Reading and Learning
Recently i had a revelation on why students struggled with paper 3 i.e. free response questions, as compared with structured questions in paper 2.
It has to do with the ability to read and glean useful information from words. This problem is especially stark for science students, because they tend to fall back on formulas and calculations, that when they are asked to READ, they flounder.
In fact, collectively, teachers notice a decreasing trend in the students’ capabilities to read critically. Their language ability seemed to have deteriorated quite significantly through the years. Certainly we’ve postulated several theories on why this has happened but since it does us no good to spend too much time speculating on the cause of this decline in reading ability, we shall instead turn our focus to how we can guide our students to read effectively.
How to read and glean important information from questions
- Get a teacher or someone who’s an expert on the subject matter to listen to how you interpret free response questions. Read aloud and write down any information you can extract from the question context. Proceed to write down your answer in response to the question.
- Likewise, ask the teacher to pen down his/her response to the question.
- Compare what is the difference and what is missing from your answer. Critically think about why these interpretations are missing from your answer and how you can implement this “disciplinary reading culture” into your future question analysis.
- It is important to recognize that every discipline has their own “reading culture” which allows for the experienced practitioner to derive richer contextual meaning (compared to a lay-person) from the materials given.
Try out the above exercise and let me know if it’s useful to you 🙂