Searching for a Researcher:

Are scrolls better than books for teaching students how to survey a textbook chapter?  It’s a strange, unconventional, out-of-the-box question.  But the idea has a strong theoretical foundation, and it is backed by 25 years of practical experience in college classrooms.
This is a serious proposal.  It is an opportunity to break new ground, to see our books (bound and digital) from a new perspective, and to test the effectiveness of an an inexpensive, out-of-the-box, non-commercial approach to addressing the very real problem presented by college students who are not ready to do college-level reading.
Here it is:   
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Are scrolls better than books for teaching students how to survey a textbook chapter? 
Every teacher knows that it is important for students to survey (i.e., examine or preview or pre-read) a textbook chapter before plunging in to read it closely.  Teachers teach textbook-surveying strategies and skills by teaching their students to skim the text -- reading the headings, studying any illustrations or charts or tables or maps, and reading the first clause or sentence (and sometimes the last as well) of every section (and sometimes of every paragraph).  While doing these things, students are taught to formulate questions, make connections, draw inferences, and make predictions.  The goal of all of this work is to construct a prospective model for comprehension.
Given the complexity of these tasks as well as their widespread acceptance as key to comprehension, one might expect that there would be an endless array of strategies and methods for teaching them.  But there is not.  And one might expect that widespread instruction in textbook survey strategies and skills would result in high student scores on textbook comprehension.  But it does not.  In the U.S., 60% of high school graduates score below "proficient" (NAEP, 2013); 40% of first year college students begin college in the remedial classroom because they are unprepared for college-level reading.  Worldwide, the U.S. is ranked 14th for reading proficiency -- above Germany, France, and the U.K (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015).  The obvious conclusion is that this is a matter that impacts a great many nations.  In light of these data, one might wonder if there is a better way to teach students how to survey a textbook chapter.
The purpose of our study is to test whether the form of book used makes a difference -- specifically, whether a textbook chapter presented in scroll form -- unrolled and hence wide-open to view -- will result in an improvement in student learning of textbook survey strategies and skills, and textbook content.

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So that’s it.  Please share this with your colleagues.  And please do reach out to me if you’d like more information (here’s a short introduction to scrolls: )

I look forward to working with you on this interesting project.

- Dave Middlebrook

+1 (609) 771-1781

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