Course Design Bootcamp

Have you heard of the Course Design Institute? How about the Course Design Bootcamp? Join the CTL in a streamlined sequence of workshops and activities to learn backwards course design approaches to (re)develop your course. Two consecutive Friday afternoons. March 17 & March 24 | 2PM to 5PM | LINC 307 | Space is limited. Register here.


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Canvas Hack: Using Outcomes to Generate Assurance of Learning Reports


John MorrisAbout the Author: John Morris is Senior Instructor I in the College of Business. Prior to joining OSU in 2009, he worked at Hewlett-Packard Company in software and technology training. He was part of the OSU Blackboard to Canvas LMS (Learning Management System) transition in 2013 and 2014 and was a College of Business Peer Supporter during the Pandemic in 2020 and 2021. He is the course coordinator for BA 466 – Integrated Strategic Experience, the capstone course for business majors that is delivered by seven faculty members to about 900 students each year.

If you knew me, you would know that I have a lazy streak that disguises itself as keeping busy. I’ll work for an hour to do something if it will save me 15-minutes every quarter. My math is straightforward even if my time horizon can sometimes be a little problematic. That is, if I only employ my hack three times, I’ve technically wasted time in the process. If it feels like a repetitive task, however, I’m willing to gamble with my outlay of time.

The OSU College of Business (COB) is accredited through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). As part of accreditation, faculty are expected to measure specific learning outcomes to track student performance and improve teaching strategies (instruction, assignments, and course structure.) BA 466 measures student performance for four AACSB learning outcomes. While AACSB accepts sampling of student success, I had the idea that we could track performance at an individual level with less work and greater utility using the Outcomes function of Canvas.

When I took on the role of course coordinator in 2019, I consulted with our OSU Canvas guru, Tasha Biesinger, about how to use Canvas Outcomes. Tasha told me that Canvas Outcomes are a lot of work and few people at Oregon State were using them, making it somewhat uncharted territory, and something I was welcome to tackle it if I wanted. Instructure [parent company of Canvas] supplies some excellent resources on the topic including, What are Outcomes? and Overview: Improved Outcomes Management Feature Preview. When I presented my ideas to BA 466 faculty, they agreed to build Outcomes so we could measure our four AACSB learning outcomes collaboratively. I don’t think any of us, including me, knew the size of the task we were taking on!

Set up is done one time only and can easily be recycled using Canvas’s course copy function; run refers to the process each quarter of capturing learning outcome progress. Canvas Outcomes are added to Rubrics in a similar fashion as Criteria, but they behave differently. You can build a Criteria when creating your Rubric, but Outcomes must be built ahead of time and found when building or editing a Rubric.

Faculty grade students as they normally would for any assignment, clicking the ratings in Speedgrader for the Outcomes added to the Rubric. The Learning Mastery Gradebook must be enabled from course Settings. Enabling the feature allows you to select it in Grades and the contents downloaded to a CSV file for use in spreadsheet software like Excel or Sheets.

A critical enabler in our effort was the creation of an automated spreadsheet developed by COB Assistant Dean of Accreditation Byron Marshall, Ph.D. We copy/paste the CSV data from Canvas into an automated spreadsheet that takes the tedium out of the sorting process. The automated spreadsheet produces a matrix of numbers, sorted by section and instructor, showing the criteria and a composite result for each. Go here for a complete description of the workflow.

We set up and ran our first collective assessment in 2022Sp with four faculty members assessing 174 students. The process was replicated in 2022Fa for another two sections and 82 students. We had some stumbles along the way when some faculty didn’t fully understand the workflow. Importantly, once the course is closed by the Registrar, if the Learning Mastery Gradebook was not already enabled, faculty must impose on Canvas Support to enable it.

With data collected quarterly and faculty experimenting with different strategies to improve student outcomes, we now have robust, data-driven conversations about what works and what doesn’t to produce good student performance. We’re still fine tuning the process and we expect that improving our teaching will never end. Although we’re a long way from transforming teaching from art to science, now our conversations about student performance also includes student-level, venue- and modality-specific data.

