Should universities have ‘reading weeks’?
Shortly after the beginning of my career as a university lecturer my department first introduced the concept of a ‘reading week’ – a week around half way through the term when teaching would stop an d student were encouraged to reflect on and read back over the materials of the course experienced so far. I think that may, perhaps most, students used this week as intended, but some clearly did not; I discovered this when the parents of one of my students sought my permission for this student to ‘extend reading week by four days’ because that is how long their skiing trip would take.
Reading weeks have been a feature of all the universities I have worked in since then. But are they doomed? At a recent conference I attended some colleagues from other universities told me that their institutions had abandoned reading weeks. In some cases this was because doubts had set in as to whether these weeks were being used properly, and in others it was because they made the teaching terms too long, thus creating problems for the organisation of the academic working year. Indeed this is not entirely new: an article in the journal Times Higher Education in 2000 had already reported that reading weeks were coming under pressure.
Does this matter? Was the ‘reading week’ a mistake in any case? Or is there some pedagogical value in letting students reflect a little during the middle of the semester? Does the reading week need to be saved, or should it be allowed to die peacefully?higher education, university
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