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Get students to actually read

  • 1.  Get students to actually read

    Posted 03-29-2020 20:38
    In my experience, undergraduates don't read. And actually, graduate students don't read much either. But I've started using a free website that has made a huge difference: Perusall.com. (I'm not being paid by them or anything.)

    It works like this: You (the instructor) create a course on Perusall.com. Students can join the course by entering a code that you give them. (It's the same code for all the students.) You upload documents as .pdf files to Perusall, and create assignments by assigning all or part of a document to be read by a specific date and time. You can also put questions and comments on the document for students to see/respond to.

    Students read the document and post comments and questions on it. They can also respond to each other's questions and comments, Facebook-style. Perusall keeps track of students' activity (how much time they spend on the document, did they read the whole thing, how many comments/questions did they post, etc.) and gives them a score. (You can change the scoring criteria to suit you.) 

    I've used this in big classes of about 200 undergrads, and in smaller graduate seminars. If you make the Perusall grade count toward the students' grade in the class (I made it worth 10% in the undergrad course), they do take it seriously, and they actually do the reading for a change.

    Perusall makes money when people assign actual textbooks and students buy them through the site. A lot of publishers are making their books free right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it's a good chance to try it out. But you can do it all for free (free for you and for the students) if you just upload .pdfs for the readings.

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    Barbara Sarnecka
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  • 2.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-02-2020 09:06
    Thanks for sharing this resource, Barbara. I teach a large (~150) undergraduate Intro Psych course, and I've been thinking about ways to better promote students' engagement with the material, particularly assigned readings. This looks like it could be a great option. I use a free online textbook through the Noba Collection, so it sounds like I could just upload the chapter pdfs directly onto Perusall for them to read? Is the grading pretty simple to keep track of for classes with a large number of students?

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    Hannah Schacter, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Psychology
    Wayne State University
    Detroit, MI

    hannah.schacter@wayne.edu
    www.arclabwsu.com
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  • 3.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-02-2020 10:02
    Yes, my class had over 200 students and the grading was super simple. You can use the default settings under 'scoring,'  or change them however you want. If you use the default ones, it gives students extra points for starting early and breaking up the reading over multiple sessions.

    I changed the settings to make it easy for students to get the full credit. Basically, if they read the whole thing and posted some comments or questions, they got full credit. 

    Perusall gives each student a score of 0, 1, 2 or 3 for each assignment, and keeps a running average score. I made the average score worth 10% of their grade in the class. 

    One thing I will do next time is make the assignments during the first two weeks  "optional," so that I don't have to keep extending the deadlines individually for each new student who joins the class from the waiting list. 

    Making the early assignments optional will also give students a chance to play around with the Perusall interface and learn how the scoring works without actually losing points.


    --
    Barbara W. Sarnecka
    Professor of Cognitive Sciences
    University of California, Irvine







  • 4.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-03-2020 11:22
    Thanks for this. I was having this problem about a decade ago and created active reading questions (ARQs) for each week. They are low-stake assessments, I had 12 and they can drop 2 of their lowest scores, and they are about 10 questions each. They always end with a classroom assessment technique (CAT) called muddy point. That is, what are you still confused about. I have 35 students and grade them each week (in truth, I just look mainly at the last question and use the muddy point to start the class discussion). We've published how well they work: Fleck, B., Richmond, A. S., Rauer, H. M., Beckman, L., & Lee, A. (2017). Active reading questions as a strategy to support college students' textbook reading. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology3(3), 220.
    I can send examples if anyone wants them. 


    ------------------------------
    Aaron Richmond
    Dr.
    Metropolitan State University of Denver
    Denver CO
    303-615-1060
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  • 5.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-03-2020 12:47
    To be fair, instructors don't always do the readings either, as evidenced by nearly every faculty meeting I've attended. :)

    This is my first time hearing of Perusall.com. It seems to have some useful features I wouldn't get in our campus etext platform. Thanks for sharing.

    Like others in this thread, I create low-tech, low-stakes assessments that require students to dig into readings. I use auto-graded quizzes in larger classes, which help me identify concepts that might need additional explanation from me. The reading quizzes are intended to be formative rather than summative assessments, so they are untimed and allow multiple attempts. I use open-ended (online) discussion prompts for the same purpose in smaller classes/grad seminars, perhaps similar to what Aaron described. As an added bonus, these assignments give me another method for communicating which concepts will be most important. 

    This probably goes without saying, but I've also been impressed with how much students read when the readings are actually required to complete assignments and achieve learning goals. In recent semesters, I have relied more heavily on written material in my larger online class (~250 students). I thought students would complain about the change. On the contrary, they seem to value the readings more than in the past, and they are doing well even when the readings are often the only way to get important content. (I try not to dwell on what this says about the videos I created painstakingly in years past!)

