I have a habit of asking one question nearly every class period we cover new material. After requesting that students close their eyes, I encourage them to raise their hands if they read the materials (chapter, article, text, etc.) in advance (before class).
After that, I ask which students (still by show of hands) used the SQ3R method we discussed. I may also ask for other preparation strategies, including highlighting or using chapter review questions. The point is, I like to see who came to class prepared.
Depending on the section, I have had up to about 2/3 of the class come in prepared to go. Of course, I have also had groups that less than 1/4 of students arrive prepared to discuss concepts. Why is this important?
Start with the basics: if you have ever had a conversation with someone who doesn’t know (or understand) the subject, it’s irritating and frustrating. Instead, we can invest our energy with people who DO know material. Conversations are more engaging, more energizing, and more fun with people who know the topic.
A lot of students believe that if they just listen to their peers, they can twist or turn their peers’ responses in a different way. That’s not thinking, though–it’s regurgitating. Be an individual: read the material yourself, think about it, and form an opinion. We can disagree with the interpretation of material, but we can also understand the concepts.
The other BIG reason we need to read in advance is that what we discuss may make more sense. I have been in meetings that I didn’t prepare effectively for, and I admit it: I struggled to keep up with my peers. When a particular term was brought up, or when a topic I didn’t know was discussed, I was LOST. Just reading and reviewing those concepts a little in advance can make all the difference in the world.
Try it before we get to the next chapter. See what you understand.