pleasureinlearning is pleased to introduce Ryan Ray, an assistant professor in the Professional & Technical Studies division. Like his colleague Stuart Zieman, Ryan encourages his students to use reading to solve real-world problems.
I was asked to write something about reading in the classroom and how it affects my class. I am a teacher of accounting, so to me most reading is centered around problems and situations that require critical thinking skills. If you are unaware of a subject that you are reading about, how can you understand a problem or come up with a solution on that subject unless you not only read well but critically? If the problem is presented in exactly the same manner as a text does, perhaps you may memorize the format alone and not attain any understanding of function. What happens if the format changes, the wording changes, or the question is simply asked differently from the original? In most cases students get the question wrong and, more to the point, they fail to learn the required skill.
The trend of decreasing reading scores, skills, and not reading at all in the past few years has led to progressively lower scores. As a result, many instructors in critical thinking fields have begun to constantly re-evaluate the methods they use.
In my current courses, I use the following approaches to try and coerce the skill of reading from my students.
- My textbooks are chosen with real world and current examples. Many of the problems relate to current trends in business to catch the eyes of students in a field where they are already curious.
- My testing requires essay questions for some portions of the exam. Many times, the textbook alone cannot give a complete solution. For instance, I may offer a compare-and-contrast essay or a question that requires the student’s own thought along with contextual material from a text.
- I occasionally have writing assignments where I ask mainly analytical questions so that I can ascertain how much is merely a “copy and paste” of knowledge and how much is the student’s mind trying to grasp the concept. I mentioned critical thinking and that is where I focus. Without reading, that is not possible.
- The final area that I really think encourages students to read in snippets or sections, if not the chapter as a whole, is in the problem multiple choice questions on my exams. There are very few questions in the text that appear in this manner. My questions are usually setup in problem/essay form.
These types of analytical questions in accounting require students to not only dissect the wording of the question and the individual answers but also to take the concepts and applications within the book and place them into use. Most often students have to combine two elements from different sections in the book. The better students understand the connections between the concepts and the problems, the better they seem to perform on these questions.
So that is my methodology and focus in the accounting area: creating student success by coercing knowledge dissection, extraction, and reformulation… basically, mixing reading and critical thinking to yield “critical reading.”