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Improving student reading comprehension through interactive texts

The program FeedbackFruits allows you to add online questions and discussion topics to a text. This helps them better understand the course material and allows the lecturer to know, prior to class, what students had difficulty with. Eric Storm explains his approach.

What did you make?

'Using the program FeedbackFruits, I made an interactive document for students.'

What was the reason?

'For my seminar on the history of nationalism I wanted my students to read a chapter of a book I have yet to publish.  '

How was your course set up?

'For seminars, I like to always first introduce important secondary literature to students. Sometimes these are chapters from a classic study, frequently also current articles. The goal is to familiarize students with relevant insights and also for them to find inspiration for the fairly extensive essay they have to write for this course.  '

What was your approach?

'You can upload documents to FeedbackFruits. Students can then add remarks or questions to the text and read those of others. They can also respond to each other. '

What are the advantages of this method (both for lecturer and student)?

'Feedback Fruits is a wonderful form of blended learning. Students are not only actively involved with the course material before class, but they can also discuss their insights with each other. It allows the lecturer to easily see what students understand and what they struggle with, prior to the actual lecture. In this specific case it was also useful to get feedback on my own manuscript.

For students it’s helpful to be able to address any questions they have in a very immediate, accessible way, or to philosophize about ideas they find interesting. Moreover, it allows them to see what their fellow students are struggling with or what inspires them. They can also directly help each other by providing explanations to their fellow students.

An additional advantage is that you can prevent the document from being downloaded; quite useful for yet unpublished texts. '

Are there points of improvement?

'I’ve implemented this method in two different seminars. Both took place during COVID with relatively small groups, so, in the end, students weren’t very active. It may have been a good idea to give them more specific assignments so they would have been more involved with the texts.'

Any tips for other lecturers?

'FeedbackFruits is also extremely useful for close-reading. My colleague Maartje Janse – who will also be presenting during the lunch byte – used it for analysis of primary sources. 

You do need to consider in advance what you want from your students. You can guide them with targeted assignments, but if everyone places a comment at the same part of the text, the margins, where the comments appear, will get very cluttered. Alternatively, you could divide students into small groups; or, like I did, give them the opportunity to place comments at passages they didn’t understand or found particularly interesting.

FeedbackFruits is very user friendly for that matter. After Maartje tipped me off about how useful this program was, I figured everything out myself. Uploading a text and adding instructions is easily done in no time. It’s also fully integrated in Brightspace, so you don’t need any new software or digital platform.'

Lunchbyte - How do I improve student reading comprehension? (14 December)

Want to learn more about how Eric Storm and Maartje Janse utilize interactive documents through FeedbackFruits in their lectures/courses? Come to the lunchbyte on 14 December at 12 AM! The lunchbyte is free and includes lunch.

Register for the lunchbyte
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