Implementing the Curriculum Framework – how can the Library help?

Karen Drury, Liaison Librarian for Art, Typography and Graphic Communication, and Management

Dr Kim Shahabudin, Study Adviser

Kerry Webb, Associate Director (Academic Liaison and Support), The Library

In a world of constant new teaching and learning initiatives, implementing the Curriculum Framework might seem like one more job to do. If you’re thinking that you could use all the help you can get, we have good news: the Library have done some work for you, listing practical ways in which Liaison Librarians and Study Advisers can help to support the development of graduate attributes and academic principles.

Supporting Curriculum Review

Liaison librarians have already been discussing ways in which the Library can support schools and departments with their curriculum review, including Typography & Graphic Communication and Henley Business School.

Providing practical support: working with Typography & Graphic Communication

Following discussions with Typography and Graphic Communication about their Curriculum Review, Karen and Ruth (the Department’s subject Liaison Librarians) now have a better understanding of those areas identified as needing extra support.

We have concentrated on encouraging students to engage with course texts. This has led to us working closely with the lecturer to arrange a session for one Part 3 module that involved giving the students the opportunity to handle and explore the books on the reading list. Another approach has been to encourage confidence and accuracy with using citations. A session was arranged that was open to all Typography undergraduate students, to teach the principles of Harvard referencing, and importantly, to show the students that help and support is available from the Library and Study Advice teams. We are looking forward to working closely with our academic colleagues to build on this in the future.

Karen Drury, subject Liaison Librarian for Typography and Graphic Communication

Involving the Library in the process can have a positive impact on curriculum review, providing further opportunities for collaborative working between Liaison Librarians and our academic colleagues:

BA Graphic Communication students need to master a wide range of practical, professional and technical skills in addition to disciplinary and transferable academic skills. Knowing that we can work with our Library colleagues to better support how students across different years of study develop specific skills and graduate attributes is exciting. There are lots of possibilities but as a starting point we are focusing on helping students engage with a more diverse range of sources, critically evaluate sources and understand how copyright and attribution works across both practice and research.  

Dr Jeanne-Louise Moys (Typography & Graphic Communication)

Mapping practice on to principles

To assist Schools and Departments with implementing the Curriculum Framework, the Library has produced two documents which outline ways in which subject liaison librarians and study advisers can support the embedding of academic literacy skills within your programmes.

The first of these, Implementing the Curriculum Framework – how can the Library help? can be downloaded from the Further Support for Curriculum Review webpage. It outlines practical ways in which our Liaison Librarians and Study Advisers can support you, mapped against the graduate attributes and academic principles defined in the Framework.

The second outlines in more detail the pedagogic principles which underlie our practice, drawing upon elements of established information and digital literacy models, again mapped against the Framework. Please contact Kerry Webb (the Library’s Associate Director for Academic Liaison & Support), if you would like a copy.

Please get in touch with your subject Liaison Librarian or a member of the Study Advice team if you would like to know more about how we can support you in implementing the Curriculum Framework in your school or department.

Enabling greater access to teaching materials on academic integrity

Kim Shahabudin & Helen Hathaway, Library (Study Advice)                                                                                                         Year of activity 2016/17


The Academic Integrity Toolkit is a suite of research-informed teaching resources, developed in 2012. This project reformatted and revised materials to improve access for tutors and students. Teaching materials were reframed and updated, before republishing online in LibGuides format. The Toolkit was relaunched in November 2016 with a very positive reception from tutors. Since then it has received 8940 views, and has informed key sections of the Study Smart OOC.


  • To improve access to the Academic Integrity Toolkit for staff.
  • To introduce direct access to learning resources on academic integrity for students
  • To revise and update the existing resources
  • To disseminate and raise awareness of the resources among staff


There has been increasing interest in academic integrity as an underpinning principle in academic study, evidenced by the establishment of a Steering Group on Academic Integrity, and its inclusion as an advisory section in Programme Handbooks for 2017-18. However, despite keen reception of the original Toolkit materials, they were little accessed in their original format on Blackboard. A small-scale survey of enrolled users indicated that tutors would like to be able to refer students to resources directly.


