Article

Using Structured Reading Groups to Facilitate Deep Learning

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Abstract

Two significant challenges in teaching college courses are getting students to complete the readings and, beyond that, having them engage in deep reading. We have developed a specific group work format within our courses to facilitate both deep reading and active discussion of course material. Early in the semester, students are assigned to their small groups and a set of rotating group roles: discussion leader, passage master, devil's advocate, creative connector, and reporter. Students meet with their group regularly in class throughout the semester. Before each group meeting, they are to complete a set of readings and a reading preparation sheet for their given reading group role. In this article, we outline how to implement these groups, the benefits of them, and variations to the standard format. We also present quantitative and qualitative student evaluations of this group work format demonstrating the success of this teaching technique.

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... These teachers, it could be hypothesised, have enrolled because they are seeking ways to change and are already the actors arranging their own learning processes in ways that Kwakman (2003) valourises (2003). Parrott and Cherry's (2011) study suggests approaches to academic reading that can provide the support Le Fevre contends is necessary. Parrott and Cherry sought ways to engage learners with deep reading (requiring both individual and collaborative settings). ...
... A critical factor in structured reading groups such as Parrott and Cherry (2011) described is the interdependence of group members. In 1990, Little discussed strong and weak forms of teacher collegial interdependence contending that, in joint work, teachers were most dependent on each other. ...
... The teachers preferred the tightly structured reading groups (Parrott & Cherry, 2011). In the responses to the open-ended questions, twice as many of the teachers chose this academic reading structure compared with the other two choices combined (summarise and present a reading to a small group once a semester; weekly independent reading). ...
Article
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Engaging school teachers with academic reading is challenging for all teacher trainers, yet if teachers’ knowledge base is to be up-to-date the input of new research information is essential. Within the field of teacher professional development, few research studies focus primarily on teacher academic reading. On the Auckland New Zealand TESOL diploma course reported on here, academic readings are key. They theorise the weekly lecture topics and provide practical strategies that embed the theory. Three approaches to academic reading are used. These three approaches are the focus of the study reported here, exploring the attitudes of the 49 elementary and secondary school teachers over the two years of the part-time course. Quantitative questionnaire findings and relevant qualitative interview data which explicate the quantitative findings are reported on. The key finding was that, on average, the entire sample exhibited a large and statistically significant increase in engagement in academic reading over the two-year period. A majority of the teachers favoured the third approach to academic reading, being tightly structured, supportive reading groups rather than independent reading or reading presentation to a group. They valued the interdependence and reciprocity of the tightly structured reading groups.
... Roberts and Roberts (2008) point out that Sociology lecturers take the ability to read challenging texts for granted in their students, and expect them to read efficiently. Parrott and Cherry (2011) provide role-play activities that require students to support their claims with evidence. For example, they suggest that students take on roles such as reporter, connector and devil's advocate in discussion groups. ...
... Strategies such as using contextual clues for unknown words, distinguishing between main ideas and supporting details, and applying background knowledge to texts, should form part of the intervention programme. Explicit strategy instruction in areas such as accessing prior knowledge, making and revising predictions, making inferences, asking questions, creating mental images, monitoring and repairing comprehension, providing mental or written summaries, are to be taught and practised using Sociology or relevant texts (Brenner, 2015, p. 6;Parrott & Cherry, 2011). Parrott and Cherry's (2011) role-play techniques, which utilises characters such as 'discussion leader', 'creative connector', 'passionate reporter' would help to reinforce reading strategies. ...
... Explicit strategy instruction in areas such as accessing prior knowledge, making and revising predictions, making inferences, asking questions, creating mental images, monitoring and repairing comprehension, providing mental or written summaries, are to be taught and practised using Sociology or relevant texts (Brenner, 2015, p. 6;Parrott & Cherry, 2011). Parrott and Cherry's (2011) role-play techniques, which utilises characters such as 'discussion leader', 'creative connector', 'passionate reporter' would help to reinforce reading strategies. The regression analysis showed that students' strategy use predicted their self-efficacy and showed a significant correlation between the two factors. ...
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There have been a number of studies on reading interventions to improve students’ reading proficiency, yet the majority of these interventions are undertaken with the assumption that students’ reading challenges are obvious and generic in nature. The interventions do not take into consideration the diversity in students’ reading backgrounds and the specific nature of the challenges. Thus interventions may not address students’ specific reading needs. This paper reports on a study that explored students’ reading profiles as a needs analysis for an intervention programme to improve the reading proficiency of first-year Sociology students. The aim was to investigate the students’ reading backgrounds to determine their specific reading needs. A Likert scale questionnaire with an open-ended section was used to explore the students’ reading profiles. The Likert scale questions were analysed quantitatively, while the open-ended questions were analysed qualitatively. In addition, a regression analysis was conducted to determine the correlation between students’ use of strategies and their self-efficacy levels. The findings show that a number of students have little reading experience, use inappropriate reading strategies, and have low self-efficacy and poor reading habits. In addition, students identified comprehension, language, vocabulary, length and density of Sociology texts as factors compounding their reading challenges. This paper discusses the implications of these findings in designing an appropriate reading intervention programme for this cohort.
