February 17, 2011
WOOSTER, Ohio — Harry Gamble sighs when he hears one of his students whisper to another before class, “Hey, did you do the reading for today?” Gamble, a professor of French and associate dean for advising at The College of Wooster’s Educational Planning and Advising Center (EPAC), says it’s not an unusual occurrence, but as much as he wants his students to read their assignments, he is even more concerned about the way they read and whether they understand the purpose of those assignments.
Gamble and Pam Rose, director of Wooster’s Learning Center, are well aware of the volume of reading facing college students, and they know that many are not prepared to handle it coming out of high school, but their focus is more on intentionality and active reading, and what that requires. As a result, the two have partnered with Cathy McConnell, director of EPAC, to offer a reading skills workshop, which is designed to help students through the process. The 50-minute session is open to all students, but is intended primarily for those in their first year of college.
“Our main objective is to help students navigate their way through the dense material and figure out how to make the most of the time they spend reading,” says Rose. “We also want to help students orient themselves to a text by asking such questions as ‘Why did the professor assign this reading? How does it fit into the framework of the course? What do I think I already know about this text?, etc.’”
Gamble looks at what active reading entails, such as “using or generating discussion questions; adding things up as you go along, rather than at the very end; figuring out the most essential takeaways and writing them down; talking through readings with other students; and planning how you will discuss a reading in the classroom.”
At a recent workshop Rose, Gamble, and McConnell provided counsel and reassurance to an apprehensive group of students looking for ways to read more efficiently and effectively. The discussion produced a number of helpful strategies for dealing with the high volume of college reading, including the following:
“The bottom line is that there is no set formula for reading success,” says Rose. “Just because your roommate can read and comprehend a complex science chapter in an hour, does not mean that you can do the same. The best advice is to do what works best for you.”
And that includes being realistic, according to McConnell. “Many students want to know how to read faster,” she says, “but the reality is that it is something they have to schedule in their day, just like many other aspects of their ‘work’ as a student.”
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