“Is the students’ lack of enthusiasm for reading a fact of life or can we do something about it?

A guest post follow-up from the SALT Conference Round Table Session by Sam Oakley, ISS

Many thanks to all those who squeezed round the table at this year’s SALT Conference – the discussion was wide-ranging and thought-provoking and inevitably ran out of time! This blog post summarizes key points made and shares the feedback left by delegates on post-it notes at the end of the session.

The discussion was based around a set of slides: suggested reasons (& quotes) why students may not do as much academic reading on one side and suggested strategies for tackling this on the other. These were presented as ideas for discussion – not proven conclusions or concepts. The slides can be viewed here: http://salt.swan.ac.uk/conference2013/?page_id=57

Some key discussion points / opinions from the two sessions were:

  • Reading is not encouraged in schools / college and students are used to be spoon-fed.

  • It can be hard to gage students’ reading levels: the language, the quantity (especially for international students).

  • Academics need to convey the value of reading to their students and require it in assignments / class.

  • Interteaching or the flipped classroom may encourage reading – some felt the students expected lectures & still would not do the reading.

  • Getting students to do the reading is an old problem – has it worsened with the online environment? Is reading different online (shorter attention span)? Do students prefer online or print reading matter?

  • Are we advocating something we no longer do ourselves? Do we research more online and read less academic books?

Delegates were asked to leave feedback or any comments they had been unable to make on post-its at the end of both sessions:

  • I think that students do find reading a struggle as they are not theoretical learners (e.g. may be a visual learner). Maybe put streamed lectures or MOOCs on reading lists?

  • An important topic – reading training needs to be more integrated in our teaching especially at Level 1

  • Follow up group to discuss further? Announce on SALT blog?

  • I’m not sure I read as much as I should do so how do students differ from me?

  • Engaging with a complete text can elicit more complex emotional responses – linked(?) to memory – than skimming and selecting

  • Working in academic support / teaching reading skills over 3 x 1hr sessions. There are some simple skills that can be taught. This would help inclusion and Reaching Wider.

  • In Biosciences: level 3 finals have a directed reading question = at earlier levels they are trained at the appropriate level to read & cite & are given space to do not so well and learn. This is supported by specific skills modules & tutorials. We engage students in thinking about the skills they are formatively developing = they understand to try and fail at level 2 will provide feedback for(?) level 3 and their exams – most student develop well.

  • Universities to have closer contacts with schools in order to raise reading standards and extend reading experience.

  • Very interested in some of the suggestions e.g. reading diaries, inter-teaching. Would welcome the opportunity to have more time to discuss ideas with colleagues.

  • As well as stratified reading lists, peer reviewed reading lists = sites like Brainify allow you to facilitate this.

  • Discourses of monitoring attendance, closely controlling students is at odds with a pedagogical approach if reading and learning as a mature, independent learner who is growing at university.

  • It is important to distinguish between recreational and academic reading.

  • It is important to let the students know what is expected of them in terms of reading.

  • Thank you. I would like to run a session with my students on “why reading is important to this module”. Is there a source I could use somewhere to provide academic back-up for my claims/class(?)?

It may be possible to arrange a future SALT session to revisit the topic but in the meantime drop me an email if you would like more information or to discuss anything covered: : s.l.c.oakley@Swansea.ac.uk

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