Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Use of Learning Journals to Foster Textbook Reading in the Community College Psychology Class

Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Use of Learning Journals to Foster Textbook Reading in the Community College Psychology Class

Article excerpt

Across disciplines, faculty members face a common challenge of finding methods to get their students to complete assigned course readings. It becomes an even larger task to develop strategies whereby students are also engaging in deep reading that promotes critical thinking. Reading positively impacts students on a number of variables, and when students do not read, they are considerably less likely to grasp difficult concepts and complete their coursework successfully (Ryan, 2006). This is especially important for community college students who enter college underprepared (Grubb, 1999) and may need assistance from faculty in providing structure for reading. Using a mixed- method design, this study examines the usefulness of a journal-type assignment created in a psychology course at an urban community college to foster textbook reading and critical thinking about the reading. Findings indicate that the majority of students in this sample did some level of reading, as evidenced by completion of the assignment. Student evaluations and scores on the assignment further suggest that the assignment fostered engagement with the reading and critical thinking.

Keywords: Community college students, textbook reading, psychology assignments

Background and Literature Review

College professors will not argue with Burchfield & Sappington's (2000) assertion that "students' compliance with reading assignments plays an important role in classroom social dynamics as well as individual achievement" (p. 59). Course reading benefits students on many levels including advantages in test taking (Sappington, Kinsey, & Munsayac, 2002), greater understanding of content related material (Ryan, 2006), retaining information from class lecture (Burchfield & Sappington, 2000), increased decisions to participate in class (Karp & Yoels, 1976), and more lively class discussions (Carkenord, 1994). When students are prepared for class, a more successful class session takes place (Solomon, 1979) and everyone benefits, including instructors who are often burdened by the thought that they have to "cover" everything. Extending beyond the classroom, employers increasingly cite deficiencies in basic skills among new college graduate hires. Hence, reading promotes not only academic success, but also may help with the skills and abilities that students will need to be successful in the workforce (Starcher & Profitt, 2011). Though there are a myriad of positive effects of reading, very often students are not in compliance with assigned readings (Burchfield & Sappington, 2000; Clump, Bauer & Bradley, 2004) even after urging from their instructors (Sappington, Kinsey, & Munsayac, 2002). In fact, only approximately one-third of students complete their text assignments on a given day with a decline found in reading compliance over a 16-year span (Burchfield & Sappington, 2000).

It is possible that some students don't read because they do not have a textbook. Students typically don't purchase a textbook for reasons such as finding them useless or too expensive (Sikorski et al., 2002). Even when textbooks are purchased, however, most students use them infrequently and spend less than three hours per week reading (Sikorski et al., 2002), with one study showing that while the large majority of students owned a textbook, less than half of the students completed the majority of the reading assignments (Starcher & Profitt, 2011).

Numerous reasons for non-compliance with reading have been discussed and, as cited in Starcher & Profitt (2011), include lack of student motivation (Rothkopf, 1988), lack of congruence between student and professor goals for the course (Nolen, 1996), and poor understanding of the role of the assigned reading (Brest & Bradley, 2006). Students may be too busy or too forgetful (Hoeft, 2012), lack useful exercises in class that may help them make the connection between reading and success on exams (Sappington et al. …

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