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Teaching Tip: Teaching Your Students How To Read Their OM Textbook

July 3, 2014

Over the past 4 decades, I have learned a lot about how students learn. Very few students, it turns out, sit down and read the chapters in our OM text from front to back. But after examining Reading Textbooks: Textbooks Are Not Meatloaf, by two psych profs, I would offer 2 pieces of advice to students: (1) read the text, and (2) attend the class lectures.

“No matter what the study method,” write the authors, “students must read the textbook to be successful in the course. While this might seem obvious to some, many students seem to think that just taking notes on lectures will be enough.” Two common mistakes students make are: (1) not bothering to read the book before going to the lecture on that topic, and (2) reading the text the same way they would read a novel–1st page to last. With a text, you have to read slowly, using the SQ3R method. Here it is.

SURVEY Look at the chapter you have been assigned. Read the outline and learning objectives. Then flip through the chapter, read the section headings, and look at the tables and figures. This skimming should take just a few minutes. Surveying the chapter helps form a framework for organizing information in the chapter for when you read it later.

QUESTION Now read the heading for the 1st section–only! Try to think of a question that this section should answer as you read. For example, in Chapter 6, you could ask, “Why is quality so important in a firm?” Now when you are reading, you are reading this section to find an answer.

READ Now read the section, looking for answers to your questions. Take notes by making an outline of the main points. Students who write their own notes score significantly higher on exams than students who merely highlight, which requires no mental effort.

RECITE  It may sound silly, but reciting out loud what you remember from the section forces you to put information in your own words. It gives you auditory memory. Now repeat the QRR for each section, taking a 10 minute break after every 2 or 3 sections. This gives your brain time to absorb the process.

RECALL/REVIEW You have now finished the whole chapter. Take a few minutes to try to remember as much of what you’ve learned as possible. A good way to do this is to take the Self-Test in the Rapid Review and to go to the text website at to take the Practice Quizzes.

Perhaps you would like to share these study tips with your students this coming semester!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2014 6:42 pm

    Nice advice, Barry. Of course, motivating students to follow tips such as these remains a challenge for all of us. Over the years, I’ve found that if I really want students to read something, I tell them to expect one or two “reading check” questions on the test from it (for items in the reading that weren’t in the lectures), and I have open-book exams. Somewhat surprisingly, even with open-book tests, for the most part those students who have read the material get the questions right, while those who have not read the material get the questions wrong most of the time. There’s just not enough time during the exam to read the material from scratch, even with an open-book test.

    Chuck Munson

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