The project began by seeking feedback from existing users to inform revisions. This indicated that while revision to the content of the materials was not regarded as necessary, there was a preference for direct student access: this would necessitate revisions of both content and format. A research officer was employed to set up and populate the new LibGuide, considering design and structure, while we carried out revision of the content of the teaching and learning materials. Dissemination took place via a launch event organised with the Centre for Quality Support and Development at which 21 staff participants heard talks on academic integrity and its increasing significance in universities as part of plagiarism prevention strategies, and about project development, before viewing the new version of the Academic Integrity Toolkit. Attendees were given a branded memory stick containing electronic versions of the materials; these were also sent to senior colleagues in teaching and learning who were not able to attend.


The Toolkit was well-received on its relaunch with colleagues noting that they would disseminate to colleagues and students, and use the materials in teaching. A senior colleague suggested that the materials should be “possibly sent to students prior to arrival”. This encouraged the inclusion of academic integrity as a topic for the first of three sections in the Study Smart OOC, developed by the Study Advice team in conjunction with the University’s OOC team as a preparatory course for new undergraduates and launched in Aug 2017. The section has seen strong engagement from the almost 2500 students who have enrolled so far, with a total of 2883 comments on discussion boards including 537 responses to the question, “What does academic integrity mean to you?”


The revision and republishing of the Toolkit was especially timely with interest growing in the teaching of academic integrity as an alternative strategy to minimise academic misconduct: this certainly aided us in our aim of awareness-raising amongst staff. We were also fortunate to have recently subscribed to LibGuides in the Library, and so had experience of what worked with this format to draw on when making materials more engaging and easy to navigate for students. In addition, our research officer had already worked for the Talis Aspire implementation project and brought valuable experience of communicating guidance to students.

One comment gleaned from feedback on the launch event mentioned that it would have been useful to have more practical examples of how academic tutors could use the Toolkit materials in their teaching. While we lacked the resource to add research and development on this topic into the project, it would have been an effective strategy to encourage use of the materials and so would have contributed positively to awareness-raising.

Follow up

Since its relaunch, the Toolkit has received 8940 views with peaks in November 2016 (the month of launch), January 2017 (following feedback from Autumn term assignments) and September 2017 (new entrants including those new undergraduates who may have undertaken the Study Smart OOC). Research undertaken on the project contributed to the design of the Academic Integrity section in the Study Smart OOC.


The Academic Integrity Toolkit (LibGuide):



Group work: investigating the requirements of a student resource

Sonia Hood, Study Adviser, Library                                                                                                                                                                        Year of activity: 2015/16


The project explored both the challenges and solutions of assessed group work, from a staff and student perspective. Focus groups and in-depth interviews with undergraduates, postgraduates and staff revealed a number of key challenges such as: confronting ‘difficult’ group members; ensuring fairness; and dealing with varying priorities. A number of solutions were proposed including: careful consideration of the % mark allocated to group work; training on dealing with challenging individuals; more emphasis on self-awareness; and timetabled group work sessions. The project offers a number of recommendations to anyone wishing to improve their students’ ability to engage positively with group work.


  • To explore the challenges and solutions to assessed group work, from a student and staff perspective
  • To offer recommendations that support students to independently solve some of the challenges they face with this form of assessment
  • To create a ‘student reviewed’ bank of group work resources


Group work is an integral part of assessment at university but students rarely arrive equipped with the skills, experience and knowledge to deal with the challenges they face when working in groups. As a result this can be a cause of anxiety for students and also a time consuming intervention for lecturers. Henley Business School (HBS) approached Study Advice for help in supporting their students to deal with the group work challenges they face. Whilst it was accepted that a wide range of open access group work resources were already available, it was felt that students needed help navigating these. In addition, it was felt in order to truly support students with group work we first needed to understand the challenges they face, how they have/intend to overcome these and how best they would like to be supported in doing this. Real Estate and Planning (REP) students were chosen as the sample and focus groups and in-depth interviews were used to explore the perceptions, challenges and proposed solutions for assessed group work.


