Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

Encouraging Students to Be Readers: Survey Results of Successful Practices

Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

Encouraging Students to Be Readers: Survey Results of Successful Practices

Article excerpt

Motivating students to complete reading assignments is a problem documented across disciplines. Journalism and mass communication are no exception. This study used a Web-based survey to ask International Association for Literary Journalism Studies (IALJS) members and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Small Programs Interest Group (SPIG) listserv subscribers about (a) observations of student reading practices with longer forms of journalism and (b) successful practices for motivating students to read. Educators' learning goals for student reading and the strategies used to achieve these goals are discussed.

Keywords: journalism, literary journalism, mass communication, motivation, reading, teaching

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes

What mass communication and journalism educator has not been confronted with the challenge of motivating his or her students to read? Succeeding in this seemingly universal challenge is essential. Students need to read to learn. Educators know that reading will help students prosper academically and economically. In fact, reading has been positively correlated with "almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed," proving empirically that reading "change[s] lives for the better" (National Endowment for the Arts, 2007, p. 6). To assist mass communication and journalism educators with the important task of motivating their students to read, a brief summary of reading research from other fields is presented, followed by results from a survey of literary journalism and mass communication educators, over two-thirds of whom have 10 or more years of teaching experience. The teachers' (a) observations of student reading practices with longer forms of journalism and (b) successful practices for motivating students to read are reported.

Literature Review

The teaching of journalism and mass communication can benefit from an exploration of existing scholarship from education literature outside of these fields (Seamon, 2009). Studies in this area have found that student compliance with required reading assignments has declined steadily during the past few decades (Burchfield and Sappington, 2000; Clump, Bauer, and Bradley, 2004). Clump, Bauer, and Bradley's research (2004) indicates that less than 30% of students complete assigned readings before coming to class. To identify reasons for reading noncompliance, Lei, Bartlett, Gorney, and Herschbach (2010) examined published literature and found a number of causes: poor reading comprehension, low self-confidence, procrastination, lack of interest in the subject matter, underestimation of reading importance, and absence of regular homework assignments and in-class exercises. While this list appears daunting, the researchers provide some insight into possible solutions for helping motivate students to read: quizzes (pop or announced), participation points, extra credit points, and index card or handout use on exams. Options identified by other scholars include responding to reading in journals, (Hilton, Wilcox, Morrison, and Wiley, 2010), doing other reading response assignments (Roberts and Roberts, 2008; Coffman, 2010), using class time as a reading period (Davis, 1993), and, more generally, building on the skills, attitudes, and knowledge that students bring with them (Considine, Horton, and Moorman, 2009).

These strategies expose students to increased learning opportunities by engaging them with readings and providing feedback on their efforts. However, which approaches should mass communication and journalism educators use to encourage their students to read? Considerations include matching the strategy to the learning objective, strategy effectiveness, and student perceptions (Weinstein and Wu, 2009); however, the choice and effectiveness of these methods can vary from student to student and class to class. …

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