How to get students to do activities (readings, quizzes, homework) prior to coming to lecture?

Research suggests that only 20-30% of students do assigned reading before coming to class (Burchfield & Sappington, 2000). Thus, in most cases, students need motivation for completing work if you expect most of them to do it prior to coming to class. Motivation (or rewards) can broadly come in two forms: social and formal credit related to overall grade. Social credit involves giving students opportunities (see e.g., base groups) to share their understanding (or seek clarification) of pre-class readings and activities with their peers. Formal credit involves giving students course points for completing pre-class activities (e.g., one-minute paper or D2L quiz).


  • It may seem overly simplistic, but one approach is to teach class as if students had done the reading. Students, on average, will be more apt to do the reading if they know that it will be near impossible to follow lecture if they don’t come prepared.
  • Read Idea Paper #40 on how to raise the value of course readings and integrate them with other class activities.


Double Espresso-level:

  • Develop base groups and reporting structures that logs and tracks pre-work done by each group.