Engaging students with the reading by re-thinking the reading list

People Studying In A Library

Portrait Of Clever Students With Open Book Reading It In College Library – Shallow Depth Of Field

In a recent JUICE article, ‘Rethinking the reading list’ Martin (2018) offers the provocation that the reading list might be dead and that there are lots of things we should be doing  in our teaching practice to recognize diversity in all its forms.   But how do we enact this in practice, particularly when we have so little time to reflect on our teaching practice and we may feel hide bound by quality assurance guidelines?

James Walker, Senior Lecturer in Illustration at UCA Farnham, decided to have a radical re-think of the way he was engaging students with the reading for first year study in Illustration.  He devised a ‘Pecha Kucha assignment ’, whereby Year 1 students research an artist and select a particular piece of work to build a presentation around. Their research must include at least 3 books, 2 journals. To help students with this, James  devised an Inclusive Resource List of Artists.  The artist list is more international in focus in attempt to move away from a overly Western focus. It also provides a link to an article or interview on the artists to help students.

For further help on developing a more inclusive set of readings for your students, Martin (2018) gives the following advice to course teams undertaking validation and review:

  • Be very clear about what you want your resources list to achieve and make this explicit to your students, e.g. which chapters/sections/paragraphs need to be considered pre-lecture. Maybe refer in lectures to relevant sections of chapters, blogs and highlight their importance. Stubley (2002) an effective list is augmented by how the entries have been chosen and how they fit into the course. Thompson et al (2004) research showed almost 84% of students would either ‘definitely’ or ‘be inclined to’ use an item from the reading list if a lecturer had drawn attention to its value.
  • Bear in mind that you and your students are unlikely to share ideas about the development of reading skills and independent research, and not only in the first year.
  • If you need to divide the reading between core/essential reading and recommended/wider reading make clear your aims. (Many students will take no more than four items from the core reading list, some fewer, and ignore the wider reading (Stokes and Martin, 2008))
  • Where possible, create resource lists that include writers and artists from across the world. Among other things this acknowledges UCA’s changing, more international role in HE. It also supports inclusive practice and our responsibility for creating global citizens who feel comfortable in the international marketplace.
  • Use a variety of resources including TED Talks, videos, so that those who have difficulty with the written word have access through other channels first. The short Open University video on Goffman’s The Interpretation of the Self, g. gives a clear overview of Goffman’s thinking. This is useful too for holistic thinkers, e.g. many students with SpLDs, who find it difficult to access ideas if they do not have the big picture first.
  • Where possible, include hyperlinks to online resources to avoid queues for library books and so that items can be linked to free reading programs (e.g. Claroread; Read & Write; Natural Reader) that will allow students to listen to rather than read text. Be aware, however, that if everything on the resources list can be accessed via the desktop, students may not have an incentive to explore library resources (Stubley 2002; Stokes and Martin, 2008).
  • Retain books as a resource too since many students prefer hard copies (Piscioneri and Hlavac, 2012, say 80%), but bear in mind a National Student survey complaint: ‘there were never enough copies’ of books.
  • You might want to show images of the shelving to which the majority of the module texts belong and suggest ways to explore that part of the library. There will be students who have library anxiety who will need encouraging into the library (Jiao and Onwuegbuzie, 2003), and this may offer a start.
  • You could usefully annotate entries (Miller, 1999; Stubley, 2002; Stokes and Martin, 2008 see this as valuable) particularly early on (Butcher et al, 2006).
  • Annotated bibliographies in module packs might be referred to and discussed at relevant points in lectures to underline their value. You might also discuss the reading levels of items and offer alternatives at this stage.
  • Annotations might be directional, e.g.
    • Gombrich: Story of Art (1950) (enormously successful history of art book) library ref. xxxx
      Chapters on some eastern cultures; mainly concentrates on movements and styles in the West
      Introduction: highly recommended: introduces some interesting ideas to consider, e.g. ‘There is no such thing as Art, only artists’ (hyperlink)
      Useful timelines on artists and movements at the back      (hyperlink)
    • The Gaze
    • Berger: Ways of Seeing (1972) library ref. xxxx
      3 explores the idea that ‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.’                                                                                    (hyperlink)
      The book is part of a television series; discussion of the Gaze appears in episode xxx                                                                                          (hyperlink)
    • Levi’s 501 ‘Laundrette’ advertisement (1985)
      A key moment in changing the direction of The Gaze to include men; the ad was so successful, it made model Nick Kamen famous (hyperlink)
  • For overseas students, include glossaries as well as annotations (Carroll, 2005). Also reference to a speaking dictionary so that students can link new words they see in text to what they hear in lectures. (howjsay.com is quick and clear.)
  • Students might be asked to summarise paragraphs or sections of a resource. Maybe include questions in the margin which, e.g. Miller? Suggest can help scaffold the dev of reading skills.
  • You could create tasks for blog discussions around particular books/chapters/sections/articles.
  • Follow the British Dyslexia Association’s (BDA) Style Guide (link) for layout, choice of font, size, etc.