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    Heather Kirkorian, Ph.D.
    Laura M. Secord Chair in Early Childhood Development
    Associate Professor | Human Development & Family Studies
    School of Human Ecology | University of Wisconsin-Madison
    4105 Nancy Nicholas Hall | 1300 Linden Drive
    Madison, WI 53706
    kirkorian@wisc.edu | 608-263-4020
    https://sites.google.com/site/kirkorianlab/
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  • 6.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-05-2020 21:14
    Edited by Jennifer Dyer-Seymour 04-05-2020 21:16
    Perusall.com sounds really cool. Thanks, @Barbara Sarnecka I just set up an account and I'm going to give it a try this week. That's interesting what you say, @Heather Kirkorian about the readings and videos you made. I just spent way more time than I had anticipated making a 15 min video to try to explain one concept. My plan was to make more videos but I just don't know if I'll be able to. So, I'm hoping that students will be okay with the readings and some short videos from the web. We'll see how this week goes.​​ And, thank you, @Aaron Richmond, for the idea about active reading questions. I've currently got a group of 130 students, so I'm not sure if I can do those with that size group. Do you have any other ideas for keeping students' reading on track for a very large class?

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    Jennifer Dyer-Seymour
    California State University, Monterey Bay
    Seaside CA
    831-582-3533
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  • 7.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-05-2020 22:11

    I have done ARQs with a 120 intro psych students. Instead of grading everyone just tell them that you will randomly grade 25 each time. Another idea is to do what we call "Reading Check-Ins" or "Comprehension Checks". Just a short multiple-choice or T/F low-stakes assessment with tops of 4 to 5 questions. I do this and make them worth about 10% of their overall grade. I then use some of these questions on the Comprehensive Exam. It gives students some incentive to do them. Just a few thoughts. 



    ------------------------------
    Aaron Richmond
    Dr.
    Metropolitan State University of Denver
    Denver CO
    303-615-1060
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  • 8.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-14-2020 20:01
    This is a great suggestion. I'm going to look into it and try to set this up for my class in Fall definitely.  How do you get chapters from an assigned book in there? I've been using weekly quizzes, only 5 questions on the gist of the articles assigned, which helps a bit but doesn't pull for the depth of understanding, nor does it allow student-to-student comments. Thanks for sharing. And also, thank you for your great blogs! I share your writing tips with my PhD students, and in fact, we're talking about them tomorrow during a remote check in! Stay safe!

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    Catherine Tamis-Lemonda
    Professor
    New York NY
    212-998-5399
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  • 9.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-14-2020 22:58
    Edited by Barbara Sarnecka 04-16-2020 14:40
    Hi Catherine, You can upload readings to Perusall as PDFs, so if you have PDFs of the chapters you want to assign, it should be no problem. 
    And thanks for your kind words about the blog! The book is free now, too, if you want to read that instead. (It contains just about everything that appeared in the blog, plus a bunch more chapters.). It's downloadable for free on the Open Science Framework, or on Perusall if you want to read it together. If you click on the URL below my signature, it will take you to the book's page on my lab website, with links to everything. 
    Take care! 
    --
    Barbara W. Sarnecka
    Professor of Cognitive Sciences
    University of California, Irvine





  • 10.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-16-2020 14:24
    Thanks again @Barbara Sarnecka for the great recommendation for perusall.com. I'm in my second week of using it and it appears to be working really well. I think the students like seeing each other's comments on the site. It's also really helpful for me because I can see how they're thinking about the concepts in the reading. I can reply directly to a comment and upvote comments. I'm using NOBA and so I was able to link perusall to a chapter on the noba site. And this week I assigned two articles from the web. It was easy as could be to set it all up and get the articles on there.​ Students were able to get on easily as well! Finally, I didn't know that Eric Mazur was a founder of perusall. I love his work with peer instruction. He's a physics instructor at Harvard. He's offering webinars on adjusting to teaching online. The next one is April 30. Sign up here quickly - they're filling up.

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    Jennifer Dyer-Seymour
    California State University, Monterey Bay
    Seaside CA
    831-582-3533
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  • 11.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-16-2020 14:36
    @Jennifer Dyer-Seymour, that's great, I'm so glad it's working for you! And thanks for the heads-up to the Eric Mazur webinars. I just followed the link you provided and managed to get a space in the April 30 one. I'm really looking forward to it! ​

    ------------------------------
    Barbara W. Sarnecka
    Professor, Cognitive Sciences
    University of California - Irvine
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  • 12.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-16-2020 14:31
    And I just bought @Barbara Sarnecka's book at bookshop! Looks great! Can't wait to read it!​

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    Jennifer Dyer-Seymour
    California State University, Monterey Bay
    Seaside CA
    831-582-3533
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  • 13.  RE: Get students to actually read

    Posted 04-16-2020 14:39
    Wow, thanks so much, @Jennifer Dyer-Seymour! I really appreciate it! (But if anybody reading this wants the book and can't afford to buy it, you can read, discuss and download the full text for free on Perusall.com, or you can download it from the Open Science Framework.)​

    ------------------------------
    Barbara W. Sarnecka
    Professor, Cognitive Sciences
    University of California - Irvine
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