Seriously. Do the readings.

I’m new to teaching at the college level. I don’t look or act very differently than my students, and I like that they find me approachable. However, sometimes I think they don’t take me as seriously as older, more experienced faculty members.

I am anxious about next week because the session depends heavily on students reading the literature before class. Last semester were assigned one out of three articles to read before class. In class, the Jigsaw strategy was used to create small groups where each member had (in theory) read a different article, and (in theory) explained the reading to their other group members. In practice, it turns out few people did the reading and I suspect many hoped their silence would shorten the class period.

Trying to come up with ways to make this semester more engaging, I was excited to find this article on the National Education Association’s website titled Getting Students to Do the Readings. I did not design the activity and am limited to certain constraints, but took two great pieces of advice from the article. First, the article suggests that I “sell the students on the readings” beforehand. Since I did not design the activity, nor was I the one to pick the articles, I was unaware of the broader impacts of the readings and less able to “sell” them to students. Talking to the professor who chose the readings and happens to be an expert on the topics gave me a much better “pitch” for my sell! The second piece of advice I am taking happens to be one I didn’t previously really agree with. In order to hold students accountable while participating in an oral activity, the article suggests cold-calling, but doing it in a randomized way to minimize bias. I have the two things I need to make this work: enough time to notify my students I will be cold-calling, and index cards with all of their names on them that I can randomly choose and ask questions to. I’m excited to see how it goes next week!