TIER Reading Assignment

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Struggle to get students to read the textbook?  Try out this technique to improve engagement with reading. 📚 


Idea: TIER reading assignments

I posted in the Facebook group last week with some statistics about students reading their textbooks.  Would you believe that 40% of your students read less than half to none of the assigned reading?  I certainly do (maybe because I was one of those students 😬 ).  


There are many reasons that students do not read the textbook.  But tapping into the student's internal motivation is a stronger pull than using external tools.  Avoid using in-class pop quizzes, forced participation or discussion questions based on the reading because these can lead to student embarrassment, can affect the student’s overall grade and do not promote lifelong learning.  Assume that your students have the internal motivation to do well and build on this.  

Instead, use TIER assignments.  This stands for THOUGHTFUL, INTELLECTUAL, ENGAGING RESPONSES.  Directly connecting the reading to something applicable in the student’s mind is the way to get them to remember.

How to:

Have students write in a notebook, use scratch paper or provide them blank paper.  The instructor will develop 3-5 questions that are easier to answer if the assigned reading is completed.  


When designing the questions, be sure that they are highly applicable to what the students would encounter at work or in clinical.  


Here are some examples for pharmacology class:

  1. Codeine is not used much for pain management today - why is that?

  2. What percentage of patients will have a reaction to penicillin?

  3. What is the best way to manage constipation caused by opioids?  

  4. Think about the last medication that you gave at clinical - how did you do educating the patient about the medication?



Having a special notebook for these questions really adds to the power and responsibility of completing these questions.  

For online courses, have students share one response via discussion board.  Allow them the choice of which question to answer.  If you can do virtual breakout rooms, have students discuss their responses in small groups.


Best for:  Heavy content that is difficult for students to put into context.

Trusting your students to be self-directed learners can be tough at first but clearly setting the expectations early will allow you to foster this skill and confidence in themselves.


Resources for further reading:

Starcher, K., & Proffitt, D. (2011). Encouraging students to read: What professors are (and aren’t) doing about it. International Journal

of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 23, 396-407.


Tofade, T., Elsner, J., & Haines, S.T. (2013)  Best practice strategies for effective use of questions as a teaching tool.  American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 77 (7).

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