What does it take? Getting freshmen to read the material before class

Fethiye Ozis, Meliksah Demir

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction to Environmental Engineering is a freshmen level introductory course that focuses on the Discourse of Environmental Engineering. For every class, the students learn new vocabulary, keep up with the course pace, and incorporate the terminology into their assignments. The students' struggle with the new language becomes more pronounced when they do not complete the assigned readings prior to class. "Reading to learn" remains to be one of the biggest challenges college students face in their first year, especially when we take nation-wide reading levels into consideration (US Department of Education, NAEP, 2015). In Fall 2015, a "Mind Dump" pedagogical strategy was implemented to encourage students to read the class material for pre-exposure. The students have 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence in class to write down everything they can remember from their reading (Whitman, 2015). Mind Dumps are used as cheat sheets during exams. The same procedure with the addition of guided reading questions were adapted for the Spring 2016 semester. Aggregated survey results from the first two semesters (N1=78, N2=75) showed that about one third of the students Agreed/Strongly Agreed with the statement "Mind Dumps make me complete my readings" one third was neutral and one third Disagreed/Strongly Disagreed with that statement. A new method, Classroom Preparation Assignment (CPA) was adopted in Fall 2016 for the third cohort (N3= 94). The students answered guided reading questions for the CPA and brought two copies to the class where one was collected at the beginning of the class, and the second was kept to take notes on during class. The CPA becomes a study guide for course assessments. This study compared CPAs against Mind Dumps in their effectiveness to encourage the first year Civil and Environmental Engineering students to read assigned material prior to the lecture. Class Preparation Assignments (CPAs) was the most effective technique to get students to read the material prior to the class. The study also looked at the differences between the three cohorts for their engagement and learning as associated with their reading. Interestingly, groups did not differ from each other on engagement and learning. Although engagement was a reliable predictor of learning in every group, reading the material made the biggest contribution to learning in third cohort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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