DU instructors are using more active learning methods in class. In order to make the most out of class time, it is critical that students come to class prepared. However, this is not always the case. Although there are certainly many exceptions, studies have shown that as many as 50-70% of students do not come to class prepared.

Why don't students come to class prepared?

Studies about this issue point to various reasons why students do not do the readings or other pre-class work, including:

  • Didn’t have time or had other priorities
  • Didn’t find the readings of interest
  • See a weak connection between doing course readings and doing well in the class
  • No justification given for why they should read, or the reading selections chosen
  • Believe important course content will be covered in class anyway
  • Do not see connection between readings and class material
  • Found the readings too hard
  • Did not have the study skills to handle the assigned readings

 So, how do we find ways to try and motivate all students?

Female student at computer with coffee

Tips for encouraging students to come to class prepared

Think about why students might not see the point of doing the work before class in your course. You might even ask them directly for their thoughts. Then, consider changing your teaching approach to address these issues directly. 


  • Consider the usefulness of each reading/assignment and what you hope students get out of it, then communicate your expectations with students
  • Students like to know the “why”—Share the value, relevance, and purpose of pre-class work and communicate how the different assignments in your course contribute to the achievement of course learning outcomes.
  • Align pre-class workload with larger projects and assignments (i.e., lighter readings during the week where a major paper is due)
  • Organize assignments and expectations so students are aware what is due before class, during class, and after class
  • Be sure you are providing guidance and support if students are using a new technology for pre-class assignments,
  • Allude to upcoming readings/assignments at the end of each class
  • Require students to integrate readings into assignments and papers
  • Integrate readings/assignments into class time
  • Model strategies for reading textbooks (or articles or videos) – walk through a few sample pages and discuss merits of various strategies.
  • After first few classes, help students assess their preparation strategies through a class discussion or small group activity (Where did you do the work? When did it happen? What did you get out of it? Could different or more effective strategies be used?)
  • Use a wrapperto explore effective reading/pre-work strategies (questions about how they completed the work, compared with their performance)
  • Incorporate metacognitive activities that ask students to consider how they are learning, where they have grown, and where they might need to continue building their skills
  • Provide vocabulary assistance or ask students to define new/technical terms.
  • Consider creating a collaborative glossary that students can add definitions and relevant terms throughout the course
  • Identify key questions in advance that students try to answer when watching a video or completing a reading. – What do you want students to get out of it?
  • Use reading activities, like the jigsaw activity or other collaborative assignments, to motivate students to complete any assigned readings
  • Ask each student to write a one-paragraph blog post containing their questions, concerns, takeaways from the reading or assignment
  • Use specific prompts such as RDQ (Resonate, Disagree, Question)or RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect and Comment) or a 3-2-1 assignment (list 3 important aspects from the reading, 2 areas where they had confusion, and 1 question they would like to pose to the author).
  • At the beginning of class, ask students to respond to a short, written question, then use think-pair-share or small groups to formulate deeper questions for whole class discussion
  • Use a one-minute-paper or muddiest point activity at the beginning of class to uncover comprehension levels and questions to address
  • A readiness quiz can be focused on comprehension or summary, or could also include application questions. Consider using Canvas quizzes to have students complete this work online, before they come to class.
  • Record a video overview or pre-class presentation that incorporates an interactive video quiz
  • Quizzes can also be the form of knowledge surveys(students estimate what they are able to do, or their confidence levels)

Additional Resources