Becoming Well Read

Tuesday 9th April 2019

Over fifty delegates from twenty different institutions across the UK gathered to enjoy the first event of this type to take place in the sector:  to explore academic reading practices, to reflect on the challenges of teaching reading for academic purposes and to share innovative and interesting teaching methods.


Being Well Read to Being Well Written | Jeanne Godfrey

Using source material successfully is a central part of study and scholarship but one that is often a complex and daunting challenge for students. Being well read necessitates making informed reading choices and taking ownership of them, having a deep-level understanding of the texts read, and building up a knowledge of where the ideas are located in the field. Awareness of these processes and actualising them can help students identify their own position in their field and so develop their own written voice and academic identity.

In her talk, Jeanne summarised research findings and insights relevant to the processes listed above, and shared some teaching ideas and practices that have proved effective in helping students understand and be engaged with what they read and so in turn care more about what they write.

Workshops and presentations

"I don't do books": Reframing emotional barriers to academic reading.

Embedding the awareness of reading for a purpose for new students

Using reading retreats to develop critical reading practices

Making friends with academic reading

Collaborative planning and delivering of embedded academic reading practices: An academic capabilities toolkit

GCSEs to Undergraduate: Managing Student Transition

Introducing guided reading to the curriculum - Experience from Sri Lanka

Use of journal articles as assessment resources in Chemistry at Keele University

Reading Dawdle, Walking Library, Walking Discussion and Walk the Room


08:30 - 09:30   Registration and Refreshments

09:30 - 09:45   Opening Ceremonies

09:45 - 10:30   Keynote: 'Being Well Read to Being Well Written' Jeanne Godfrey

10:30 - 12:40   Parallel Sessions - delegates will be asked to choose from the following sessions:

Senior Common RoomRalph Suite

"I don't do books": Reframing emotional barriers to academic reading
Emma Kimberley - University of Northampton

Embedding the awareness of reading for a purpose for new students
Sally Bartholomew and Jodi Withers - University of Wolverhampton
Using reading retreats to develop critical reading practices
Angela Rhead - Keele University
Making friends with academic reading
Laura Kennedy and Rebecca Parry - University of Chester

12:45 - 13:30   Lunch

13:30 - 14:30   Parallel Sessions - delegates will be asked to choose from the following sessions:

Senior Common Room  Sneyd RoomRalph Suite
Collaborative planning and delivering of embedded academic reading practices: An academic capabilities toolkit
Rachel Lee and Clare Foster - Keele University
GCSEs to Undergraduate: Managing student transition
Alison Croasdale - University College London

Faculty of Natural Sciences Showcase
Introducing guided reading to the curriculum - Experience from Sri Lanka
Veranja Liyanapathirana - Keele University

Use of journal articles as assessment resources in Chemistry at Keele University
David McGarvey - Keele University

14:30 - 15:15   Reading Walks:

We are excited to offer an alternative to a conference discussion panel by taking the discussion outside...

Walking as a tool for teaching and learning that encourages creative thinking and analysis, is an emerging method, particularly for creative disciplines. We are offering a range of opportunities to try this new method in relation to the subject of academic reading. Delegates will be asked to choose one of the following:


Reading Dawdle - Ceri Morgan Walking Library - Angela Rhead Walking Discussion - Chris Little Walk the Room - Kizzy Beaumont
Go on a guided dawdle through Keele's campus with Ceri Morgan, a research-practitioner who uses walking methods as a means of public engagement and teaching and learning (see below). Ceri will provide prompts for reflection and discussion on the symposium themes.  Each member brings a book, article or resource they want to share with others. This could be a text you might recommend to a student or a fellow teacher...or just something that has inspired your academic reading. Each member of the group will read the same short text about reading and then discuss their responses as they take a stroll around the beautiful Keele campus (NB the text will be available before the symposium) For anyone who wants to stay closer to home, a discussion activity that allows elements of all the other sessions will be hosted in one of the symposium rooms.

15:15 - 15:30   Plenary - Ceri Morgan

Reconvene in the Old Library to reflect on the potential for walking to facilitate academic reading and listen to a brief overview of Ceri's experiences in using walks in her practice. Ceri is a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Keele, who works on literary geographies in Quebec fiction, place-writing, walking studies, and geohumatities.

