12 February 2014

Why don't students read more?

Photo Credit: umjanedoan via Compfight cc

Last year I did a round table session at our Swansea Academy of Learning & Teaching conference 2013. It was a bit scary but I gave it a go in the spirit of starting a debate and tackling a common problem, namely the generally perceived lack of enthusiasm that students have for wider reading.

The topic came about as part of work I was doing on our new reading list system - lots of places have tied this kind of launch into wider work on encouraging students to read more. This is something most academics feel is A Good Thing and surely most librarians would agree with them as without readers we are pretty much out of business.

I have a bibliography in a Google Doc dating from the research I did back then (helped immensely by my colleague Susan Glen @lbglens) and below is the deck of slides I put together. It wasn't designed to be a presentation - as it says on one of the slides, I printed them off back to back so you had the perceived reason for lack of reading on one side (with a few provocative quotes) and some potential solutions on the other. Then in the session people could just pick up what interested them and discuss it. I think this would have worked better if the round table hadn't had a big hole in the middle! I'd kind of imagined that they would get circulated more easily but it wasn't a disaster. Drawing from all the literature I'd read, I was able to identify the following key issues :
  • Assumptions about students' reading ability 
  • Lack of time
  • Students not understanding what reading is expected of them
  • Boredom
  • Students perceive a poor "return on investment"
  • Subject differences 
  • Language
  • Digital Lives
The aim was to have some that would be expected (lack of time, boredom) and some that weren't (reading ability).

On the day my table was swamped! Lots of people had lots to say about this subject and it was great to see real interest in some of the suggestions proposed. I put post-its on the table for feedback and got some great comments, ranging from requests for more info to candid honesty ("I’m not sure I read as much as I should do so how do students differ?").

Not sure why it's taken me this long to get round to blogging it (prompted by the announcement of the 2014 conference!) but - belatedly - here it is:

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