Improving Textbook Reading Assessment in History Courses: A Case Study of Learning Blogs vs. Quizzes

Krista Sigler


The textbook is the Waterloo of History education. Even the most student-friendly books are often shunted to the side by students who are resistant to reading on their own. 

Despite this hostility to the textbook, it is an extremely important tool for broad survey courses where not all material can be covered in class. For my work at an open-access college in a public university, where many students lack any background in history beyond the basics of the American narrative, a class without a textbook is not a realistic option.

I have attempted to address this problem by making reading a point-earning exercise. In particular, I have had students take open-book online quizzes based on their textbook reading. While this is one measure of student reading, I am not convinced it is the best method for promoting reading (rather than hunt-and-search for quiz answers) and processing material.  For this reason, the problem being researched here is to compare the use of two popular means of assessing textbook reading. I will therefore investigate whether the use of learning blogs (summarizing and commenting on an assigned reading unit) better promotes textbook reading than reading-based quizzes as described before. In addition, I will discuss what insights surveys of student attitudes toward reading might give instructors.

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