Two Pills Tips: Motivate Students to Come to Class Prepared!

Check out our crossover podcast episode with Queer Meducation! Queer Meducation is a platform to educate medical professionals and the public on LGTBQI and nonbinary healthcare. On our episode, KB and I discuss HIV meds then and now! Thanks to the host KB for such a fun episode!

How do I motivate students to come to class prepared??


Dirksen, J. (2012). Design for how people learn. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Up to 70% of learners do not come to class prepared

-Often begin semester prepared due to concerns of being called on or out of respect for instructor, but often gradually drops off throughout the course

-Influencing human behavior, which is complex and challenging

-Many factors we cannot control, so let’s focus on those that we can

-Have to overcome habits that have “worked” for them in the past

No prep assigned?

-Instructor reviewed in class

-Instructor did not plan class activities that depended on them being prepared

Reasons that they do not come prepared:

-Didn’t have time or had other priorities

-Didn’t find the readings of interest

-See a weak connection between doing course readings and doing well in the class

-No justification given for why they should read, or the reading selections chosen

-Believe important course content will be covered in class anyway

-Do not see connection between readings and class material

-Found the readings too hard

What’s in it for them?

-Using stats, a story/case study/testimonial or learning outcomes that they care about, present the learning experience as something they will want to do instead of something you want them to do

-Enlighten them about why they may care and why they should buy in

-Make it compatible with their values & current needs

-If during a busy exam week, probably won’t happen

- Invite testimonials from other students/peers about how coming prepared improved their learning, performance in class, learning beyond the course or development of needed skills.

Make it doable

I do not assign full chapters in Dipiro or other textbooks. The students will not read it. Make your readings applicable and doable.

-Make your readings relevant-sections of a guideline or a resource that they are also able to use on rotations

-I have assigned guidelines such as IDSA and then I take a few minutes in class to show students how to find that guideline in the future (since it will likely change within just a few years)

-Choose your objectives wisely

-Preparation should be about recognition, practice, or content exposure

-Know what you want your students to get out of each reading that you assign

-Not typically aiming for higher levels of Blooms since students are learning independently

Provide immediate consequence if do/do not prepare

Preparing for some delayed consequence, such as a midterm exam, is not sufficient for most students. That's why it is also difficult to not text while driving, stop smoking, maintain weight loss or save for retirement – the positive

consequences are too delayed!


“Just in Time Teaching”: short online quiz before class, a small group activity when they arrive in which they must be prepared to share the load with their peers, an in-class problem/scenario that depends on class prep to solve

-Use specific prompts such as RDQ (Resonate, Disagree, Question) or RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect and Comment) or a 3-2-1 assignment (list 3 important aspects from the reading, 2 areas where they had confusion, and 1 question they would like to pose to the author)

-Muddiest point/minute paper