Using graded questions to increase timely reading of assigned material

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Uskul, Ayse K. ; Eaton, J. (2005)
  • Subject: H1

We assigned students in a personality psychology class graded long-answer questions in an attempt to increase their likelihood of reading assigned class material in a timely manner. We evaluated the effectiveness of this technique by examining exam scores and student evaluations. Students performed significantly better on the exam questions that were related to the topics covered by the long-answer questions than they did on exam questions related to other topics. Students also reported having read significantly more of the assigned material when there was a long-answer question as-signed, and they evaluated the method positively and recommended its use in future classes. In an attempt to increase students' comprehension of material presented during lectures, course instructors often as-sign readings to their students before each class. Unfortunately, many students do not read the assigned mate-rial prior to class; in fact, compliance with reading assigned material has decreased in recent years (Burchfield & Sappington, 2000). Students tend to postpone preparation until a few days immediately preceding the tests (Thorne, 2000). Failing to complete readings before class is a strong predictor of nonparticipation (Karp & Yoels, 1976) and negatively affects students' learning and achievement (Bur-roughs, Kearney, & Plax, 1989). Despite the potential and known benefits of reading the assigned material before class, such as enhancing the comprehension of lecture material (Solomon, 1979), motivating students to read may not be an easy task, especially when students are not given an incentive to do so. Carkenord (1994) stated "practical experience … indicates that most students don't read textbooks or journal articles as a result of their intrinsic interest and desire to learn" (p. 164). Accordingly, Burchfield and Sappington (2000) recommended the use of strategies to monitor timely reading compliance and claimed that not doing so would send a message to students that this aspect of learning is optional and of little concern to the instructor. One strategy to monitor and encourage read-ing compliance is the use of quizzes (e.g., Marchant, 2002; Ruscio, 2001); however, quizzes can create undue anxiety in some students. In this study, we tested an alternative strategy to increase the likelihood that students would read the as-signed material prior to class: graded long-answer questions based on the assigned reading material. In particular, we tested whether graded assignments based on assigned readings would increase students' timely reading of the material
  • References (10)

    Burchfield, C. M., & Sappington, J. (2000). Compliance with required reading assignments. Teaching of Psychology, 27, 58-60.

    Burroughs, N. F., Kearney, P., & Plax, T. G. (1989). Compliance resistance in the college classroom. Communication Education, 38, 214-229.

    Carkenord, D. M. (1994). Motivating students to read journal articles. Teaching of Psychology, 21, 162-164.

    Karp, D. A., & Yoels, W. C. (1976). The college classroom: Some observations on the meanings of student participation. Sociology and Social Research, 60, 421-439.

    Marchant, G. J. (2002). Student reading of assigned articles: Will this be on the test? Teaching of Psychology, 29, 49-51.

    Ruscio, J. (2001). Administering quizzes at random to increase studentsÕ reading. Teaching of Psychology, 28, 24-206.

    Solomon, P. R. (1979). The two-point system: A method for encouraging students to read assigned material before class. Teaching of Psychology, 6, 77-80.

    Thorne, B. M. (2000). Extra credit exercise: A painless pop quiz. Teaching of Psychology, 27, 204-205.

    1. We would like to thank Randolph Smith and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on a previous version of this manuscript, as well as Mandeep Singh and Syeda Abedi for their help with data entry.

    2. Send correspondence to Ayse K. Uskul, Research Centre for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106; e-mail:

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