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):



What are the benefits of Study Smart? A student perspective By Tom Wise (Part 3, Psychological Theory and Practice)

Being a student mentor for the Study Smart online course for Part 1 undergraduates has offered me an opportunity for personal development, through examining the perspectives of upcoming students to the University. It has allowed me to reflect on my university experiences, and develop further skills in communication. These are areas particularly important to me, as through reflecting on my experiences it has enabled me to understand my personal best practises, and supporting others to find their own. In addition, I have learnt to engage and effectively communicate with new individuals, about topics which are both basic and complex. Although with hindsight a topic (such as referencing) may now seem like second nature, for those initially transitioning to university, it can be extremely complex and daunting. Through developing this understanding, and through personal reflection and guiding others, it has really shown me how important a positive and supported university transition can be.

This course clearly can reduce student anxiety about coming to a different academic environment, made clear by comments during the course. However, there are other subtler benefits of this program, as this course can normalise and provide the understanding that “you are not alone”. When combined with other university wide programs, such as STaR Mentoring, it can provide a fully supportive, but not condescending transition; ensuring students enjoy the university experience for what it is.

Although there can be seen to be these higher-level benefits, Study Smart allows students to really utilize the university resources from day one. The course breaks down these resources, which can be worked through at the student’s own pace, before or during the first weeks at university, rather than being dumped onto them during Welcome Week, which can often leave students feeling very overwhelmed. This can mean that every student is able to receive uniform support into university.

Finally, I have enjoyed being a mentor on this program, as it has allowed me to give back to the University community. This has led me to some further questions which would be interesting to peruse further critically around how this course may impact on a student’s first term at the University, specifically their first formative assessment mark (in areas covered within this course) as well as their levels of anxiety. It would be interesting to evaluate whether students who have completed the course do feel less anxious than those who have not; this could demonstrate even further the benefits of Study Smart.

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.

‘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.


Study support for MOOCs – do the Study Advisers have the answer? by the Study Advice team

The recent announcement that Reading has been selected as a partner in the Futurelearn project to provide free online courses is an exciting move towards new ways of engaging with a potentially massive cohort of students. However, concerns have been expressed about the lack of support for students studying the courses, especially those run by profit-seeking companies. The Times Higher Education Supplement (14 Feb 2013) reports Prof Josie Taylor of the Open University commenting that it is unethical to recruit large numbers of ‘inexperienced learners’ without providing them with support for their learning practices. Certainly if one of the aims of MOOCs is to act as a recruitment tool for future students by providing a taste of the teaching available at institutions, building in the probability of failure seems both wrong and commercially unwise.

Futurelearn’s webpage on MOOCs explained notes that ‘Due to the large number of students studying MOOCs, learning support comes from the online learning community rather than academic staff… MOOCs attempt to encourage students to be independent and self-motivating.’ Students will be encouraged to form online support networks using social media to build peer relationships. While peer learning and support is certainly a valuable and increasingly well-used strategy in universities, such initiatives involve peers already embedded in study at HE level, who are usually supported or mentored by trained staff. Independence and self-motivation are qualities we would all like to encourage in our students – but it’s equally important to recognise when expert guidance is more appropriate and have access to that guidance.

A project supported by the Annual Fund and carried out by the Study Advisers may have a potential answer to this problem. We have been developing a series of ‘bite-size’ screencasts on key aspects of learning practices, focusing on the issues most frequently discussed with students in Study Advice sessions. These avoid the traditional ‘talking head’ format, combining an explanatory spoken voicetrack with visual illustration of the ideas discussed, including animations and text extracts. Students can pause and re-watch parts of the presentations to build their understanding in ways that would be impossible during a lecture presentation.

We hope to launch the screencasts for access to Reading students via Blackboard later in the summer, as well as using them for a ‘flipped learning’ model for Study Advice workshops. If you would like to preview the resources developed so far and give us some feedback, please contact Michelle Reid ( or Sonia Hood (

Turning study skills learning on its head by Dr Michelle Reid, Sonia Hood and Dr Kim Shahabudin

The Study Advice team found David Nutt’s post (Preparing to turn the classroom upside down, 14th Sept 2012) very timely as we too are embarking on a project to ‘flip’ the classroom.

Flipped learning has been a significant driver in the increase in open online courses for higher education. It has been used in higher education in the US with great success, particularly in science and maths subjects and has become widely used in teaching in US secondary schools. Discussing the approach with learning development colleagues at other universities alerted us to the potential benefits for teaching study skills.

Students are often reluctant to commit time from a busy schedule to developing their study skills, despite the prospect of greater success in learning. The flipped learning model allows students to explore key concepts or theories via videos, podcasts or screencasts, whilst freeing up contact hours for interactive application of these key concepts. This means that:

  • students practise independent learning from the start;
  • they can learn at their own pace and at a time to suit them;
  • problems with understanding can be spotted and addressed quickly.

The Study Advice project, funded by a grant from the Annual Fund, will apply the model to generic study skills teaching on topics including essay writing and referencing practice. We will be developing suites of ‘bite-size’ animated teaching resources using Camtasia to produce screencasts, accessed via our Blackboard Organisation. These will be followed by ‘Workshop Plus’ sessions to practise the skills taught in the screencasts. The screencasts will also be made available to University of Reading students and staff to use for their own purposes.

Challenges include persuading students to watch the screencasts before attending the hands-on sessions. Previous examples of flipped learning are course-based, with a specific cohort of students in one subject area. This means students are more motivated to access resources, while tutors can target the ‘just in time teaching’ mentioned by David to the needs of the group. In contrast, our teaching will be generic, on key study concepts which have a significant, but less visible impact on grades.

We would be very interested to hear the experiences of any other staff taking this approach in their teaching, and will be happy to share our own experiences. If you would like to know more about this project, contact any member of the Study Advice team (Sonia Hood, Kim Shahabudin, Michelle Reid and Judy Turner).