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Become a mentor in creative education?


  • Have you achieved HEA Fellowship in the last 5 years?
  • Are you familiar with the UKPSF and see its value as pedagogical tool to reflect on creative education?
  • Are you interested in non-formal, practice based learning opportunities at your campus?
  • Do you enjoy ‘talking about teaching’ and see this as way of meeting new colleagues and developing your own professional learning
  • Are you looking to build more evidence of D3 criteria, D3.VII, to make a claim for Senior Fellowship.

If this has ticked off some interests, how about becoming a mentor in creative education at UCA?

Why are we looking for mentors in creative education?

We have recently re-accredited our CPD provision in teaching and learning, to build in more support for teaching staff making a claim for HEA professional recognition.

The details of the new scheme are here:https://creativeeducationnetwork.com/professional-recognition-2/

As a result of these deliberations, we are now looking for mentor volunteers, to meet with teaching staff intending to make a claim for fellowship.   We appreciate that you all have busy teaching schedules, so this would not be an onerous task.  The commitment would be as follows:

* You would be expected to meet with a D1, D2 or D3 mentee twice between January and June.

* You might offer to review the teaching practice of a mentee through the university Teaching Observation Scheme.

* You will agree to be contacted by us for potential mentoring opportunities and would appear on our database of Creative Education Mentors

So..what is a Creative Education Mentor?

 Mentoring may be defined as “an intentional pairing of an inexperienced person with an experienced partner to guide and nurture his or her  development (Pitton, 2006, p.1).


Mentoring involves primarily listening with empathy, sharing experience (usually mutually), professional friendship, developing insight through reflection, being a sounding board, encouraging (Clutterbuck, 2004)

Creative Education Mentoring is essentially about helping claimants to reflect on their teaching/supporting learning through the UKPSF and to develop in their teaching more effectively. It is a relationship designed to build confidence and to support the mentee, so they are able to build the evidence for their fellowship claim.

At UCA, we are growing a network of campus based Creative Education Mentors to support participants making a claim for Fellowship through our in-house professional recognition scheme. Creative Education Mentors all hold either Descriptor 2 (Fellowship), Descriptor 3 (Senior Fellow) or Descriptor 4 (Principal Fellow). Their role is as follows:

  • Active listening and being a sounding board for ideas development around creative arts pedagogies.
  • Asking questions to help develop your own and the mentee’s understanding of a teaching situation or problem
  • Encouraging participants to reflect on their teaching/supporting learning practices through the lens of the relevant UKPSF Descriptor
  • Acting as a champion and advocate for the Creative Education CPD scheme across the University for the Creative Arts, and beyond
  • Encouraging self-reflection and critical analysis of the mentee’s practice and experiences
  • Helping the mentee identify areas for peer supported review (in some cases, offering to review practice)
  • Advising a mentee on the strength of their evidence base for a claim for fellowship

As a mentor you will have the opportunity to use your own experience and knowledge from engaging with the UKPSF.  You are encouraged to use this experience in a facilitative manner, to support the development of the mentee and in particular in their writing of their own application. As a mentor, you will have Fellowship yourself, and will therefore be able to draw on a good understanding of the UKPSF and normally from preparing your own successful claim. It is important that mentors are fully up to date with the UKPSF in all parts but especially with the Descriptor for the category of Fellowship for which the claimant is aiming.

What is in it for me?

Those who mentor others report gaining personal satisfaction from knowing that they have contributed to the growth and development of others.  Mentors can also develop new skills, abilities and insights to develop their own professional learning. Clutterbuck (2004) argues that mentoring can be ‘a valuable means of delaying plateauing’ by providing fresh challenges.  Acting as a mentor is a form of informal leadership and can help in gaining credibility for professional progression.

Other benefits include the following:

  • Mentoring is a non-formal, practice based learning opportunity
  • Mentoring provides an enabling space to meet new colleagues and ‘talk about teaching’
  • By acting as a mentor, you can build more evidence of D3 criteria, D3.VII, to make a claim for Senior Fellowship.

If you decide to become a mentor, we will provide you with training (half day event) and a template for structured conversations.  We will also issue you with a free coffee card. We also have a number of other incentives we are considering…

Email creatednet@uca.ac.uk if you are interested in attending our forthcoming training.

UCA Creative Education Mentoring Handbook 2018 








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Online social learning spaces for building campus communities?