... Instructors should first detail their requirements for how to participate in the forums and provide rubrics for how students will be assessed (Clark-Ibáñez and Scott 2008;Martin et al. 2019). Then, they should develop structured-rather than open-ended or free-response-prompts that tend to promote higher-level thinking; instructors could assign roles to students (Parrott and Cherry 2011), such as a starter who explains his or her key takeaway from the reading and a responder who answers questions raised by the starter (Persell 2004), or they might write prompts asking students to connect concepts to their own experiences (Andreson 2009;Clark-Ibáñez and Scott 2008). An instructor considering a synchronous requirement to foster critical thinking-such as having groups of three to four students meet via Zoom to discuss course contentmay want to provide groups flexibility to schedule their own meeting times (Hsiao 2010). ...
... To maintain interactions, I created Project that requires any photos, as long as properly cited Two-to three-page paper that should use three concepts or resources from class Used same forum approach for duration of semester structured discussion forums using the groups that students had been assigned prior to remote instruction. For each class, students were either a discussion starter or a responder, reflecting the recommended practice of assigning roles for forum discussions, and prompts generally required students to write their own discussion questions, role play, and/or analyze data I provided (Parrott and Cherry 2011;Persell 2004). I held virtual drop-in office hours during our regularly scheduled class time to connect with students, and I met with nearly half of my students at least once. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic forced all face-to-face college courses to transition to remote instruction. This article explores instructional techniques used in the transition, student perceptions of effectiveness/enjoyment/accessibility of those techniques, barriers that students faced due to the transition, and race/class/gender inequality in experiencing those barriers. We used surveys in introductory courses by two instructors (the authors) to compare students’ reactions to our transitions and the transitions in their other courses. We found that which instructional technique instructors use is less important than how well they implement it for student learning. Although there is a tradeoff between enjoyment and accessibility, instructors can use techniques to increase accessibility of interactive formats. Internet and technology barriers were extremely common, even for students who did not anticipate problems. Most students experienced barriers to their learning due to the pandemic, including distractions, increased anxiety, and feeling less motivated, especially for nonwhite, female, and first-generation college students.
... Text group discussion has been deeply analyzed. For example, the interactions established among the reading participants enhance their communication skills (Finke & Edwards, 1997;Flood et al., 1994;Fredricks, 2012;Parrott & Cherry, 2011). In the established dialogues, participants share their interpretations of the text and discuss them and, consequently, there is a more in-depth learning of the content worked from the text (Chocarro de Luis, 2013;Hamouda & Tarlochan, 2015;Tynjälä, 1998). ...
... On the other hand, students emphasize the importance of the interactions with group peers (Flood et al., 1994;Finke & Edwards, 1997;Jarvis, 2000;Parrott & Cherry, 2011;Fredricks, 2012). The improvement of the comprehension of the text lies in the possibility of sharing with the classmates their first interpretation of the text, the resolution of doubts and the formulation of questions to the classmates, as well as the ability to clarify their interpretation of the text from the contributions of colleagues. ...
Conference Paper
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Reading is a core competency in learning processes of higher education as a tool for accessing discipline-specific knowledge. The aim of this case study is to analyse the impact of text group discussions on the academic skills of students at the Universitat d’Andorra (UdA). Qualitative techniques -non-participant observation, interviews and discussion groups- were applied to UdA students and faculty. Five student groups belonging to the Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (BTL), Bachelor of Computer Science (BCS) and Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) were studied. After processing the data with Atlas.ti, the first results were obtained. Evidences of a positive impact on the academic skills are identified. Firstly, both students and faculty indicated an improvement of the text comprehension mainly because of the peer interactions. Improvement of the critical and analitycal attitude, the own speech as well as the metacognitive learning are also highlighted as areas on which dialogic reading has positive impact.
... Professors can teach the skills needed to read and decipher difficult texts by providing scaffolding, learning tools, and regular assessments (Pugh et al., 2000). Multiple authors advise structured reading techniques that encourage students to slow down to ask and answer particular questions of the text they are engaged with (Keller, 2008;Macpherson Parrott & Cherry, 2011;Rautman, 2014;Roberts & Roberts, 2008;Williams, 2005). For example, regularly assigned small writing assignments that ask students to identify the thesis statement and supporting evidence in assigned texts promotes reading comprehension, critical reading, and student writing because students learn to model this style (Van Camp & Van Camp, 2013). ...
... Because of the challenges of difficult readings it is important as one instructor in our sample asserted, to "design assignments that assure reading and comprehension" and another advised to "assess students early and often." Describing assignments in detail is outside the scope of this paper, however the works cited includes numerous published examples of assignments that promote critical reading (Keller, 2008;Macpherson Parrott & Cherry, 2011;Roberts & Roberts, 2008;Van Camp & Van Camp, 2013;Williams, 2005). ...