A student researcher post was developed and an REP student was employed over the summer to evaluate the wealth of open access resources available on group work. This resulted in a folder of group work resources being created and uploaded onto Blackboard.  In addition a pack containing key resources was compiled and handed out to part 1 REP students when commencing their first group work project.

A staff focus group took place in June 2015, where 7 HBS staff members discussed the challenges and solutions to group work from their experience and perspective. Following this, in the autumn term part 1 students from REP were invited to a focus group to discuss their early perceptions of group work at university. In the spring term, 6 students following MSc planning courses contributed to a focus group, discussing the challenges they faced and their proposed solutions. Finally over the course of the spring and summer terms, 8 in-depth interviews were carried out with both undergraduates (UGs) and postgraduates (PGs) following Real Estate and Planning courses to explore their individual experiences with this form of assessment. These interviews and focus groups were then transcribed, analysed and themed into both challenges and solutions.


All three objectives of this study were reached. We now have a bank of resources to support students with group work, available on Blackboard, which can be copied into any course.

Group work student pack
Excerpt from Student Pack




















The initial pack handed out to students proved to be useful for undergraduates, mainly as an aid to focus early group discussions. The research has helped to develop our understanding of the challenges students face and the solutions they feel could be implemented. These are being disseminated in the first instance to those in REP and then to the wider T&L community. It is hoped that these findings will help to improve the effectiveness and experience of group working for a wide variety of students.


The interviews and focus groups revealed the complex challenges associated with group work: not least in dealing with conflict and difficult group members, managing different priorities within the group and the perception of fairness with regards the marking system. Solutions varied between the PG and UG students, though all recognised that effective teams take time to get to know each other informally. Students suggested that informal events could be organised as part of their course to help them through this ‘forming’ stage. PG students also asked for careful consideration of how the mark for group work is allocated (with a higher proportion allocated to individual work) and a penalty imposed as a last resort. More support was requested in dealing with conflict and difficult team members, and the need for more self-reflection from everyone within the group was identified. There are also some simple things we can do to help students with the practicalities of group work, like timetabling group work sessions and  booking rooms at set times for students to use. In terms of tutor support, it was recognized that their time was limited; when it comes to personal issues within a group, speaking to a mentor (like a part 2 student) who could offer confidential, impartial advice would be a preferable option for UGs.

Follow up

Overall, the majority of students recognised the importance and value of group work, not only for future careers but also in the depth and breadth of work they could produce. There are a complex set of challenges that students face in dealing with this form of assessment and this project reveals some solutions that students believe we could implement to help them to deal with issues independently.

Work continues on this project, as at present we are only just starting to disseminate the findings. Whilst the recommendations from this small scale study might not be relevant to all engaged in group work, it is felt that a number of themes and challenges are shared across a variety of disciplines. We would welcome speaking to anyone who is interested in finding out more about this project and how they might benefit from this research.

Filling the skills gap: information literacy skills throughout the degree programme

Jackie Skinner, Library
Year of activity: 2015-16


16374This is an ongoing project to devise and implement a framework of skills to be developed by undergraduate students in Food and Nutritional Sciences throughout their degree programme. I have worked closely with staff in the Department on this project and so far it has resulted in changes to module content and a redevelopment of the departmental personal tutorials system.


  • To audit existing skills development across the Food programmes.
  • To devise a framework of skills competencies to be developed throughout the programme.
  • To embed skills in suitable modules, or explore additional ways to enable students to acquire those skills.
  • Explore ways to allow students to assess their own skills competency: how confident do they feel with their skills proficiency and how have these skills been developed?
  • To ensure international students entering at Part Two are given the same opportunities to develop skills they might have missed by not taking Part One modules at the University of Reading.


