Every October my team and I meet with students who are struggling in one or more–or sometimes even all of their classes. Usually, these meetings are a result of panic and fear after a bad assignment grade or failed midterm. A typical meeting involves the student explaining the problem followed by an in depth interview by the staff member to gather insights into where the student may have veered off course. Sometimes we discover that the student did not put enough time and effort into strategically preparing for the assignment or exam. Other times we may find that the strategies the student employed to prepare were not the best strategies for that particular assignment or type of exam. Too often, we discover that the student doesn’t have a solid understanding of the course material because, although they are attending class lectures, they are not completing the readings. Many even confess to having been told by the instructor that they don’t need to waste their money on the textbook since the material will be covered in lecture. Sometimes the instructor may be trying to save the student money–and they may even tell the student that materials are on reserve in the library. Unfortunately, regardless of the message, often all the student hears is “don’t do the reading”. Every time a student tells me this, I metaphorically feel an eye twitch I can’t control. Let me explain why we have to be extra careful when broaching this topic with students and why completing the readings is so important.
In a digital world where videos, podcasts, and other forms of media are so prevalent, we need to continue to encourage our students to read and teach them how to read effectively. We live in an era where college professors are reducing the amount of required reading year after year because students aren’t completing assigned readings. I’m not sure what impact this has on the quality of the education we are delivering and students are receiving. I encourage all college instructors to do what K-12 educators have always done and continue to do–talk about the importance of reading with your students and teach them how to do it correctly.