Article
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This study of sociology faculty in twelve private colleges and universities compares teaching with textbooks and alternative texts in undergraduate classes. Faculty explain that textbooks provide a breadth of material that is organized and streamlined in a way that promotes consistency across instructors, facilitates content delivery to students with a range of abilities, and reduces course preparation time. Despite these benefits, faculty have a strong preference for alternative texts. Faculty argue that readings, like monographs and journal articles, develop students’ critical reading and thinking skills. Additionally, when instructors design courses with alternative readings they use their own critical reading and critical thinking, as they critique and synthesize the literature in their discipline in order to curate texts for the syllabus and work with them in the classroom. We argue that teaching courses with alternative readings creates course experiences where students and faculty engage with a discipline together.
... As a result, they are weak in constructing arguments, questioning and in providing written responses. Previous research on student learning shows that collaborative learning through reading groups is a strategy that can enhance active learning and deep reading among students (Parrott & Cherry, 2011;Pedersen, 2010;Snow, 2002). ...
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tudents’ perception and preference towards selected student-centered teaching learning activities: A preliminary study Abstract Student-centred learning is recognised as one of the best ways of improving deep learning and understanding in students. However, most students entering tertiary education have practiced spoon-fed learning approaches during primary and secondary education in Sri Lanka. Thus, the study was designed to assess students’ perception and preference on selected teaching-learning methods with the research question “which student-centred learning methods are preferred by students?”. The second-year students reading for the Medical Laboratory Science degree programme at the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, University of Ruhuna were selected for the study. Students were taught different sub-topics in Biochemistry during the semester by conducting a lecture, using the active reading method, the active writing method, the Jigsaw method, and tutorial-based teaching method. At the end of the term, feedback was collected using a self-administered questionnaire. The students’ preference was rated (0-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61- 80, 81-100 percent) for each teaching methodology and extra space was provided in the questionnaire to collect any other comments and perceptions on each method. Out of 23 students in the batch majority (91%, n=21) rated conducting merely a lecture as an ineffective way to enhance deep learning and understanding. Engaging students in active reading of recommended texts, and to make them present their learning, in groups of three, was rated as an interesting way of learning (96%, n=22). This gave them the opportunity to construct knowledge together and present it to their peers. Among teaching-learning activities given, learners preferred the Jigsaw Technique 72% (n=18), since could comprehend the given task during the time period. 20 students (87%) preferred leaning by problem-solving activities and tutorials to build confidence to face the Final Examination. The Active Writing Method which required students to produce a report on their learning was not rated as a popular activity. Many have expressed that giving time to prepare for special sub-topics and presenting their findings to peers helped improve their presentation skills, self-confidence and deep understanding of the concepts.
... Reading retreats were adapted from 'Structured Reading Groups' (Macpherson-Parrott and Cherry, 2011) and aim at engaging students with critical reading of academic journals, developing their depth of understanding and helping students to participate in active discussions about read materials, through critically analysing and summarising gathered information. Within the workshops, students take on various roles within the reading process: ...
... This led to the majority of students reporting better understanding of texts and concepts. Robert and Robert (2008) and Parrott and Cherry (2011) found that when given reading responsibilities for group discussions, students did their reading in order not to disappoint the group. In addition, because of the discussions that ensued in the groups, more meaning and insights were given with regard to the texts by various students in the group, resulting in the majority of students understanding the texts better. ...
Article
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Background: Student reading challenges have been reported worldwide. In many classrooms around the world, teaching students appropriate strategy-use has been a technique used to improve comprehension and improve reading proficiency. However, strategy-use instruction per se may not produce holistic results. Objectives: This article reports on an extended strategy-use instruction to improve students’ reading proficiency in a particular subject area. The technique of role-play, as well as an integration of affective strategies, was used to improve the cohort of first-year students’ reading of subject-specific texts. Method: The intervention was conducted by way of tutorials. A questionnaire was used to elicit students’ views and opinions after the intervention. The responses were analysed using content analysis of emerging themes. Results: Students reported benefiting from the intervention with respect to reading their assigned texts, as well as increased motivation. Conclusion: It is recommended that strategy-use instruction include other innovative techniques such as role-play to improve students’ reading proficiency in a specific subject.
... These discussions took place in person and/or via virtual discussion forums. In all cases, instructors assigned guided reading questions in advance, since previous research suggests that reflection questions or prompts help students engage in deep reading (Parrott and Cherry 2011). As discussed in the following, students surveyed about the book clubs said that the guided reading questions were essential to the success of the book clubs. ...
Article
Previous research has examined the use of nontraditional readings, particularly fiction, as a tool for teaching sociological concepts. Few studies have specifically looked at nonfiction monographs and ethnographies. This paper extends prior research by exploring how in-person and online book clubs using nonfiction texts can be used as a tool to engage and introduce students to sociological ideas. Book clubs were implemented in eight different sections across three courses. The structure and format of the book clubs varied considerably. We identify best practices for incorporating book clubs into sociology courses. Drawing on data from instructor-designed surveys, institutional course evaluations, and course exams, we also examine how book clubs influence student attitudes and learning outcomes. We conclude that book clubs can be adapted to fit a variety of courses and across different types of institutions.
... Values of adopting group work in teaching are also discussed from psychological, culture, humanistic and democratic perspectives [7] [8] . In particular, Parrott & Cherry [9] prove the success of using reading groups to facilitate both deep reading and active discussion. ...
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