Teachers - how do you make students do their readings?

I had a cruel & amusing lit professor in college who would (a) require regular reaction essays on whatever novel we were reading, and (b) give pop quizzes when she suspected readings were being neglected–not for credit, but so that she could pick a paper out of the stack, identify its author, and read the wrong answer out loud. she would then say, “No, Mr. Rhymer, your answer is not correct. The correct answer can be found on page two. Were you unable to find page two? Do you need a refund from the bookstore because you received a defective copy?”

She never actually did that to me, by the way, but only because I knew she was not to be trifled with when it came to the readings. But I was once taking a novel class with a friend of mine who had not taken her seriously and who had gotten behind on her reaction essays. On the morning of the last day a batch of them could be turned in, she asked me to help her get the work done, so we spent the morning writing the essays (okay, I admit that I did most of the work). Unfortunately, the teacher chose that day to give one of her humilating pop quizzes. When she got to my friend, she looked at her paper, raised an eyebrow, and read her answer to question 2: “I didn’t do the reading because Skald told me not to.” The teacher looked at me, grinned, and said, “Mr. Rhymer, I’ve suspected for some time that you are corrupting the sophomore girls.”

This is an intriguing idea. Does she let you retake the exact same exam or is it a new exam covering the same material?

I’m not sure which way I would prefer. If it’s the exact same exam, I have some issues with whether or not this really contributes to real learning. However, if it’s a new exam, that means the prof potentially has to make two exams for all of the content.

Honestly? Flunk 'em if they can’t take a class. They’re adults and you’ve already spelled out the requirements. If passing the course and getting a degree isn’t motivating, they can try supporting themselves on a high school diploma for a while.

A mild option would be to hand out exams from prior years, which might make it obvious that the level of comprehension needed to get a good grade is beyond just what’s covered in lecture. This depends, of course, on whether you have such exams, whether it’s consistent with your methods to provide them, and it truly being necessary to do the readings to do well on the test.

I also love MandaJO’s system!

He makes 2 or 3 versions of each exam. We sit at large lab tables, one person to a corner, and the person whose test you could conceivably see sitting across from you has a different version than you do. He numbers the tests and accounts for who had what version and copy, he keeps all the tests and answer sheets in his office, and while he tells us our grade right away (that is, he grades the exam as we finish, and when they’ve all been turned in, he tells us our grades before even going on to the next lecture - which is great because you don’t spend too much time wondering how you did!), if we want to know which ones we got wrong, we have to go see him in his office to go over it together. He’s a little paranoid about cheating. Then again, he’s been teaching for over 40 years, so he’s been burned before!

If you decide to retake a test, you take a version you didn’t take before, covering the same material. If he suspects you’re being shady, he may chose to give an oral exam instead, he said, or a mixed exam, some oral and some written.

If you retake a test and do worse on it, he keeps the old grade, so you can only benefit from the re-test, not harm your final grade.

We’ve got 3 tests before the midterm, of which we can retake 1, and 3 after the midterm, of which we can retake 1. So you *really *have to not know your stuff or not care in order to get a failing grade.

Speaking from the [former] student’s perspective? Very bad idea. Humiliating students who may be ill, have worked the late shift, or have a colicy baby is just mean.

Calling out like that to* engaged *student might work; keep those interested, interested, and liven things up for the rest.

Frequent references to the texts during lecture and a brutal first exam drawing heavily from the texts would have worked for me.

You could pass out a study guide for exams, briefly telling what they can expect to be tested on. When they see that some of the things on the guide haven’t been covered in lecture, they’ll know they have to read if they want to pass.

OakMinister’s suggestion works. Though some students who have read the material may not show their knowledge under pressure like that. Personally, I need time to reflect about the question and even then, I can get tongue-tied. Pisses me off.

I’m finishing a master’s degree in reading. The professors have been teaching us about the importance of being aware of making connections as we read. Even in dry text books we can make personal connections to the text, world/society connections to the text and other media/print connections to the text. Becoming aware of those connections make the reading more meaningful.

One exercise in helping the students become aware of the type of connections they’re making to their reading is to have them insert sticky notes within their text book. When they come upon a passage in the text that connects to them/other text/world, they jot down what kind of connection that is and why. Perhaps you can ask them to do that for the reading assignments and then collect three sticky notes of their connections to read through and get a sense of their thinking of the material.

Here is one website explaining the basics:

I wish you luck.

I was going to make this same point. IIRC, at my school, the class had to agree, but that didn’t necessarily mean every single student.

If this really is your school’s policy, then imo it’s a pretty stupid one: teachers who get burned by it can simply insert a boilerplate graf into their syllabi; “I will give pop quizzes on an irregular basis! I will institute body cavity searches if I suspect cheating! I will bark like a dog at random intervals!” etc. And then the students can no longer complain about any policy?

If the syllabus says “There may or may not be pop quizzes, and your grading scheme may be 20% assignments or 10% assignments+10% quizzes (plus everything else to total 100%)” then that’s fine, you can have pop quizzes, or not.

If the syllabus says the grading scheme is X% assignments, Y% midterm, Z% final, then no, you cannot suddenly decide you want to start adding quizzes, or add a term paper, or whatever simply because you feel that the students aren’t reading enough.

The syllabus is treated as a bit of a contract: you sign up for this course, this is what you get. If you don’t like it, drop the class (and if it’s a mandatory class, then at least you know the grading scheme ahead of time and can work with it). Some teachers do decide to offer an alternate grading scheme, but it is usually one that benefits the students (have the final count for more to make up for a bad midterm grade), but they do need approval of the students in order to do it. I don’t know the exact wording of the policy, but that is the policy, as it is used in every class I’ve taken.

As for the rest of what you said… slippery slope, much? Besides, random body cavity searches violate our Charter of Human Rights (I hope!), and actually, a prof could randomly bark like a dog whenever they wanted without declaring it in the syllabus, since it doesn’t affect grading.

When my online credentialing class did that, I just replied to other students. I had been teaching already, and I had been part of enough discussions on and off the job to make reasonable contributions without actually reading the book. I think I cracked that thing once for the whole class.

I think the reading quizzes are a good idea, though. My problem is that HS sophomores are very unlikely to actually understand a chemistry book cold. Heck, I can barely get myself to read it, and I actually understand it.

I let HS students do retakes, but I’ve had to institute penalties for each, and you get the new grade, period. If you’re here without studying enough, then leave. You’re wasting both of our time. Maybe you’d really rather have a tutoring session now instead of a retake?