Teaching students how to use references: a speaker and a ‘toolkit’ by Dr Kim Shahabudin, Helen Hathaway, Clare Nukui, Dr Liz Wilding

On Wed 5 June, rather too many people crammed into rather too warm a room to hear about where we are going wrong when teaching students about referencing practices – and a suite of teaching materials that will hopefully help us avoid such pitfalls.

Our speaker was Diane Schmitt, Senior Lecturer in EFL/TESOL at Nottingham Trent University, whose topic was Adding ‘purpose’ to instruction on the use of sources, referencing and ‘avoiding plagiarism’. Diane argued that we need to refocus on the fact that the absence of plagiarism is not equivalent to good writing. We should instead move towards a ‘pedagogy for using sources’, teaching students how, why and when to use sources in their discipline. An especially useful ‘takeaway’ message proposed encouraging students to take a staged approach to reading, starting with a short introductory text that outlined the main issues and topics before moving on to in-depth research in second-level sources which could be used to support their academic writing.  Bringing reading into the classroom can help to support ‘reading to learn’ as well as building knowledge and the comprehension of arguments.

The session also saw the launch of the Academic Integrity Toolkit, a suite of teaching materials on the practices students need to get right to avoid plagiarism. These were developed as part of a TLDF-funded project, ‘What did I do wrong?’ Supporting independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism, which brought together investigators from Study Advice, the Library and the ISLC. With brief handouts and exercise sheets, PowerPoint slides and links to screencasts, the Toolkit aims to facilitate guidance on effective study within subject teaching and in feedback to individual students. Topics include taking useful notes, citing unusual sources and writing paraphrases. The full toolkit is on Blackboard (search the Organisation Catalog for ‘Academic Integrity Toolkit’ – you can self-enrol) where slides and handout from Diane’s talk can also be found. Contact any member of the team directly for more information.

Institute of Education promotes student-staff partnerships in learning and teaching by Dr Eileen Hyder

The academic year 2012-13 has been a dynamic time for the SSLC of the BA Ed programme. In response to results on the NSS and internal evaluations, two sub-committees were set up to focus on specific areas for development within the course: Organisation/communication and Assessment/feedback. This student input has resulted in many changes. For example, the timing of assignments has been reviewed; use of Blackboard has improved; processes for school placements have been revised and students have had input into timetabling and planning for next year.

In addition the Year 4 student reps have taken part in the PLANT (Partnerships in Learning and Teaching) project linked to the University’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Priority Area of engaging students in research and enquiry, specifically within the areas of engaging students in curriculum and pedagogic developments and expanding opportunities for students to engage in research.

The focus of the project was to allow final year students to evaluate the programme and make recommendations for future developments. Reps engaged with Year 4 students in a variety of ways. Firstly they asked students to use post-it notes to write words which represented the positive aspects of the course. This was used to develop a Wordle. Secondly they carried out a focus group with a randomly selected group of students. Results were fed back to all Year 4 students for validation.

The PLANT project has been underpinned by the idea of legacy (Year 4 feeding back to make positive changes for other students). Funding from the PLANT project has allowed students to develop resources which will be beneficial for the programme. The Wordle will be used on Open Day presentations; flyers are being developed which will be emailed to Freshers before they join the course and a sheet of ‘Top tips for surviving Year 4’ is being developed for next year’s finalists. In addition, the results have been disseminated to programme tutors with Year 4 reps attending the termly tutor meeting and they have also met the IoE Director of Teaching and Learning.

This year has shown that students can be active partners in curriculum design and development as their input has been vital in driving forward change. We are now considering the transition from this year’s reps to next year’s so that momentum is not lost and so that we can continue to work with our students to continue improving the student experience on our programme.

What did I do wrong? Supporting independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism by Helen Hathaway

My paper on the project What did I do wrong? Supporting independent learning practices to avoid plagiarism was well received in Manchester last week at LILAC.

What is the project about?

It is one year project at the University of Reading involving collaboration between Library staff (including a Study Adviser); staff from the International Study and Language Centre and academic staff and students from a range of Schools across different faculties. It is funded by the University’s Teaching and Learning development fund.

It is not a “how to reference” or even a “how to avoid plagiarism” project but rather embedded within the wider context of the fundamental academic principles of independent critical thinking, supported by appropriate and properly cited evidence from evaluated sources which is especially crucial in avoiding unintentional plagiarism. Students need to understand where to find appropriate sources of information in their subject and how, when and why to use references to these in their academic work to enable them to develop their arguments and achieve the correct balance between evidence and interpretation. This goes beyond simply learning the mechanisms of setting out a bibliography or when to include a citation, though these are problems that will be addressed – how to cite unusual types of materials for example. While not implying that poor academic practice in this is a  problem that is confined to international students, experience suggests it is perhaps more acute in that area; while the toolkit will be useful to all the Schools we are particularly aware of the cultural difficulties international students may face academically.

The primary output will be a digital ‘toolkit’ of bite-sized resources for academic tutors to draw on which collates evaluated teaching and support resources with guidance for adapting them for subject teaching. The aim will be to maximise their effective use with students to develop their deep understanding of “why” they should develop particular practices or skills.

The funding has allowed the appointment of a project officer to conduct focus groups and extended interviews. Other members of the team have researched existing resources both within the University and beyond and are now working on the toolkit. We are not there yet…

And what is LILAC?

LILAC is the “Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference” and is “aimed at librarians and information professionals who teach information literacy skills, are interested in digital literacies and want to improve the information seeking and evaluation skills of all our library users whoever they may be”. It is an excellent chance for professionals from across sectors and from many countries to get together to share good practice in learning and teaching and to look to the future.

My paper was part of the dissemination phase of the project and was taken in the “Collaboration and partnerships” strand. It resulted in interest in whether the toolkit  would be made available as an Open Educational Resource and of course some interesting discussion. Further dissemination will be across the sector via ALDinHE, BALEAP and hopefully JISC conferences/seminars.

The team is – myself, Clare Nukui (IFP), Kim Shahabudin (Study Adviser), Liz Wilding (ISLC) and Project Officer Rhi Smith.

Dr Kim Shahabudin also just presented this poster on the project at the ALDinHE conference in Plymouth
Dr Kim Shahabudin also just presented this poster on the project at the ALDinHE conference in Plymouth