15:30 - 15:45   Closing Ceremonies

15:45 - 16:30   Cake, Conversation and the Next Chapter

One of Becoming Well Read's aims is to facilitate a community of practitioners with a particular interest in academic reading to continue exploring this aspect of academic literacy beyond the event. At the end of the day, we invite all delegates to join us to consider what that community might look like over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, using the Community Canvas framework. 

Undergraduate academic reading continues to resonate as an almost universally ‘sticky’ (Schon, 1987) threshold concept for higher level learning, with many students struggling to select, read and then use literature in their own research and writing. Saltmarsh and Saltmarsh’s (2008), ‘Has anyone read the reading?’ responds locally to flawed undergraduate reading practices, but also reflects a wider concern in HE about the academic ‘skills’ students enter university with (Hermida, 2009). A significant aspect of academic reading for students across all levels is often the challenge of discerning the levels of credibility or influence of particular sources (Moore, 2013). The requirement for independent reading, with increasing expectations of ‘criticality’, presents further challenges regarding the process of selection and the purpose of academic reading, compounded by the apparent discord between perspectives of students and staff on reading lists (Brewerton, 2014). This is particularly significant where a disciplinary view of criticality emerges from a student’s individual engagement with reading and their positioning in terms of its discourse, which locates reading as a social practice (Lea & Street, 2006).

Additionally, academic reading as a social practice can be considered a ‘conceptual threshold’ (Wisker and Robinson, 2009) that, unlike discipline-specific threshold concepts, describes epistemological cross-disciplinary knowledge that supports interdisciplinary discussion. Becoming Well Read hopes to draw together practitioners from diverse contexts and institutions to support an investigation of shared experiences and expertise, and to forge communities of practice that will continue to explore the development of academic reading beyond the event.

Locally, recent innovative strategies to encourage the development of critical academic reading include scrolling and textmapping within an extended timeframe to enable deeper learning (Marton & Säljö, 1976; Middlebrook, 1994; Singer & Alexander, 2017) in the form of Academic Reading Retreats. These retreats are small, one-day interdisciplinary workshops that bring undergraduates, postgraduates and academics together to explore the processes of reading for enquiry, in which we attempt to precede (or circumvent) narrative reading and encourage “dialogic engagement with the text “(Abbott, 2013, p.198) to uncover the easily recognisable, but difficult to explain, intuitive practices of confident academic readers (Moore, 2013). We are eager to situate our emerging findings with other educational practitioners and to contribute to a debate about this significant, and persistently troubling, aspect of learning.

Abbott, R. (2013) ‘Crossing thresholds in academic reading’, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, Vol. 50 (2), 191-20.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Brewerton, G. (2014) Implications of Student and Lecturer Qualitative Views on Reading Lists: A Case Study at Loughborough University, UK. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 20, 78–90.

Hallett, F. (2013). Study support and the development of academic literacy in higher education: A phenomenographic analysis. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(5), 518-530.

Hermida, J. (2009) The Importance of Teaching Academic Reading Skills in First-Year University Courses. The International Journal of Research and Review, 3, 20-30.

Hill, L. & Meo, A.I. (2015). A Bourdieusian approach to academic reading: reflections on a South African teaching experience. Teaching in Higher Education, 20(8), 1–12.

Hockings, C. (2010) Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education: a synthesis of research. HEA, April 2010.

Lea, M. & Street, B. (2006). The "Academic Literacies" Model: Theory and Applications. Theory Into Practice, 45(4), 368-377.

Macmillan, M. (2014). Student connections with academic texts: a phenomenographic study of reading. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(8), 943-954.

Marton, F., & Säljö, R. (1976). ON QUALITATIVE DIFFERENCES IN LEARNING: I—OUTCOME AND PROCESS *. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46(1), 4-11.

McAlpine, L. (2012). Shining a light on doctoral reading: Implications for doctoral identities and pedagogies. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49(4), 351-361.

Saltmarsh, D. & Saltmarsh, S. (2008). Has anyone read the reading? Using assessment to promote academic literacies and learning cultures. Teaching in Higher Education, 13(6), 621–632.

Singer, L., & Alexander, P. (2017). Reading on Paper and Digitally: What the Past Decades of Empirical Research Reveal. Review of Educational Research, 87(6), 1007-1041.

Wingate, U. (2006). Doing away with ‘study skills’. Teaching in Higher Education, 11(4), 457-469.