Through teaching and supporting Food students as their liaison librarian it had become clear to me that there were inconsistencies in skills expectations, which caused problems for students. It appeared that some academics expected advanced skills competencies which the students had not had the chance to develop, especially in Part One. There was also a feeling among staff that the students lacked skills they should have acquired by Part Three. In addition the Department’s Industrial Advisory Board had highlighted skills weaknesses in University of Reading graduates which needed to be assessed and addressed.


Inspired by a Library staff training workshop on the ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy) skills framework, I decided to try to assess the scale of the problem and devise a plan to address it. This framework aims to help undergraduates develop an advanced, reflective level of information literacy which will enable them not just to find information, but to evaluate, analyse and use academic material independently and judiciously.

The first step was to undertake a survey of module convenors to map the skills required for each module and those the students would develop in each module. Submissions were received for 41 out of 51 modules and showed evidence of a disparity in skills expectations and development.

After discussion at the Department T&L Committee I met with Programme Directors and used a card sorting exercise to map out skills required by the end of each Part. Once the skills framework was ratified, these were mapped onto suitable modules. This task was made more difficult because there are very few modules taken in common by all students in the Department. In addition to mapping most skills to modules, others were identified by academics as suitable for development through the personal tutorials system, e.g. reflective learning.


Although this is still a work in progress, it is has resulted in a greater awareness of skills development within the Department.

The framework and module mapping discussions have already resulted in some changes to module content, such as integrating a session on online identity management in a Part One module. This project has also instigated a change in approach to the personal tutorials system, moving towards a more structured approach, with group tutorials fostering more peer support and learning. I am currently working with academics and one of our Study Advisers to put together an online resource to support tutors in running their tutorials.

Although I have worked with the Food and Nutritional Sciences Department for many years, the whole process of conducting this project has enhanced my understanding of the work of the Department, and enabled me to become an embedded member of the academic team.


This project coincided with a restructuring of the Department’s degree programmes and a desire for a more co-ordinated approach to module provision. The enthusiastic support of the Head of Department was a key factor in its success, as well as the openness of all academics to discuss ways to embed skills development in their modules.

Although the initial survey was time consuming, and could be skipped by anyone seeking to develop a similar skills framework in less time, it provided firm evidence to take to the T&L Committee.

The final two objectives have still to be achieved. Developing a skills self-assessment tool will require assistance from the TEL Team, if it is to be embedded in the student record and available to tutors too. Ideally this would provide evidence of the effectiveness of skills teaching which could be reviewed annually to influence development of module materials. Reworking the language module taken by students entering Part Two from overseas universities to ensure it includes the Part One skills also needs further work with the International Study and Language Institute and the International Student Tutor. The project may be of interest to those developing Curriculum Framework resources and toolkits.

Follow up

The skills framework has been tweaked a few times as a result of discussions with module convenors and at the T&L Committee. Recent feedback from students on their research project training may also result in further changes. Iterative changes will take place as a result of analysis of information from the skills self-assessment tool.


‘What did I do wrong?’ Supporting independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism

Helen Hathaway, Library; Clare Nukui, International Foundation Programme; Dr Kim Shahabudin, Study Advice; Dr Elisabeth Wilding, International Study and Language Institute
Year of activity: 2012-13


8905The development of an Academic Integrity Toolkit for academic tutors to draw on, which collated evaluated teaching and support resources for supporting the development of independent learning practices necessary to avoid plagiarism, and offered guidance for adapting and using them in subject teaching.


  • To conduct research into current practices and needs for supporting the development of independent learning practices.
  • To develop a toolkit to provide academic tutors with resources for developing independent learning practices necessary to avoid plagiarism.


The fundamental academic principles of independent critical thinking, supported by appropriate and properly cited evidence from evaluated sources, lie at the heart of Higher Education in the UK. A proper understanding of these principles and the independent learning practices needed to achieve them is especially crucial in avoiding unintentional plagiarism. Despite the availability of a range of advice, both internal and external to the University of Reading, students continually stated that they did not know when and how to use citations, or how to avoid unintentional plagiarism. Beyond simply learning the mechanisms of setting out a bibliography or when to include a citation, students need to understand associated practices, such as where to find appropriate sources of information in their subject, how to keep proper records, and how, when, and why to use references in their academic work.


