I hit upon the idea of scheduling some additional office hours during which I would work through the assigned readings with students. I reasoned that since I have to read in order to prepare my class meetings, it couldn't hurt to have students present so that we could read together.
What have we done during these meetings? I try to answer questions about the assigned reading by looking directly at relevant passages and texts. More importantly, I try to let the students see how I read by actually working through the text, line by line, verbalizing as I go what I'm doing and thinking: noting what I've written in the margins, pointing out how a given passage relates to what came before, what I'm anticipating will come next, etc.
Granted, only about 10% of my students have attended these hours (so I usually have two or three students present). But there seems to be a clear benefit here: First, contrary to my expectations, those students who attend my 'reading hours' are not attending in lieu of reading on their own. Rather, they seem to be trying to figure out what they missed or misunderstood when they read initially and trying to figure out how to read better.
Moreover, as I pointed out in my last post, there's a massive gap between the reading skills of disciplinary experts and those of novices. What I try to do in the reading hours is model those reading habits that have come to be second nature to me: focusing on the meaning of the text as a whole, chunking, forming provisional interpretive hypotheses I later amend or revise, assuming the text coheres as a whole so that unclear claims will later be clarified, reading later passages in light of earlier ones and vice versa, etc. I don't have any evidence to corroborate this, but the students who've participated are more engaged by the material and engaged in a deeper way.
Has anyone pursued a similar approach? Given the success I've had so far, I plan to continue this in future terms.