As for my lazy streak, I spent more than an hour (obviously) working out this process. But now that we have a process, me and my colleagues in BA 466 have turned a 2 to 3-hour task done annually into a 5-minute task done quarterly. Since this is a task with a long-term horizon, this was one effort with a high return-on-investment!

For Oregon State University Canvas resources and support, see

For more information about learning outcomes, see the OSU Student Learning Outcomes Policy and the Student Learning Outcomes page

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Tackling ChatGPT Head On: A Student Assignment

It is hard to not see a reference to ChatGPT in musings and reflections on higher education today. The A.I. software that can write essays, responding to most prompts with ease, is worrying many faculty who fear students will use this technology to cheat.  Students can, and probably will, use this software.  What they use it for is the question. Faculty can play a big role in what students use ChatGPT for and how students use ChatGPT.

Here at Oregon State University the Office of Academic Affairs has pulled together a group of key members of the faculty who with staff from the Center for Teaching and Learning, Academic Technologies and UIT, and Ecampus, will provide pedagogical guidance in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, two recent posts provide a quick story so far. OSU’s Dr. Inara Scott (College of Business) wrote a blog with some initial recommendations for faculty and compliments a recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece which provides some key sources for further information including webinars.

The fact that with ChatGPT there are “appropriate” and even beneficial, exciting, and useful uses is lost on many. It is a pedagogical affordance that many faculty are taking advantage of and should as AI is just going to get better.  I came across one great example I wanted to share. Dr. Morton Ann Gernsbacher is the Vilas Research Professor and the Sir Frederic C. Bartlett Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin. She provides a great assignment on how to face ChatGPT head on and provides key insights into how to think about ChatGPT. She agreed to allow me to share her recent thoughts from social media.  Make sure you check out her pdf with links too.

Hi everyone. I’ve developed a ChatGPT assignment that meets my pedagogical goals, and I thought I’d share my assignment with others if they’d like to use it. As with all my assignments, all the materials are open-access, so feel free to use whatever you’d like!

My goals for the assignment were the following:

1) Require students to become familiar with ChatGPT.

2) Require students to experience that ChatGPT can be erratically accurate.

3) Require students to become familiar with a ChatGPT detector.

4) Require students to commit to informing me if they use ChatGPT for their work in my course.

I required students to become familiar with ChatGPT, my first goal, for both equity (I don’t want some students to be aware of it but not others) and because my course is upper-division and titled “Psychological Effects of the Internet” (although I plan to use a version of this assignment in all my courses, including Basic Stats and Research Methods).

I achieved this first goal by excerpting two recent popular press articles and a collection of recent Tweets about ChatGPT showing both its power and its pitfalls. For the Tweets, I tried to spotlight at least one celebrity (Flavor Flav!).

Also, because my ChatGPT assignment occurs in my course’s first unit, during which students have been learning about previous technological moral panics (some centuries old, e.g., printed novels, recorded music in movie theaters, hand calculators, even ballpoint pens), students in my course were assigned two additional brief articles about moral panics over technology.

Students were then assigned two recent Tweets (well, one Tweet and one Mastodon post) written by educators recommending that the best way to avoid a moral panic about ChatGPT is to teach students how to use it critically (aka: apply critical thinking), which is what I aspired to do.  Therefore, for my second goal, that of requiring students to experience that ChatGPT can be erratically accurate, I constructed six questions about my university (University of Wisconsin-Madison). I had pre-tested these questions to feel confident that ChatGPT’s answers would be somewhat correct but also incorrect.  I required students to use their critical thinking to evaluate the responses ChatGPT provided, and so far, that is working out well. Not every ChatGPT response is 100% inaccurate, and even if some would be 100% accurate, students need to use critical thinking to distinguish the accuracies from the inaccuracies.