Data was collected from a variety of sources on current practices and perceived needs to inform the production of the toolkit. Team members were able to draw upon their professional communities for information about practices at other institutions, and on contacts at the University of Reading for practices and perceived needs. A research officer was appointed, and was tasked with collecting further data from academic tutors and students in a number of selected departments at the University, using semi-structured interviews and focus groups. These were set against the wider context of general observations gathered through separate online surveys offered to all staff and students. Existing pedagogical research into student referencing practices was also considered.

The research questions during this stage of inquiry were:

  • What are the main (perceived and actual) difficulties that students have with understanding referencing and avoiding plagiarism?
  • How do associated independent learning practices impact on this?
  • Why do students fail to engage with current teaching and guidance on referencing?
  • What teaching resources are currently available (at the University of Reading and elsewhere), and how might they be made more effective for teaching staff and students across the University?

The research was used to inform the content and production of the Academic Integrity Toolkit materials. These were generated by team members using a template, before going through an iterative process of revision and evaluation by other team members.  They were then edited by a single team member to ensure consistency.


The Academic Integrity Toolkit was successfully launched in June 2013 at an event attended by over 50 members of staff, with a visiting speaker presenting on the topic of student referencing practices. The Toolkit comprises:

    • 17 handouts giving guidance on key learning practices;
    • 8 exercise sheets with answers;
    • 13 sets of PowerPoint slides for use in teaching;
    • Links to screencasts produced by members of the Study Advice team;
    • An annotated list of useful websites.

The Academic Integrity Toolkit has been made available through the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment, onto which staff can self-enrol. A paper version contained in a card folder was created for attendees at the launch event and to disseminate to key members of the teaching and learning community at the University of Reading.

The Toolkit has been a successful and well-used teaching resource. Departments and Schools have requested that their entire teaching staff get enrolled to the Toolkit through Blackboard. It was favourably received by the University Board of Teaching and Learning and the Sub-Committee for the Development and Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, with suggestions being made for its further development through a student-facing version in digital format.

There has been interest, both at the University of Reading and beyond, in the results of the project. Presentations were given at the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference, the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education conference, and the Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences summer conference.


While the project was successful, it was not without its difficulties. Difficulty was experienced with data collection at the University, particularly in recruiting students for focus groups, which may have been an unavoidable consequence of the necessary timing. Despite this difficulty, however, the data obtained by the focus groups that did run was supplemented by a good response to the wider University-wide survey, and by reported data from academic and support staff through their direct contact with students.

Another difficulty faced was the existing busy workloads of the team members. This was overcome by scheduling brief face-to-face lunchtime meetings once a month, and by setting up a wiki (using PBworks) to allow collation of data and joint working on documents, in addition to regular email communications. Despite the potential for difficulties caused by the project being a collaboration between the Library, International Study and Language Institute and Study Advice, the combined expertise and experience of team members proved particularly valuable, especially as it allowed the project to make use of team members’ involvement with various professional networks, and it was found to be very advantageous to have the different perspectives that were able to be provided by having a diverse team.

Follow up

It is planned that the resources developed through the project be adapted to be an Open Educational Resource, to allow them to be more widely shared for use in UK and global Higher Education teaching.

Guides to citing and avoiding plagiarism available on the Library website have been informed by the results of the project and updated appropriately.

It is hoped that more extensive resources will be developed, and that these will be mediated by members of staff.

As a result of the experience of collaborative working between different areas of the University, Helen Hathaway and Kim Shahabudin have had a chapter entitled ‘Terms of reference: working together to develop student citation practices’ accepted for publication within a forthcoming edited volume.


