What Are Your Students Reading?

Here is a question for everyone who teaches a class in Science: Do you know what your students are reading?

readingThink back, when you were assigned to or developed the classes that you currently teach, what was one of the first decisions that you made… I bet very early on you had to decide on a textbook.  Was this decision based on what was used in this class in the past or based on a preference of a text that you used in the past?  It may be that a new textbook has been written
and you really like the new presentation.  Regardless, any class usually starts with making a decision that is very personal to the professor.   It’s your favorite, or the best, or written by a personal friend.  In any case, you have, whether you admit it or not, an emotional investment in the textbook that you use…  Think about that for a minute!!  Am I right?  Keep that in mind as you ponder this next question.

Remember when you were a student, how did you feel about your textbooks? They were heavy.  They were awkward.  They were hard to read…. You did not have the same fuzzy feeling about your textbooks back then.  Today’s students are no different; except they have a much greater availability of information than we ever thought possible.    So back to our original question… What are your students reading for class?

We surveyed our inaugural medical school class (2009) as to how many students had purchased the textbook for physiology, 35% said they had purchased the book and 42 % said they actually read material from the textbook.  The remaining 58% of the class said they exclusively used online sources of unknown origin or accuracy.  Our medical school recently adopted an online textbook delivery system that is provided to 100% of our students via a fee.  Redoing the survey since this change shows that despite 100% ownership of the textbooks by the students only 56% of the students read information from these textbook sources, despite reading assignments from each professor.   So back to the question, what are your students reading?  Probably not what you think they are… Suggestion, survey your students and see what they think about reading your beloved wonderful personally chosen textbook. Don’t be disappointed; just be aware!


OsborneDavid Osborne received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Elon University with a double major in Biology and Chemistry, a Master of Arts degree in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Ph.D. from East Carolina University School of Medicine in Physiology. He served two Post-Doctoral Research Fellowships, one at Wayne State University School of Medicine and the second at Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport. He is a classically trained, whole system, physiologist with a research specialty in the regulation of growth and repair of the gastrointestinal mucosal epithelia. On the education side, David is interested in research on how to better deliver scientific knowledge to students and how to increase their long term recall of that knowledge. He has been teaching for 30 years. In that time, he has taught at the undergraduate level at the University of West Georgia where he has designed and directed the Pre-Medical program. Most recently, he was a founding faculty member at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, TTUHSC in El Paso Texas. David is currently a College Master and Professor of Physiology.


One thought on “What Are Your Students Reading?”

Thanks for your post, David. We know that it is important to understand and build on students’ prior knowledge, but many of us don’t always consider where students are getting their information during our courses. An interesting, recent paper on a related topic on pre-reading assignments for undergraduate physics & biology is Heiner, C. E., Banet, A. I., & Wieman, C. (2014). Preparing students for class: How to get 80% of students reading the textbook before class. American Journal of Physics, 82(10), 989-996.

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