For my second goal, that of requiring students to become familiar with a ChatGPT detector, I again did that for equity (I again didn’t want some students to be aware of it but not others). Students were required to copy/paste the text of one of their own previous assignments into the ChatGPT detector and to copy/paste the text of a ChatGPT-generated assignment into the detector.

So far, the ChatGPT detector activity is working well, with the detector typically considering the students’ assignments as “99.9% Real” and the ChatGPT-generated assignment as “99.9% Fake.” However, along the way I learned an interesting quirk about the detector.   What I found was if I copied/pasted into the ChatGPT detector the exact same text from a PDF versus a Word document, the ChatGPT detector treated it differently!  The content was verbatim the same. Literally, every single word was the same. But copying from the PDF caused funky line breaks (as I think we’ve all experienced when copying/pasting from a PDF). And those funky line breaks somehow caused the detector to think the content was “Real” rather than “Fake” (aka: ChatGPT created).

Copying/pasting from a Word doc (or I’d guess a Google doc, Pages file, or anything without hard line breaks) seemed to do the trick; the detector identified the ChatGPT-created text as “Fake.”

I tested this multiple times and even asked someone else to test it. Every time, the funky line breaks caused the detector to claim the text was Real; the normal line breaks caused the detector to accurately claim the text was Fake.

I was stumped by this and consulted a colleague who does a lot of machine learning (like the ChatGPT AI bot is — and who has *almost* been as obsessed about ChatGPT as I have) was equally stumped about this.  I think the bottom line is that the detector isn’t 100% foolproof, and that’s good for instructors to know if they’re planning to use it for grading purposes.

Lastly, I required students to commit to the following statement: “I know that in this course I can use ChatGPT, but I must always apply critical thinking to anything ChatGPT tells me AND I must always make a Gradebook Comment (not a Discussion Board post, but a Gradebook Comment) telling the instructor and TAs whenever I have used ChatGPT and how I have used it.”

The entire assignment is attached in a PDF with links. As I mentioned before, please feel free to use whatever parts you’d like to use.

Over the past two weeks, I have learned a lot about ChatGPT. If anyone would like to engage with me more about this topic, please feel free to email me at Thank you so much!

Thank YOU, Dr. Gernsbacher.

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It’s January Again, Time for New Year’s Teaching Resolutions

Every time I teach, there are elements that I notice that I want to change. I often have a clear idea of what needs to be different (often right as I walk back from finishing class), but I do not always get around to making the change. As CTL Executive Director, and someone who reads and writes about pedagogy (click the image or see the Teaching Professor for some recent work), I often find myself thinking, “Yes, I have to try this or that more in my class.” Then, like an academic version of Groundhog’s Day, the Bill Murray comedy where Bill relives the same day over and over, I forget to make the change and teach the same class all over again. Every new term is like New Year’s day and a New Year is a great time for resolutions. Have you made any teaching resolutions for Winter 2023?

A word of warning. A lot of New Year’s  resolutions quickly drop off. If you have problems keeping to your teaching resolutions, here are some ways to make them more likely to happen.

Focus on small changes and make time for it. Let’s start with what you set as your pedagogical resolutions. Part of the reason our resolutions often fail is that we decide on a one-time fix or try to change too many things at once. With teaching, think of one item (e.g., I want to make my syllabus warmer) then carve out the time for change or miss the window to change (for syllabi, before class starts). Then make the change more likely to happen by scheduling time for change. Create time before each new class to make changes. Set aside time during each class where you reflect on what changes are needed. (A good time is after a formative evaluation; see the 2×2FA method.) As much as you want to move on to a break, take time right after a class to list your changes. Here are a great list of resources from the CTL, Academic Technologies, and Ecampus.

Develop a mechanism for change. We have all had classes that did not go well. Maybe we did not cover a topic well, a demonstration failed to demonstrate anything, or we did not anticipate how a difficult a concept would be and so did not have good examples ready. In the moment, it is crystal clear what needs to be different. Make sure you keep a list of what you want to change. I use Post-it notes. Whenever I see something I want to change, I write it on a note and post it on my desk. It stays there until I make the change. I also write short notes for change on my syllabus. Find a way to keep track of what you want to change, and that will be in your face to nudge you to change.

