today. But…I’m not writing this post to complain about it, but rather to inquire about it. Namely — why is it that students don’t read and what can be done about it?
It’s clear that lots of reasons are thrown around for why students don’t read. Here are a few —
(a) The professor explains it in lecture anyway, so why bother?
(b) I’m not a good reader, and this material is hard and makes me feel stupid.
(c) Don’t enjoy the content of the course anyway.
(d) Too busy: I have X amount of jobs and other obligations.
(e) No consequences if I don’t read. If there’s no punishment/reward, I’m not motivated to do it.
(f) I was raised on Wikipedia and web-surfing. Reading for information requires a time commitment that I don’t make.
I’m very curious to hear from instructors and students out there what you think the culprit is here. It could be one of (a) – (f) (or some combination of them) or some other reason(s) I haven’t listed. But I’m also curious about a second, much more important question:
What can instructors do in courses to get students to read?
Now, I’m not talking about quizzing them to death. I don’t like carrot/stick approaches (though I do admittedly use them in some classes). Rather, I’m thinking — in what way should a course be organized, in terms of everyday classroom experience, that would lead a student to want to do the reading? To get them to actually want to engage with the book instead of just passively “watch the movie” (listen to the instructor explain the material)?