Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not reading enough?

Posted on: April 14, 2015

Today I share some tweets that begin a story on whether academic papers are read and I end the story with questions on teaching practice.

Last week I shared this STonline article.

It received quite a lot of attention judging from the Twitter conversations I had with people I had never met before.

One short conversation with one academic focused on an important aspect that the article brought up. If university faculty are appraised in ways that do not promote more open sharing or public discourse, then little will change.

For example, if more appraisal points are not awarded for getting grants that require data and publications to be more openly shared [example], faculty will maintain the status quo.

Several others focused on people not reading the articles they cite or not reading deeply enough.

It led me to tweet about the need to read pragmatically.

Given the disproportionately large volume of readings compared to the time for academic writing, it is pragmatic for academics to read selectively.

For the layperson and other academics reading outside their specializations, selective reading becomes the default method because they do not have the same depth of knowledge.

It is not as if you need to read everything; it is whether or not you read enough to make good sense or to raise a valid counterpoint.

I used my Twitter dashboard statistics to see if these academics walked the talk. Big assumption: People pause to read and click on what they are interested in. Since this was about academic papers not being read and since the people who responded (Twitter engagements) were academics, I am making an assumption that most were academics.

As of Mon, 13 Apr, 4pm Singapore time, my tweet had received 1,546 casual views and 99 engagements.

Almost a third of the engagements (32) were clicks on the screenshot, presumably to read the snippet more carefully. Only 11% (9 clicks) of the engagements were to open the actual article.

There is no guarantee that those who opened the article actually read it or read it all the way through. Whether they read it is partly a function of their persistence and whether the article was behind a paywall. If they read the article in its entirety, there is no guarantee that they understood it or got what was intended.

This is not an attack on academics. As a former academic, I understand what the stresses are and I also know how fragile egos can be.

This is a statement about how teachers handle readings. Teachers might assign readings as homework or use readings to flip their classrooms. Such efforts are likely to suffer from the same low returns and similar problems as the example I described above.

Instead of providing closed answers, I ask open questions.

  • Are the readings you want your learners to consume available to them unconditionally?
  • Why do you want your learners to read something before class? Do they understand why they need to read before class?
  • What scaffolds are you providing or what prior knowledge have you activated prior to the reading?
  • Must they read everything or is it enough that they read just enough?
  • What provisions have you made for those that cannot do the readings, do not wish to read, or do not benefit optimally from readings?
  • What assumptions are you making when requiring only readings?

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