Assess your readiness for change. One of the biggest reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail is that people are not ready for the change. Change is more likely when we make small steps toward change and consider how the changes will lead to better outcomes. The research is clear: change succeeds only when people actively move themselves from contemplating change to action. Know where you are, and actively push yourself forward to the next stage to make change more likely. A model of change  for faculty development (Dormant, 2011), urges us to move from awareness (we are passive about potential change with little idea of what to do), to curiosity (we seek information to change and its benefits) to mental tryout (working through the change and its implications) to hands-on tryout (a commitment to implement change) to adoption. The CTL can help. Set up a one-on-one chat.

Change is rarely easy. May these tips start you on your way to ongoing, effective change in class (and perhaps life too).  May you have a great 2023 Oregon State!!!


Dormant, D. (2011). The chocolate model of change. Author.

About the author: Regan A. R. Gurung, Ph.D. is Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Oregon State University and Professor of Psychological Science. This piece is adapted from an upcoming article for The Teaching Professor.

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Alternative grading: A framework for emphasizing learning and de-emphasizing grades

Grades Can Hinder Learning. What Should Professors Use Instead?What does an A, B, C, or D really mean in terms of student learning? Grades are overly emphasized in the assessment of student learning. Instructors give agonizing attention to decisions about how many points or how much partial credit to allocate to students’ work. Students stress about the points they get and oftentimes engage instructors in uncomfortable conversations about how to get more points. The fixation on grades at the expense of deep learning has generated widespread criticism of the traditional points- and letter-grade system.

Critics note that grades tend to diminish students’ intrinsic interest in learning, take the focus off feedback, produce anxiety, cause learning to stop, promote cheating, and perpetuate a fixed rather a growth mindset (Kohn, 2011; Stommel, 2020). The perception that the traditional grading system is broken (Nilson, 2016) has fueled the emergence of an ungrading movement that calls for replacing the traditional points- and letter-grade system with narrative assessments and having students give themselves a grade (Blum, 2020).

To grade or not to grade? Getting rid of grades is not the immediate or only answer. Instructors teach in graded systems. Grades will continue to be the currency of the evaluation of formal student learning in most higher education settings for the foreseeable future (Schinske & Tanner, 2014). Besides, ungrading (as the movement is often called) may inadvertently contribute to equity gaps (Talbert, 2022). There is a better approach to grading.

Alternative grading is the umbrella name for criterion-referenced grading practices that engage students in striving to achieve mastery of course learning outcomes. It is an all or nothing approach with multiple feedback and revision opportunities to help students address their mistakes and correct them. It is a significant departure from traditional grading practices where students usually have a single opportunity to show proficiency (Townsley & Schmid, 2020). Variations of alternative grading include mastery-based testing, standards-based grading, and specifications grading (Elsinger & Lewis, 2020; Kelly, 2020; Nilson, 2015).

What are the benefits of alternative grading practices?  Anecdotal reports indicated that most students appreciate the opportunity to redo tests and assignments as they work toward mastery of learning outcomes. The absence of letter grades, numerical scores, or partial credit on tests and assignments motivated students to pay close attention to instructors’ feedback and use it to revise their work. Instructors reported that alternative grading fostered greater student engagement, reduced test anxiety, and greatly decreased complaints about grades (Blackstone & Oldmixon, 2019; Pope et al., 2020). Beyond anecdotal reports, research evidence affirmed that the application of alternative grading methods improved students’ learning. Here are two examples:

