February 18, 2013

Peer-led Reading Groups Boost Engagement and Retention

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A legal historian by training, I have taught many general education courses that draw students from across majors and disciplines. It is not uncommon for the 21st century college student to become somewhat disengaged with the works of Plato or Kant, and this is especially the case when these readings are complex and/or students are outside their topical comfort zones. As a result, in-class discussion suffers, momentum and dialogue are hindered, and students may feel alienated from the course. This is exacerbated by varying levels of engagement with out-of-class readings, producing uneven student learning outcomes.


September 17, 2012

Using “Frameworks” to Enhance Teaching and Learning

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I want to explain the use of what I call “frameworks” in my college teaching. I have used them during nine years of teaching graduate and undergraduate classes, and my students tell me that they are particularly helpful. Although I teach in Utica College’s Education program, this tool has application across a broad number of disciplines and courses at a variety of levels.



December 16, 2011

Making the Review of Assigned Reading Meaningful

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The typical college student dreads hearing, “Let’s review the chapters you read for homework.” What generally ensues is a question and answer drill in which students are peppered with questions designed to make clear who has and hasn’t done the reading. In reality, these exchanges do little to encourage deep thought or understanding of the assigned reading. They produce awkward silences during which students squirm in their seats, hoping to become invisible. Other times students decline to answer for fear of giving the wrong answer. Almost all the time a negative tone permeates the classroom during this review. I decided to restructure the way that I approached reviews of reading assignments, and found that by doing things differently, I could change both the tone and outcomes of the review activity. I’d like to share some of the ideas and techniques that I have found useful:


October 31, 2011

Using the Reader’s Guide to Increase Reading Compliance and Metacognitive Awareness

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For many college instructors, getting students to read their textbooks is a continuous struggle. Not only are students unmotivated to read, but even when students do read they often lack the necessary skills to fully comprehend the material. As a result, instructors may subtly or unwittingly communicate that reading the textbook is not necessary in order to pass a course. This communication can take the form of providing students with elaborate study guides or notes that summarize the reading or include all the answers to upcoming tests or quizzes.



May 14, 2010

Is There a Place for Reading Lists in Today’s Curriculum?

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Given the difficulty most faculty have getting students to read for courses, even assigned reading in required textbooks, reading lists may not be used as extensively now as they were 20 years ago. Nonetheless, they still figure prominently in the delivery of independent studies, special topics courses, and senior and graduate seminars.


April 13, 2010

Helping Students Understand What They Read

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Many college students struggle with their reading assignments. As a teacher educator with expertise in reading development and disability, I find it useful to model effective reading strategies and provide immediate feedback on those strategies frequently used by students. One versatile method I use with undergraduates involves examination of what they underline (or highlight). Throughout the semester, I ask students to refer to their assigned readings and share with the class passages they underlined and reasons for their selection. In this way, the types of thinking that accompanies purposeful, active reading become more apparent.