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Increasing Student Commitment To Class Preparation

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

New Program/Course Success Stories

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.750.1 - 10.750.5



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Paper Authors

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Susan Murray

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Increasing Student Commitment to Class Preparation

Susan L. Murray, Ph.D., P.E.

Engineering Management Department University of Missouri-Rolla


Most of us know the rule-of-thumb that students should spend a certain number of hours outside of class studying for every hour in class. Unfortunately, students often develop the view that it is more efficient to come to class and have the instructor cover the material and then only study material that was emphasized or unclear. As faculty members this results in the dilemma of either assuming the students are not prepared and lecturing over basic material or trying to require the students to prepare. Some use readiness quizzes covering the required readings. Some try to intimidate, calling on students to motivate preparation. Various other techniques have been used to coerce students into completing reading assignments before class.

In an attempt to improve the students’ level of preparation and the education dynamics within class, I modified the format of a senior-level engineering management course. Key to this change was a formal commitment from the students and from me as the instructor to approach the course differently and to take certain specific actions before and during every class. This paper reports on the results of this classroom experiment. It includes surveys from student participants and a group of control students to compare differences in attitudes, behaviors, and academic results. Comparisons are also made to other sections of the same course in previous years.


In the movie Mona Lisa Smiles, Julia Roberts portrays a new art history instructor at a private women’s college. She begins her first lecture in an introductory class and is shocked that the students already know all of the works of art she planned to present that day. As she becomes more and more flustered, one of the students reveals that they have already read the entire textbook. At first, this sends Julia’s character into a tailspin, but she recovers and develops a richer course that she and the students both enjoy and learn from. Many of us would argue that this is Hollywood fantasy, not any form of reality television.

But what if our students came to class and were truly prepared? What kind of rich discussions could we have? What would it be like to teach a roomful of engaged students? How could we create such an environment?

Murray, S. (2005, June), Increasing Student Commitment To Class Preparation Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14769

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