  • One college algebra class of 140 students used a traditional points-based grading system and a second class with 50 students utilized standards-based grading (SBG). From college algebra, students went on to trigonometry or survey of calculus. The researcher tracked students in both pathways. In trigonometry, comparison of SBG students with a lower math placement score and traditionally-graded students with a similar placement score showed a significant difference. SBG students had an average final grade of 3.0 compared to traditionally-graded students who had an average final grade of 2.03. In survey of calculus, SBG students with a lower math placement score had an average final grade of 2.22 compared to their counterparts with an average final grade of 1.88 (Zimmerman, 2020).
  • Specifications grading was used in six sections of an undergraduate cell biology course in Spring 2019. Two sections used a traditional grading system. The end-of-semester survey indicated that the students enrolled in the specifications-graded sections demonstrated significantly higher knowledge and retention of the content being assessed than their peers in the traditionally-graded sections (Katzman et al., 2021).

Furthermore, the results indicated that SBG helped to close the achievement gap for disadvantaged students who entered the math sequence less prepared. Also, the use of specifications-grading fostered student understanding and retention of course content.

Finally, how do alternative grading methods work? Here are three preparation guides that instructors can adapt to implement these methods in their courses:

Implementing an alternative grading method requires a significant amount of work. If a comprehensive adaptation is not feasible, faculty can start small by incorporating simple ways to take the spotlight off grades (Miller 2022). Examples include grading some assignments and tests satisfactory or unsatisfactory (S/U) and giving students opportunities to use the instructor’s feedback to learn from their mistakes and revise their work.


Blackstone, B., & Oldmixon, E. (2019). Specifications grading in political science. Journal of Political Science Education, 15(2), 191-205.

Blum, S. D. (2020). Just one change (just kidding): Ungrading and its necessary accompaniments. In S. D. Blum (Ed.). Ungrading: Why rating students undermines learning and what you can do (pp. 53 – 73). West Virginia University Press: Morgantown.

Elsinger, J., Lewis, D. (2020). Applying a standards-based grading framework across lower level mathematics courses. PRIMUS, 30(8-10), 885-907.

Katzman. S. D., Hurst-Kelly, J., Barrera, A., Talley, J., & Javanon, E. (2021). The effects of specifications grading on students’ learning in an undergraduate-level cell biology course. Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education, 22(3), 1-8.

Kelly, J. S. (2020). Mastering your sales pitch: Selling mastery grading to your students and yourself. PRIMUS, 30(8-10), 979-994.

Kohn, A. (2011). The case against grades. Educational Leadership, 69(3), 28-33.

Miller, D. M. (2022). Ungrading light: 4 simple ways to ease the spotlight off points. Chronicle of Higher Education.

Nilson, L. B. (2015). Specifications grading: Restoring rigor, motivating students and saving faculty time. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.

Nilson, L. B. (2016). Yes, Virginia, There is a better way to grade. Inside HigherEd.

Pope, L., Parker, H. B., & Ultsch, S. (2019). Assessment of specifications grading in an undergraduate dietetics course. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 52(4), 439-446.

Schinske, J., & Tanner, K. (2014). Teaching more by grading less (or differently). Life Sciences Education, 13, 159 -166.

Stommel, J. (2020). How to ungrade. In S. D. Blum (Ed.). Ungrading: Why rating students undermines learning and what you can do (pp. 25 – 41). West Virginia University Press: Morgantown.

Talbert, R. (2022). Ungrading after 11 weeks. Alternative Grading.

Townsley, M., & Schmid, D. (2020). Alternative grading practices: An entry point for faculty in competency-based education. The Journal of Competency-based Education, 5(3), 1- 5

Zimmerman, J. K. (2020). Implementing standards-based grading in large courses across multiple sections. PRIMUS, 30(8-10), 1040-1053.








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Center for Teaching and Learning Opportunities

CTL Team

May you have a smooth end of Fall term – The CTL Team

We are nearing the end of Fall term.  As we descend into the hectic last week of the term, here are some great opportunities for December and beyond (space limited so sign up soon). Also help us shape your future faculty development options by taking this 3 min survey.

