A holistic approach to engagement: academic skills development within the discipline

Tanya Miles Berry, Jake Philips, Richard McCarter & Cathy Malone

Parallel session 2,  Short Paper 2.3

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Short Abstract
The aim of the presentation is to give an overview of a project within Criminology which sought to embed ‘skills’ learning in a meaningful way, using the classroom to underpin independent learning – notably around reading and writing skills – and providing the students with an online workbook environment to encourage engagement.

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Detailed Outline
Over the course of the last 2 academic years, members of the Criminology subject group have worked collaboratively with members of both QESS and the E-Learning team to develop a new approach to a traditional study skills module. This paper will outline the result of those collaborations, and look more specifically at attempts to embed reading tasks across level 4, writing in level 5 and ‘writing groups’ in the Level 6 Dissertation module. This is as an add-on to the lecture materials and supervision process in order to provide a safe, focused and constructive environment in which students can ‘do’ their writing (Murray 2014, 2015).

These methods of embedding skills in the degree will be discussed further in light of pedagogic literature (Lillis 2001, Lea & Street 1998, Wingate 2006, Warren 2000, & Hill & Tinker 2013) on how best to support students with core academic skills both within and outside formal teaching environments. Evidence of increased student engagement will be evaluated across the years.

We will also explore the on-line learning environment provided through Pebblepad, and discuss both the benefits and drawbacks experienced as a result of using Pebblepad’s workbook tool. The workbook offered students a method of using a downloaded template which helped to structure learning and helped tutors supply formative and summative feedback.

Re-designing the curriculum to embed skills across the degree will be discussed further evaluating the experience as a whole, very much as an action research project, and with a view towards what will be happening on the newly revalidated degree which begins in September 2015.

Hill P & Tinker A (2013) Integrating learning development into the student experience. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education,5, 1-18.
Lea, M. & Street, B. 1998 Student Writing in HE; An Academic Literacies Approach Studies in HE 23 (2) 157-172
Lillis T. (2001) Student Writing; Access, Regulation and Desire
Murray R. 2014 Doctoral students create new spaces to write in C Aitcheson & Guerin C. (Eds.) Writing Groups for Doctoral Students and Beyond London
Murray R. 2015 Writing in Social Spaces and Social Processes Approach to Writing London Routledge
Warren D. 2000 Curriculum Design in a Context of Widening Participation in Higher Education, Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, 1(1), 85- 99
Wingate U (2006) Doing Away With Study Skills Teaching in HE Vol 11 457-469