Promoting effective course reading

3 March 2020
Stack of books

Reading is an important skill across the curriculum, and yet there are many different types of reading. As faculty members, we often assign reading without making explicit our expectations for how we want students to engage with the reading. We can help our students by making our strategies for the process of reading clear, and also by letting students know when we want them to read deeply and when we want them to skim. The Sheridan Center at Brown University has some great suggestions for how to promote effective reading for courses.

For many years, researchers have been studying how people read, and there is quite a bit of research out there about how long it takes someone to read text. The reading rate depends on how much text is on a page, how difficult the text is, and what is the purpose of reading. Sometimes faculty are guilty of assigning more reading than is actually feasible for students to do considering what we know about reading rates. You might want to use the Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence course workload estimator to find out how many hours students will need to spend in order to engage in the type of reading you expect. Plugging in the numbers is a reminder that we have to keep our expectations in check. The website also includes key references to the literature on reading rates.

Spring term will include an LTC lunch on the topic of teaching reading across the curriculum, organized by Kathy Evertz. In the meantime, here are some resources, and feel free to share your favorite tips in the comments.