Increasing Students' Engagement of Assigned Readings using the 3-2-1 Technique 

Increasing Students' Engagement of Assigned Readings using the 3-2-1 Technique

What is this Research About?

An increasing problem that university instructors are facing is a lack of preparedness amongst students. Recent studies found that only 20 to 40% of students read the assigned texts and show up to class ready to participate. Although a simple solution may be to lessen the academic load for students, past studies indicate that high standards and expectations with readings and assignments lead to a deeper understanding of the course and material. Previous solutions have involved incorporating techniques such as weekly quizzes. However, studies have shown that quizzes encourage more surface-level learning rather than deep-rooted understanding and retention of course material. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate new ways to increase students' engagement, specifically their engagement with the assigned reading material. 

What did the Researchers Do?

In order to increase engagement of course readings, the researchers incorporated the 3-2-1 Reading Assignment technique into sociology courses. The researchers instructed the students to complete a written assignment consisting of three components. First, they were required to summarize the readings within three to five sentences. Next, the students were required to reflect thoughtfully and expand their thoughts on two points, (one convincing and one problematic point). Finally, the students were asked to pose one question that could be used for classroom discussions. After each assignment was submitted, the professor or teaching assistants provided feedback on the application of critical thinking skills, demonstration of knowledge, and the construction of informative questions. The researchers scored students’ 3-2-1 Readings Assignments using a grading rubric, to determine if reading comprehension increased over the course of the semester. 

What did the Researchers Find?

Researchers found that students’ scores on the 3-2-1 Reading Assignment increased over the course of the semester. These results suggest that prior to completing the 3-2-1 Reading Assignments, the average student had only mediocre reading comprehension and often misdirected their focus on unimportant aspects of the text. Over the course of the semester, students’ scores in all 3 areas (i.e., summary, analysis of the material, and generation of discussion questions) improved. Surprisingly, researchers also found that the students had the most problems with the summary section throughout their assignments rather than the analysis section. Problems with the summary section indicate that the biggest problem lies with the understanding of the reading itself, rather than difficulties with the critical thinking aspect. 

→ How to Implement this Research in Your Classroom

With educators struggling with students' engagement with class readings, techniques such as the 3-2-1 Reading Assignment Technique can be implemented to assure the students are reading and understanding the assigned materials. The 3-2-1 Assignment Technique requires students to write: 

  •  3-5 sentence summary section, 

  • a 2-point expansion of the reading section,  

  • 1 classroom discussion question.  

Students in this study had the most trouble with the summary section. Therefore, extra emphasis on simple reading comprehension in classrooms may be beneficial to the students’ understanding of the course content. Overall, utilizing the 3-2-1 method on assigned readings encourages more engagement from students as well as a deeper processing level of course materials by applying a critical thinking aspect and a more interactive approach.  

→  Citation

Cserni, R.T., & Rademacher, H.E. (2021). A 3-2-1 approach to undergraduate reading compliance and critical analysis, College Teaching, 69(4), 233-242. 

→  Keywords

  • Student Engagement
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Critical Thinking 

Creative Commons by logo This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Canada License

Snapshot Writer: Brooke MacLeod

Snapshot Publication Date: 2022