What Does Your Professor Mean By Read?

It’s always puzzled me that so few Seminary professors qualify what they are asking you to do with your assigned books. I know Mortimer Adler describes several types of reading. A few well placed block quotes from How To Read A Book could really clarify a professors expectations.

But normally, lack of definition leaves the student with a dilemma. Should they use their own judgment and decide the best approach according to each book’s value? Or should they set the impossible goal of mastering every page assigned.

So, what do you do about Seminary reading?

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17 Responses to What Does Your Professor Mean By Read?

  1. I set up a sort of triage. Figure out what books are essential to the class and read those carefully, taking notes and underlining. Some books are meant to add to one’s library. Those I usually skim over enough that I would be able to pass a quiz on the book. Still others, I do not even crack and allow them to become part of my library–hey, what better excuse to buy books than you have to have it for class?

    However, some professors do make explicit what they mean by read. I think this is when the dilemma takes on a new level. Now, if you don’t read, you are disobeying (I would argue that you are sinning) but if you do read, it seems like something else will suffer. I also think that we must be honest when reporting how much of a book we read versus skimmed. I know I have not always been 100% honest on those though I felt guilty about it and said something later.

  2. Tony Kummer says:

    I prefer the quiz method of accountability, let me prove that I know the material. This works well for informational reading.

    I guess my second choice is a book review, which allows the student to demonstrate analytical reading.

    From an educational standpoint, I don’t think reading reports make much sense. They do not measure the outcome of the reading, only the activity of reading.

  3. Mark Warnock says:

    I think reading every page of a book could be a very irresponsible use of time. I agree with you, Tony. If profs are going to account for your reading, they should measure your comprehension and mastery of the material, not how many pages you’ve read. Had I suggested such a method in my undergrad education classes, I would have been swiftly corrected.

    I’ve suggested a method of reading that aims at comprehension and saves time.

    But I think in any case, professors’ questions on reading reports should be asked honestly–even if that requires a bit of explanation.

    Mark Warnocks last blog post..A Little Seminary Is A Dangerous Thing

  4. Tony Kummer says:

    @Mark Warnock: Thanks for the link and the feedback. The integrity issue should always be front-and-center, especially with those reading reports.

    In most classes, they are only 10% of the grade. When that’s the case, I’m glad to take the half credit on some books.

    Great post on reading, thanks for the link.

  5. julieH says:

    I’m not sure I understand how reading every page for a course could be irresponsible… When I take a class, I figure that taking the course means that I’m committing to let my yes be yes to doing all of the assigned work to the best of my ability. If I have too much reading for me to finish every page, then I’m probably taking too many classes, or have just generally overcommitted myself. I don’t always succeed in completing everything on time – I’m a fallible human who has a tendency to over schedule herself – but I do try.

    julieHs last blog post..Just Because: Why I love my husband

  6. Mark Warnock says:

    I should clarify. Doing assigned readings isn’t irresponsible, all other things being equal. My thoughts about this are in the context of use of our time.

    For instance, if you’re doing all your readings for class, and neglecting your time with God or with your spouse, I would vehemently say your time spent reading is spent irresponsibly. Further, it is simply not necessary to read every page of a book to glean the majority of its content.

    Julie, you observed that we tend to overcommit ourselves. I agree, but would state it differently. I would say that anyone in ministry will always have too many responsibilities to be able to devote full time to any of them. It goes with the territory. Thus we must learn which things to neglect. Andy Stanley wrote a book about this, called “Choosing to Cheat.” We will neglect something. We must be careful that we neglect things we can afford to. I think we can afford to neglect a portion of the time we would spend reading our assignments–if we read intelligently–without significant loss to our education.

    Mark Warnocks last blog post..A Little Seminary Is A Dangerous Thing

  7. Pingback: How Much Should You Read? | Going to Seminary

  8. Bradley says:

    When proff’s get a chance to clarify what they mean, in every case that I can recall, they say “Read Carefully.” Dr. Wellum even says, “Read the footnotes.” I’m not sure what you mean by “master every page,” but it seems that the Proff’s desires are to have you read ever page thoughtfully with attention to the meaning of each sentence, which is very, very, time consuming. This is why I’ve always thought that Southern simply expects too much of their students. On the one hand, when we first come to seminary, during the orientation lecture, they tell us not to do away with our social lives while we are in seminary. On the other hand, they tell us to read 1,200+ pages per class carefully, in addition to class lectures, quiz prep, research papers, and exam’s. Many students I talk to just “skim” uncarefully through books they find uninteresting. For good or for curse (yes, I meant to spell that with a “c”), I read every page carefully. It kills me.

    Bradleys last blog post..Mark Driscoll: Provocative = Biblical

  9. Brian Smith says:

    I think the question comes up (at least at Boyce) when the professor asks you to pass in a reading report. How do I answer the question: “What percentage of the reading have I completed?” if I have not truly read every page? In good conscience I must read every page so that I can say 100%.

    However, if I am not held accountable to such a standard I feel that the quiz method of showing sufficient mastery should suffice. If I get a 70% on a quiz after skimming I know that next time I better dig in a little deeper.

    Good topic for discussion!

  10. Tony Kummer says:

    Here is someone’s estimate on reading pages per hour saying about 10 pages per hour is normal. I think I’m a bit slower because I argue with the book and do a lot of marking.

    :An Average Class:
    1200 pages per class = 120 hours of reading
    120 hours / 15 weeks = 8 hours per week

    Does this look right to anyone?

  11. Joshua says:

    I think we should refrain from creating our own standards. A book that I decide to skim or just add to my shelf may be the one that my professor would recommend above all others, even though it’s short, easy reading authored by a guy who’s still alive.

    So instead of creating our own standards for reading I think we need to take the initiative and ask our professors. Especially if we’re swamped with reading. If we’re not able to ask them or unwilling then I think it is safe (hopefully more so at seminary) to assume that professors want us to carefully read what they require.

    Joshuas last blog post..A Life of No Value

  12. julieH says:

    I do agree that time with God and your spouse are priorities over school, and I will put that Andy Stanley book on my reading list. I’d be interested to see what he has to say.
    I do wonder, though, if the idea that we have to cheat is cultural rather than biblical.

    @Tony – 10 pgs per hour seems really low to me, although I tend to be a fast reader…

    julieHs last blog post..Just Because: Why I love my husband

  13. @ Joshua–Amen!

    @Tony–if that is the case, then I am a fast reader. I usually time myself whenever I start a book for class on reading a page in that book so as to be able to plan out my reading better. I usually read a page in about 3-5 minutes and that includes marking up the book.

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..Staff Infection on the Lord’s Day

  14. Tony Kummer says:

    @julieH: They said it was based on a textbook and many of our SBTS books are not true textbooks.

  15. Pingback: Seminary Syllabus Strategy #2: Start Reading Now : Seminary Survival Guide.com

  16. Mark Warnock says:

    This is great discussion. At the end of the day, however, we alone will answer for the use of our time…and we will not answer (first) to our professors.

    This makes me glad that I’ve graduated seminary and can read whatever I want!

    Mark Warnocks last blog post..Seminary Syllabus Strategy #2: Start Reading Now

  17. Pingback: Link: Summary of How To Read A Book | Said at Southern

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