Archive for October 13th, 2009

During my time teaching college students I have tried a number of ideas to encourage students to complete the class reading assignments.  This semester is different only because I wrote a rant about the need for professors to hold students accountable for coming to class prepared.  Toward that end, I have given the students in each of my three courses daily quizzes since the second day of the semester.  These quizzes typically consist of one question about the previous day’s class discussion and two questions about the reading.

So far, the quizzes have been good and bad, with the negatives seeming to outweigh the positives.  The positives include students who have an incentive to do the class reading.  In the case of busy students (and most of them claim to be busy), this sometimes means that they read for my classes first because they know they will be held accountable for the material on the quiz.  The negatives include taking up a lot of time at the beginning of each class (especially during the 50-minute MWF classes), student whining, and the fact that I am constantly reminded that not all students come to class prepared.  In previous semesters there was no way to know how many of the students had skipped the reading.  Now I do.  Finally, as I’ve noted before, student preparation does not necessarily translate into student participation.

Right now I’m not sure what I’ll do to encourage student reading next semester.  I’ve considered allowing students to self-report their level of preparation and also give themselves a daily participation grade.  This approach has worked for others that I’ve observed and I think that it is worth a try.  On a daily basis, the biggest benefit of this idea would be the increased class time.  The most comforting aspect, though, may be my reduced knowledge of the number of students who don’t do the reading.

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