Speedy Reading

Four blue books in a pile

Reading piling up? The Speed Reading workshop helps develop techniques to get through text more quickly.

On Wednesday 14 November I ran the first Speed Reading workshop of the year. Speed Reading is the longest workshop we run at the UGS, lasting most of the day. As such it’s a challenge for both the facilitator and the participants. It can be tiring, but feedback generally shows that people value what they learned in the workshop.
I had a smaller group than I had expected recurring power cuts on campus may have influenced some people’s decision to stay home! While they were quiet at first they did seem to enjoy the small group discussions about reading styles and their attitudes to reading, and fed back some interesting points.  I encourage people to reflect on their reading habits which is often something they have previously given much thought to- when was the last time you thought about how you read, rather than what you were reading?

The majority of the day is given over to trying out different speed reading techniques- using a pacer or pointer, grouping words, or focussing on moving forward through the text. After each technique is introduced I ask the group to do a one minute reading test, and capture their reading scores. This is really useful as it gives the group concrete evidence that their hard work is paying off. At the end of the day when they compared their final score to the baseline exercises we do first thing in the morning, it was really satisfying to see that several people had doubled or even tripled their read speed, and that everyone was reading more quickly.

One of the concerns raised in the workshop was around the issue of comprehension several PGRs were concerned that they were reading quickly, but not always retaining or understanding everything they read. I tried to  reassure people by pointing out that we were focusing on the technique, and that once that had been mastered, comprehension would rise again. I also recommended that they practice on material they were familiar with, or material in the language they were most comfortable reading.

We spent some time discussing different note taking techniques. I found it challenging to draw out people’s different approaches to note taking, and the section on Mindmaps (along with the lunchtime task to draw a mind map) seemed to be less well-received than it has been in previous versions. This could mean I need to think more carefully about how to introduce different concepts of note taking, and maybe include different examples of people’s note taking approaches in the workshop slides to stimulate discussion.
The main challenge I found in facilitating this workshop is the length and the amount of concentration it needed both on my part and on the part of the group. This made the workshop mentally and physically tiring and in the afternoon session it was clear that many participants were lacking in energy. It became harder to motivate participants because I myself was tired.  I finished the workshop early in part because of this, and also due to power cuts elsewhere on campus.  Feedback on the day indicated that a lot of the group found the workshop tiring. This confirms my observations over several iterations of this workshop, so I’m going to take time to look at the workshop and see if it could be condensed into a morning or afternoon session.


2 thoughts on “Speedy Reading

  1. I went to this workshop a few years ago and would say that the skills I learnt allow me to scan text faster but I do take in much less information. I now have two reading styles and switch between them within text. Scanning allows me to take in just enough information to hone in on the areas of a paper I might be interested in and slow down. No longer do I just skip text I think will be less useful, turning the pages until the discussion to keep up with with an ever increasing reading list, I scan it quickly and occasionally find something that I would have otherwise missed. Good to know the session is still going. Just remember it is a skill, it will get better with practice!

    • I think the point about two reading styles is a really useful one to remember. Just because you can read very quickly doesn’t mean you must only read very quickly. Thank you for pointing that out!

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