Mind the skills gap: auditing and embedding information literacy skills development across the curriculum by Jackie Skinner and Helen Hathaway

Academic staff acting as Library Representatives for their school or department, other teaching and learning experts, and Library staff came together over lunch recently for their fifth annual Community of Practice meeting. Its theme was skills development within the curriculum and showcased collaborative work in one department to establish information literacy levels required at each undergraduate stage. One definition of information literacy is ‘knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner’ Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Information literacy skills audit: Food case study

Jackie Skinner, Liaison Librarian for Food Studies spoke about a skills audit she Professor Bob Rastall speaking atthe skills audit Community of Practiceundertook in close collaboration with Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme Directors to identify what skills are required or assumed of students at different stages of their academic development and where these were taught (or not). The audit consisted of an online survey which was completed by all module convenors. The results revealed a disparity between academics’ expectations of students’ skills, and the opportunities students had to develop those skills. The first step in addressing this disparity was to develop a skills framework outlining which skills students should have acquired by the end of each Part. Mapping these skills onto individual modules is currently under discussion, along with other means of enhancing student development, such as the use of personal tutorials. Providing a means for students to assess their own skills competencies and confidence is also under investigation.

Study Skills Adviser, Michelle Reid gave some background on the ANCIL framework which formed the basis for the audit. ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy) aims to help undergraduates develop an advanced, reflective level of information literacy which will enable them not just to find information, but to evaluate, analyse and use academic material independently and judiciously. The ANCIL framework is already being used by 12 other UK universities to develop their information literacy skills training.

Professor Bob Rastall added his perspective as Head of Department. This included some interesting insights into some unintended consequences of the audit, such as skills development forming a positive discussion topic with parents at UCAS days.

As well as providing an outline of the audit, the results and subsequent actions, the presentation gave a clear appraisal of the benefits of the process for all participants. It was followed by discussion and questions.

Anyone interested in using the same approach to identify any information literacy skills development gaps in their own areas should contact their subject liaison librarian.

Getting the Community spirit

The annual Library Representatives’ Community of Practice events are arranged by the Helen Hathaway introducing theskills audit Community of Practice - presenters Michelle Reid andJackieSkinnerLibrary’s Helen Hathaway, Head of Academic Liaison and Support to enable cross-faculty discussion, sharing good practice and the exploration of new ideas and solutions to Library issues on an informal level. Departmental Library Representatives are the appointed academic staff who provide a formal channel of communication between their School or Department and the Library.

Developing students’ academic skills online: the Library’s ‘Info tips’ by Erika Delbecque

illustration for info tips blogpost

Library Info tips have been a feature of our website since 2009 but how well-known and used are they? Which are the most popular? These bite-sized articles, which are aimed at developing students’ academic and research skills, cover topics that are relevant to all students, such as:

  • Referencing
  • Finding specific types of materials such as statistics, images and maps
  • Using Endnote
  • Accessing and using e-books
  • Using the internet for academic study

The Info tips are advertised by a banner on the Library homepage, and a new tip is published every two weeks. They are often written jointly by Liaison Librarians and Study Advisers, and they usually tie in with specific periods in the academic year. For example,

the Info tips that we published this summer on reading around a subject and keeping records are aimed at students working on their dissertations, and in October, Info tips on using the Library catalogue and understanding reading lists can help new students find their feet.

Through the use of Google Analytics, we have been able to ascertain the popularity of the Info tips.  Each Info tip is visited by hundreds of students. Top of the chart with over 500 views is ‘Study advice for exam success’, which points students towards useful books on exam revision, makes them aware of workshops organised by the Study Advice team, and gives a few helpful tips on how to revise effectively. Two other timely Info tips, ‘Develop your research skills’ and ‘Using the internet for academic study’, complete the top three.

Through our Info tips feature, we are able to encourage students to develop their academic skills by providing targeted information at the time when they most need it. Please help promote them by alerting your students to relevant Info tips. You can sign up for an RSS feed from our Library news blog to get alerted to new Info tips as they are added. In this way, you can help us make the Info tips reach an even wider audience.