How Do You Read?

I’m gearing up for a couple of classes. So, I am knee-deep in pre-course reading and in preliminary research for my papers. The classes at Briercrest are in modular format, meaning that you take one class in an entire week-long intensive. In many ways it is great for those who have work/life commitments, but in some ways it changes how a student studies.

The work-load goes something like this:
Pre-course Reading
Pre-course assignment, usually interacting/reviewing/critiquing one of the assigned reading materials
Week-long lectures
Post-course assignments, usually a major research paper.

I have found that I have had to adapt my learning style and study habits to match this modular format. Gone are the days of doing weekly readings in advance of a weekly class. Instead, I find myself buried in reading material all at once.

What this has highlighted to me is that I read to gain knowledge, to learn; I don’t read to evaluate and critique. And unfortunately most of the pre-course assignments require a critique/evaluation method of reading.

Why do I do this? Part of it is probably because very often the course subject is new to me. For example, when I took “Gospels” I had never read N.T. Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God”, nor had I really done much studying in the field of the Quest for the Historical Jesus.

I think that I have this assumption that the text I am reading is correct. The person who has written the book, journal article etc is a) highly educated; b) usually an expert in the field; c) aware of arguments and counter-arguments surrounding the given topic. I then assume that the author is correct, and that it is my job to absorb the knowledge that they have spent so much time and effort in putting together.

Unless the author says something completely bone-headed, I am not very good at finding nuances in the argument to disagree with/critique/evaluate. Even if I am reading two or three different positions on the same topic, I tend to not take sides, recognizing that very often each of the different positions have something of value. (Is this a symptom of growing up in a post-modern culture?)

So I read the material, struggle with the reflection paper, and then once we have discussed the issues in class discussions, the light-bulb goes on, I have my “ah-ha” moment and I find myself being able to better say, “I agree/I disagree and here’s why.”

While I realize that the pre-course assignment is a way to ensure that the students actually come to class prepared, I wish that there was a better way to evaluate preparedness, rather than a paper done in isolation.

I’m pretty sure much of this comes out of the fact that I tend to be an “auditory” learner. I learn and retain and can synthesize information better when I hear it in lecture format, and in discussing/wrestling through the material orally in a discussion format.

How do you read?

This post is cross-posted at Briercrest Student Blogs.

  • snowgood

    Are we talking reading in general, or reading The Bible?

    Personally I am an avid reader in the “smallest room” in the house.

    I love reference books, car mags, and of course scripture. I like to listen to a sermon in isolation (rather than in a church), I find my mind always making an analysis by contrast…but there must me more…

    Oh, my reading is greatly helped by pictures. I’m no fan of TV, but really see the pictures on the radio if you get my drift?

  • A.M.M.

    Reading in general is a different beast altogether for me.

    When I read novels I just get lost in the story and don’t really have any “deep” analytic thoughts.

    When I read news stories, current events etc, I tend to read with the idea of “uh, now that’s interesting.”

    I think though if I had to rank what I read most it would be:
    1) academic reading
    2) current events/news/internet news
    3) novels

  • Anne Stevenson

    I read similarly to yourself and react similarly to analytical papers, preparing literary criticism etc. In seminary the box of beliefs gets completely unpacked, and torn apart with hopefully better tools to repack more correctly than previously, but for those of us who read mostly with a mind to glean information those precourse papers are a real chore at first! It gets better as the courses roll by…it does….doesn’t it??