Teaching Smarter, Not Harder: Improving Students' Close Reading Skills Through Interactivity.

Among innovations that stand out in this reinvention of English 350, a survey of literature before 1660: The instructional team prioritized undergraduates' development of close reading skills, replacing an earlier focus on highly specialized knowledge of cultural contexts. Students spent much more time performing close readings themselves, rather than merely observing while an instructor modeled close reading.

Making these changes in a large-lecture setting required the incorporation of technologies and assessments more commonly used outside the humanities. CTools quizzes and forum postings, along with i>clicker questions "massively increased student engagement with the material without requiring a commensurate increase in grading time," wrote the department chair.

One student wrote that in a hall "filled with more than 50 students, every single one showed complete engagement with material that was truly difficult, but was made amazingly accessible."