Making the most of pre-class assignments

When teaching a course, the lecturer or teaching instructor may need that students read some material before coming to the next face-to-face session. Counting on students that have done their assignments and that have done them well, allows the lecturer to make quicker and deeper progress in the contact session. It also raises motivation and allows devoting more time to hands-on practice rather than lecturing, the latter being a method that has proven to reach very low retention levels among students. However, getting the students to read and work on their assignments is easier said than done, and many lecturers feel compelled to set in-class tests and quizzes in order to lure the students to fulfil their homework tasks. However, in-class tests and quizzes are also time-expensive, both inside and outside the classroom, and they are not exempt of other disadvantages. In this paper, we will go over some methods that Teaching and Learning research has found to promote high levels of student understanding and retention, but that are generally too time-consuming to implement them on a regular basis. Also, drawing on the authors’ experience and other research studies, we will present some alternative methods that are almost as effective as the former but require significantly lower time resources.