October 12th, 2010

Students and Reading: Another Good Idea


The quest to get students doing assigned reading and engaging with that material is one of those ongoing challenges faced by university and college teachers today. Simply assigning the reading, telling students to do it and making threats about what will happen if they don’t is rarely enough to get most of today’s students interacting with their texts. It almost always takes something more, and if you regularly read this blog you know that we’re always looking for good ideas—especially those that not only get students doing the reading but those that help to develop their reading skills in the process. And, I’ve found another promising approach. I’ll be highlighting this strategy in much greater detail in an upcoming issue of the newsletter, but here’s a preview.

Terry Tomasek, an assistant professor of teacher education, uses reading prompts to promote active engagement with assigned reading. She has developed prompts that promote critical thinking skills. The prompts are organized into six categories (the categories aren’t linear or hierarchical) and are written in first person to promote active and personal engagement. The categories and a sample prompt from each are listed below.

Identification of a problem or issue “For whom is this topic important and why?”

Making connections
“What do I already know about this topic? Where and how did I acquire this knowledge? What might be the limitations of my thinking related to this topic?”

Interpretation of evidence
“What inferences can I make from the evidence given in the reading selection?”

Challenging assumptions
“If the opportunity arose, what questions would I pose to the author?”

Making application
“Look towards 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
“What would I point out as important about this topics to others who either question or disagree with my point of view?”

In the article Tomasek lists many additional prompts. She also describes how she assigns them and what she does with the responses students prepare. I’ll share some of those details in my Teaching Professor article, but it’s such a sensible idea, adaptable to and with all kinds of content that I thought it merited blog coverage now.

Reference: 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.

REMINDER: This is the week to prepare/finalize your Teaching Professor Conference program proposals. They are October 22. See www.teachingprofessor.com for guidelines and submission details.