Here is a great teaching idea from Dr.Geraldine Van Gyn, professor in the School of Exercise Science at the University of Victoria.

She writes in the e-zine Faculty Focus about the “Purposeful Reading Assignment” or the “3-2-1” assignment.

It goes like this:

Requirement 1: Students read what is assigned, then choose and describe the three most important aspects (concepts, issues, factual information, etc.) of the reading, justifying their choices.

Requirement 2: Students identify two aspects of the reading they don’t understand, and briefly discuss why these confusing aspects interfered with their general understanding of the reading. Although students may identify more than two confusing elements, they must put them in priority order and limit themselves to the two most important ones. Students seldom understand everything in a reading and, knowing that they must complete this part of the assignment, will reflect on their level of understanding of all the reading’s content.

Requirement 3: Students pose a question to the text’s author, the answer to which should go beyond the reading content and does not reflect the areas of confusion in requirement 2. The question reflects students’ curiosity about the topic and reveals what they think are the implications or applications of the reading content. This last requirement lets you know how well students understood the article’s intention.

This would be a great assignment to try in Health Sciences classes. In Meds, perhaps we could modify it so that the students share with their group Requirement 2 and hand in Requirement 3 for feedback. We could use an e-template to complete these and allow faculty to give quick e-feedback.

Prof. Van Gyn reports that in analyzing her mid-and end of term feedback, The purposeful, 3-2-1 reading report is the most frequently cited in all courses (mid-term =72% of all students, n= 549, end of term = 65% of students, n= 513) as being of greatest benefit to the students’ learning.

If you’d like to learn more about 3-2-1, just drop me a line.

Van Gyn, Geraldine. It’s The Little Assignment with the Big Impact: Reading, Writing, Critical Reflection, and Meaningful Discussion. Faculty Focus May 6, 2013.