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

People Studying In A Library

In her recent article for UCA’s journal JUICE entitled ‘Rethinking the reading list’, Ray Martin offers the provocation that the reading list might be dead. Ray observes 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.
  • 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.

You can read Ray Martin’s full article in issue 1 of JUICE.


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