Self actualisationUCASU provide a number of groups, societies and activities for students at UCA to join at each campus.  Many students at UCA take up this offer, but providing campus experiences is a key challenge for our four campus communities.  Some of this may be about student availability (ie holding down jobs, needing to get back home), but it seems there might also be some value to moving beyond the physical and exploring the possibilities of creating online collaborative spaces, co-created by students.  These could be used for online peer groups, mentoring, study groups, etc.  Whilst we have anecdotal evidence of the range of social media tools used across UCA courses (What’s App, Facebook, Instagram, Base Camp, Linked In), we have never conducted a study of this area and we have never really captured the student voice around this.

Between 2017 and 2018, we commissioned George Charman, Senior Lecturer (FE), Epsom, to lead a learning and teaching project to explore this area.  The study explored the literature around online social learning and talked to UCA students to find out what online tools they were engaging with, and what tools they would help build more of a sense of community and belonging with their course and campus.  The final study, entitled Towards a digital Village- The Use of Online Social Learning within Higher Education is published here.

The key conclusions from the research invite us to reconsider how we facilitate the use of spaces on campus (studio, library, workshops, refectory) as places to de-compress dialectic online communication through active and more expressive dialogic critical engagement.  If we expanded our definitions of campus spaces, we could activate the campus as a trans-disciplinary tool for informal, self-actualized learning.  Our research suggests that we consider the benefit of an opening out of the institution through the creation of shared collaborative spaces, co-created by students that move ‘beyond the usual physical learning environment into collaborative open spaces’ that are both digital and physical.

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Addressing the attainment gap at UCA

Students in the libraryOver the last few decades, the widening participation policies of successive UK governments have led to higher participation rates among 18 to 21 year old black and minority ethnic (BME) students (Sanders and Rose-Adams, 2014).  At the same time, the difference in degree attainment remains at just over a 15% gap between BME students and non-BME students in terms of achieving a 2:1 or 1st degree outcome.  In September, Advance HE published the data for 2016-17, which revealed:

  • 75.1% of Chinese students were awarded a good honours degree (a degree attainment gap of 4.5 pp)
  • 68.7% of Asian students (a gap of 10.9 pp)
  • 55.5% of black students (a gap of 24.1 pp)

It is vital that we explore intersectionality as we seek to address these gaps. For example, 52.8% of black male students gained a good honours degree in 2016-17 (a gap of 24.8 pp from white male students) while 28.6% of white students gained a first class degree compared to 12.3% of black students (a gap of 16.3 pp). Students’ chosen subject also affects their chances of attaining a good honours degree. In 2016-17, the BME attainment gap was 11.3% in science, engineering and technology (SET) subjects and 15.4% in non-SET subjects.

These figures show that Higher Education currently reproduces racial inequalities. As a result, action is being taken to address this across the sector. Continue reading

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Creative Arts Technicians in Academia – Tim Savage


Webinar recording: Creative arts technicians in academic: to transition or not to transition?


How do technicians feel after moving into an academic role? UCA’s Tim Savage conducted research into the experiences of UCA technicians who have become academic staff, and his study was recently published in the Journal of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education.

Tim’s research investigated whether the factors that have elevated the status of technicians have also eroded traditional academic roles, and whether this enables individuals to transition between what many experience as disparate camps. In this webinar, Tim will be talking about what he found out during the research, and will be discussing the relationship between technical and academic staff in higher education.


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Co-creation as a tool for course enhancement?


I have been hearing a lot about the benefits of co-creation as a collaborative approach to including students as partners in pedagogical planning processes. But just how do we go about shifting perspectives of students as stakeholders to students as co-creators?

Perhaps before we explore this, we should define what we mean by co-creation, what its value might be to staff and students and how we might use it as a curriculum enhancement tool.

What is co-creation?

Co-creation is the development of student-led, collaborative initiatives leading to co-created outputs. The outputs may be part of the curriculum (unit assessment driven for example) or co-curricular (related to the programme but not to a particular unit assessment/expectation). Co-creation can be applied to many areas of HE, in particular in curriculum development and research where students work in partnership with academics to improve the student experience. Continue reading

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NSS Student Success stories

Music journalism students Epsom

The Creative Education team have been talking to UCA courses with 90% or above in the National Student Survey.  The idea of the conversations has been to explore some of the creative pedagogies used to keep students satisfied with their course experiences.

We capture the first of these here, with an interview with Mark O’Connor, Course Leader for Music Journalism.

What approaches to learning, teaching and student engagement did you take last year?

We monitor everything unit by unit and always close the feedback loop at Course Boards.  This helps us to improve practice year on year.  Students are encouraged to feed back on the experience of doing the unit through a Unit Evaluation Form.  These are then gathered up by our Course Administrator in Campus Registry.  She minutes them and puts them into an action plan to form negative and positive feedback.

What do you think was distinctive about your approaches last year? How do you think this might have helped with NSS scores? Continue reading

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