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Dear Student: Read the Book!

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I once taught a class in which all but one student failed the midterm – an open-book exam.

As we reviewed the results, it became apparent that the students had not been keeping up with the readings in the textbook. They had assumed that the test would be easy and that they could simply use the index to look up answers they didn’t know off the top of their heads.

That explained why the students didn’t offer much during class discussions. The students who actually took notes did not fail as badly as the others, but their answers were largely a regurgitation of my lectures.

“I don’t teach to the book,” I told them. “The textbook gives you baseline knowledge so the lectures make more sense. If I’m going to tell you everything that is already in the book, then why make you buy it?”

“So this was a trick exam,” one student replied.

“The trick,” I said, “was you didn’t read.”

Typically, I have found, students don’t read unless there will be a test or homework assignment and then they read just to answer questions, not for comprehension or critical thinking. Some bring textbooks to classes that clearly have never had a page turned because they want to get as big a refund as possible when they sell them back to the bookstore. Still other students don’t bother to buy the book. They just hope the professor will reserve a copy in the library or that they can photocopy pages from a friend’s book.

The more you know, the better you will perform. Reading may not always be fun, but it is fundamental.

 

Dear Student:

I get it. Textbooks are expensive. But they are critical to your education – especially those books related specifically to your major. There are ways to mitigate expense. You can rent the book or buy a used copy.  Sharing with a friend or roommate seems like a good idea; and it usually works until she isn’t around to let you borrow the book or needs it at the same time you do.

It is also important to keep up with the readings. Follow the syllabus and don’t assume that because the professor doesn’t reference the book directly that the lecture or assignment is not related. These tools work hand-in-glove. They are not intended to be repetitive.

College is not a necessary evil to be gotten through as quickly as possible. The love of learning should drive you. At minimum, the readings in your textbooks help you build a solid foundation in your field and, at best, provide a solid reference you can turn to when a lecture or assignment doesn’t quite make sense.

For sure, a book cannot help you learn if you never open it.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Jackie Jones is assistant dean for programs and chair of the Department of Multimedia Journalism in Morgan’s School of Global Journalism & Communication.

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