Course Design Institute: Join CTL and a multi-disciplinary group of faculty to (re)design a course. Meet for 2 intensive days to learn about course design – including learning objectives, assessments, and instructional practices using your preferred framework and modality. Plan to leave the institute with a course plan, soft syllabus, and a welcome message for your learners! Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 | 9 AM to 4 PM | LINC 307 | Space is limited. Registration.

Funded Professional Development for Fixed Term and Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty: Join the CTL’s Winter ‘23 Resilient Teaching Faculty Learning Community. Explore pedagogical strategies to adapt to the changing teaching and learning landscape, and to build resilience into our teaching practices. See the call for participation and submit an expression of interest by Dec. 2.

Increasing SLE Responses:  This web page provides pointers on what you can do to increase student evaluation response rates.

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Enhance Your Teaching While Building Resilience

Resilient Teaching Faculty Learning Community Winter 2023 Call for Participation Apply Now for an enjoyable way to energize your Corvallis or Cascades campus teaching this winter? Searching for a supportive community of faculty focused on resilience and improvement of teaching?

Join the Fall ’22 Resilient Teaching Faculty Learning Community sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Academic Technologies. A small cohort of faculty from across OSU will explore solutions to teaching challenges, share strategies to build resilience in teaching, and learn ways to use ed tech tools to integrate in-class and out-of-class learning.

CTL provides $1,500 in professional development funding to faculty who participate in the learning community. Participants will have the opportunity to address personal teaching challenges while supported by CTL, Academic Technologies, and their teaching colleagues.

Interested? See the Winter ‘23 Call for Participation and apply by Dec. 2.

Questions? Contact CTL

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Media Hub Open House

Faculty Media Center and Student Multimedia Services have combined into MEDIA HUB!

Come meet your Media Hub team, tour the studios, and learn about how Media Hub can help elevate your multimedia content during their Open House: Tuesday, October 25th from 1:30 to 4:30, in the Valley Library 2035.

Media Hub provides collective services and resources open to all faculty, instructors, and students, and they specialize in academic multimedia needs.

Whether it’s designing a print, creating a podcast, multimedia content creation assistance, capturing content for lessons, and beyond – Media Hub is your one-stop-shop for giving your instructional content that extra boost!

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CTL Welcomes New Blended Learning Faculty Fellow

Dr. Meg MobleyThe Center for Teaching and Learning is pleased to announce that Meg Mobley, Senior Instructor of Crop and Soil Sciences (CSS), has been named the 2022-23 Blended Faculty Fellow.

Dr. Mobley has a Ph.D. in Ecology from Duke University and completed a postdoctoral research and teaching appointment at the University of Wyoming prior to coming to OSU in 2015. Beyond teaching across the full range of modalities, she is active in curriculum development, course and program assessment, and equity and inclusion efforts in the CSS Department. Dr. Mobley also played a key role in the pandemic pivot to remote learning, serving as a CTL faculty peer supporter for the College of Agricultural Sciences in 2020-21.

Dr. Mobley enthusiastically states, “I’m so excited to work with CTL as a Faculty Fellow! My goal as Fellow is to boost my OSU colleagues’ confidence in blending online and face-to-face approaches in ways that enrich both the teaching and the learning experiences. I bring to the CTL team my experience in face-to-face, hybrid, and Ecampus instruction, and my particular interests in responsive and interactive approaches – collecting and responding to data on student engagement, needs and interests; and developing interactive, student-led, and project-based learning activities. I look forward to applying some of these same approaches to addressing challenges that my colleagues face in their own teaching.”

Dr. Mobley will contribute to a variety of CTL projects and programming throughout the academic year including creation of faculty development resources, facilitation of faculty learning communities, and support of program assessment. As a Blended Faculty Fellow, Dr. Mobley will follow Dr. Raechel Soicher, who is completing her term as the 2022 Blended Learning Fellow this fall, and has done important work supporting faculty in high-enrollment blended course redesign and analyzing the structure of OSU high-enrollment courses.

