Divide and Conquer - Divide up the next reading chapter among small groups of students. Student A reads the first section in the chapter, Student B reads the next section, and so forth. The next day, students meet in small groups and report on the section they read. Or you can have groups of students that read the same section meet with students who read different sections. Students become dependent on one another to create the full picture of what was in the reading material. My students seem to enjoy these group discussions, which are a way to become familiar with the material before being graded on it.
I could see this strategy being very effective in philosophy courses, particularly with a few tweaks and additions.
For instance: Your students are required to read Garrett Hardin and Peter Singer on our duties to aid the poor. You assign half the students to read Hardin for the next meeting, half to read Singer. You tell the students that everyone will be responsible for understanding both author's points of view. Assemble the students in small groups and give them some sort of evaluative task (a true-false quiz, a compare/contrast, agree/disagree, etc.) that requires knowledge of both authors. Then tell the students to read the source they didn't read for the next meeting.
I could see some advantages of this 'divide and conquer' strategy:
- It might encourage some genuine intellectual collaboration among the students.
- Having to explain an author's views to other students could reinforce understanding.
- The collaborative task could, in effect, amount to 'pre-reading'. In other words, the students responsible for reading Singer first are providing some intellectual scaffolding for the students who read Hardin first, and vice versa. A student who finds one author's view very plausible might learn that the other author has an objection to that view and be motivated to understand the objection better, etc.
Anyway, has anyone tried a strategy like this? How could you imagine implementing it?