Embedding Academic Capabilities into the Curriculum

Case study author: Rachel Lee

Keele Business School

CDF Framework: Inclusive Learning

Project Summary

The project involved embedding academic practice development into the curriculum to increase student engagement with academic reading and writing. This was done through collaboration between a marketing lecturer, a learner developer and a liaison librarian to embed academic practice into a first-year Undergraduate marketing module.

The initiative is recognition of the challenge students face when transitioning into Higher Education. It takes an inclusive approach to learning and teaching by providing students with the necessary tools to actively engage with their academic studies.

Helping students develop academic capabilities such as research, reading and writing were embedded into the module curriculum through collaboration on module design, lecture sessions and tutorial activities. The first four weeks of the module involved two-hour lectures, shared between the module lecturer and the learning developer, introducing different areas of academic capabilities in conjunction with module content. These lectures were supported by tutorial sessions where students were encouraged to engage in active reflection on their current capabilities; research development using library facilities; analysing journal articles to help engagement with active academic reading and writing. The lectures and tutorials were linked throughout to an essay assignment and exam assessment and were embedded in the disciplinary subject.

The project supported the principle that learning is a gradual process that takes time, attention and practice.

Student cohorts are becoming increasingly diverse in their needs and expectations and the project aimed to create a supportive and long-term approach to academic development to help students engage with their learning.

Before implementation of the project, learning developers delivered ‘one-off’ academic practice sessions in a lecture slot within a module. However, the issue with this is that it causes separation between academic capabilities and module content. This impacts students’ ability to effectively learn and implement academic reading capabilities to the module requirements and does not address the ongoing complexities students face with study in Higher Education and within a particular discipline.

Fundamentally, separating academic capabilities from module content creates a detachment within the learning process. So, the aim of the project was to combine these together to create a more holistic and long-term perspective of the learning and research process for students.

Gaining feedback from students was vitally important to assess how successful the project was and to understand students’ experiences of engaging with our approach to teaching.

This project is now in its fourth year and feedback from students over this period has suggested positive results so far.

Students have reported that their confidence in their academic capabilities has improved to apply academic reading, lecture notetaking, assignment writing and general time management, particularly when searching for resources to support their work. Furthermore, students have indicated that they have taken these capabilities into their other modules.

Academic study is often a new and daunting experience for students either re-entering education or moving from further education. The feedback from students indicates that the project is helping to increase confidence to face the new challenges of academic study and enjoy academic study.

The project has remained embedded within the 1st year marketing module having first been implemented into a second-year marketing module. In addition, the project was shared with over fifty delegates from twenty different institutions in attendance at Keele’s Becoming Well Read Symposium 2019.

An academic toolkit was created and shared so that other institutions could adapt and implement the project within their own modules or teaching contexts. Further to this, the project was presented at the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education Annual Conference 2019.

The team continues to work on this project to share good practice and ready-to-go resources both internally within Keele and externally to the wider learning and teaching community.

The key point of this project is that it is not module or discipline specific. Instead, it is grounded in core principles of learning and development that are transferable to any context. This project can be implemented in small or large quantities depending on context. An academic toolkit has been developed that consists of techniques and resources that can be adapted and experimented with in different learning situations.

The principles of breaking down assignment questions, developing keywords to improve research strategy and reading effectively to get the main points for writing apply whether you are writing an essay, report, presentation or a lab report.

The essence of the project is supporting students to develop wider capabilities so that they have the tools to apply to the tasks they are being asked to complete.