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Reading assigments

Page history last edited by Lindsay C. Morton 13 years, 6 months ago

This is a short but useful discussion about how to give students a good reading assignment.  Although the source focuses on philosophy, the material presented is applicable to other domains.  The author of this text considers the problems that students face and the practical problems that the instructor will face when they are giving reading assignments. There are students who want to read the literature but feel unable to do so; there are students who feel like it useless to read the original texts because the main ideas of the argument will be covered in class by instructor; and there are also students who just do not like reading any texts at all. The main ideas covered are the 3 A's of assigning reading: accessibility, accountability, and applicability.

 

Accessibility: Students have to be able to understand what you assign.  If one's goal is to have students read a relatively difficult original text and process the ideas and arguments, it is important for instructor to show student HOW to accomplish the task that was assigned.   The instructor should consider various situations and make a plan that should fit as many students as possible. How to let students understand the text is not a question of how to tell something directly to the students, but a question of how to make students develop their own ability to read and digest the texts. The author quoted  "professors often must substitute their strong reading skills for the students' inadequate ones. This produces a vicious cycle: inadequate student preparation, commendable professorial clarification, even less student preparation" (16). I think this notion covers one of the most important issues in education, namely, teaching people how to think all by their own.  The author also mentions giving more concrete instructions to students as regards to how to read those assigned texts. It is a small but a very helpful tip, because there are lots of hardworking students, and they are always trying to finish all of the reading but always feel upset at doing so because they could not finish reading all the time. The instructor should give some tips for reading, such things as skipping some paragraphs, or putting more focus on certain ideas and logical proceeding.

 

Accountability:  Instructors need to include assignments (e.g., quizzes, on-line pre-class discussion posts, test question construction) related to the reading to increase the possibility that students will actually read what was assigned.  The author explains that it is better to make the students realize that reading texts before class is not useless. He also recommends taking a quiz among students before class in order to check whether they have done the reading.

 

Applicability:  Instructors need to clearly line out why the reading is being assigned (e.g., if it pertains to course goals, career skills, etc.).  The author points to the need for the text to be relevant to the life experience of students, as this will increase students' interest in reading them.

 

 

 

Contributed by Jie Yin - In sum, this short passage is quite condense but full of information and ideas which are of help specifically for the philosophy teaching. I believe it also offers some hints for other disciplines.

Dec 06, 2009

 

Edited by Lindsay Morton (16 Nov. 2010)

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