11 Strategies for Getting Students to Read What’s Assigned

By: Mary Bart

Getting students to take their reading assignments seriously is a constant battle. Even syllabus language just short of death threats, firmly stated admonitions regularly delivered in class, and the unannounced pop quiz slapped on desks when nobody answers questions about the reading don’t necessarily change student behaviors or attitudes. So what can be done?

Despite the correlation between reading and course success, many students remain committed to trying to get by without doing the reading, or only doing it very superficially, or only doing it just prior to exam dates. In return, some exasperated instructors fall into the trap of using valuable class time to summarize key points of the readings.


It’s not a new problem, and clearly we can’t simply bemoan the fact that students don’t read. Furthermore, doing what we’ve been doing — the threats, the endless quizzes, the chapter summaries — has failed to solve the problem. The better solution involves designing courses so that students can’t do well without reading, and creating assignments that require students to do more than just passively read.

What to do when students won’t do the reading

Featuring 11 articles from The Teaching Professor, this special report was created to give faculty new ways of attacking an age-old problem. Articles in the report include:

  • Enhancing Students’ Readiness to Learn
  • What Textbook Reading Teaches Students
  • Helping Students Use Their Textbooks More Effectively
  • Text Highlighting: Helping Students Understand What They Read
  • When Students Don’t Do the Reading
  • Pre-Reading Strategies: Connecting Expert Understanding and Novice Learning
  • Getting Students to Read
  • Still More on Developing Reading Skills
  • The Student-Accessible Reading List
  • How to Get Your Students to Read What’s Assigned
  • The Use of Reading Lists

Whether your students struggle with the material or simply lack the motivation to read what’s assigned, this report will help ensure your students read and understand what’s assigned.

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