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How to Read for a Course

About the Author: Syd Pruitt is a senior undergraduate honors student studying Psychology, English, and Education. She is currently in the process of applying to PhD programs around the country to further her study of Psychology and the impact that teaching and learning has on people throughout life.

Reading academic texts assigned in class is often perceived as one of the more laborious tasks in college. However, it is also a crucial part of the learning process and can contribute greatly to a student’s understanding of the material. There is an art and a science to getting value from reading. Once students learn some basic strategies, they will be able to more effectively complete reading assignments and be more successful. In this piece I provide helpful tips to share with students that can help them learn, written directly for the student.

Understand why you’re doing this

Use the syllabus to understand why your professor is having you read, whether it be to provide you with more in depth information than can be provided in class time, to offer different perspectives, or to give you a physical resource for study materials. You’ll be much more likely to be able to focus and care if you know the reason why (Kerr & Frese, 2017). Keeping a reading journal of open ended questions such as “Which two things were the most interesting for you to read about in this chapter and why?” or “List two questions that you have as a result of reading this chapter” to keep a journal of your thoughts either during or after reading a chapter. By writing and answering questions that the reading will answer, you will be able to think complexly about the material, and the journal will be a good study tool later in the term (Bartolomeo-Maida, 2016).

 Use technology to clarify confusing sections

 If you run into a specifically confusing part, consider reading out loud and having text-to-speech put it into a google doc, which you can highlight and edit to your heart’s content. Try rewriting a sentence using different words, add examples, and draw connections with the text. Seeing it through the lens of a different format can be very helpful (Kerr & Frese, 2017).

Read aloud: Think aloud

If you are stumped by a section, read it out loud and then immediately after, start discussing your thoughts out loud to yourself or another person on the subject in any way you see fit. Just being able to hear yourself think through a subject can be more straightforward than abstract thought, and having a partner that can counter your ideas is always helpful (Pergams, et. al., 2018).

Form Reading Discussion Groups

By talking about a section of the reading with others, you are able to gain a more diverse perspective on the text based on others’ understanding of the content, and are also able to talk through areas that you didn’t understand with someone who may know more. There are also opportunities to teach particular sections that you have a better understanding of (Oliver, 2022).

Tackling Long Readings

When dealing with longer readings, make sure that you flip through and look at the headings and subheadings, both to plan your reading session, and also to track the flow of ideas. In order to not get burnt out, try splitting up the reading into shorter sections, taking care to stop after a significant section to not cut off an idea in its tracks. Do something else in between, but try to avoid going on your phone or scrolling through the internet, as that can interrupt your reading flow. Continue reading in smaller sections until you are able to read the whole thing, and then you can go back through and delve into the more complex ideas (King, 2022).

Reducing distractions

Multitasking is one of the most harmful things you can do while studying, as it divides your attention, leaving less room for understanding the reading (David et al. 2015). Make sure that you reduce distractions by turning your phone off, putting it away, or even having it in a different place from you.

Practicing these key skills can help students make reading more palatable, increase the likelihood that readings will be completed, and most importantly, increase learning and retention.


Bartolomeo-Maida, M. (2016). The use of learning journals to foster textbook reading in the community college psychology class. College Student Journal, 50(3), 440+.

David, P., Kim, J. H., Brickman, J. S., Ran, W., & Curtis, C. M. (2015). Mobile phone distraction while studying. New media & society, 17(10), 1661-1679.

Kerr, M.M. & Frese, K. M. (2017). Reading to Learn or Learning to Read? Engaging College Students in Course Readings. College Teaching, 65(1), 28–31.

King, K. (2022). Reading Strategies.

Oliver, D. (2022). Pedagogical Approaches for Improving Reading Compliance and Discussion in Higher Education Classrooms. College Student Journal, 56(2), 151+.

W Pergams, O.,R., Jake-Matthews, C., & Mohanty, L. M. (2018). A Combined Read-Aloud Think-Aloud Strategy Improves Student Learning Experiences in College-Level Biology Courses. Journal of College Science Teaching, 47(5), 10-15.

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