Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students don’t keep up with the reading.

Students think they can read the material just before an exam and get the same (or perhaps even greater) benefit.

Students need time to assimilate reading material and integrate it with their prior knowledge and the knowledge and skills they are building concurrently. However, students who lack certain meta-cognitive strategies may not understand the importance of appropriately spaced practice and thus may attempt to do all their reading in one sitting. If their scholastic experience has prepared them only for exams that require simple regurgitation of knowledge, they might have even found it beneficial to do all the readings just before the exam. While this may work in high school classes (and perhaps some poorly designed college courses), it’s unlikely to be an effective strategy overall.


Emphasize the benefits of appropriately spaced reading.

Discuss with students what the benefits are to them of allowing time to process the material.

Hold students immediately responsible for readings.

Create assignment and discussion criteria that make it impossible to leave all the reading until the end. It is particularly important to do this early in the course, to help students learn effective meta-cognitive strategies. You can remove this scaffolding by reducing such assignments as the students learn to take more ownership of the process and begin to recognize for themselves the value of keeping up with the readings.

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