We’ve recently added new resources to our learning development teaching resource page. These resources provide teachers with exercises and materials they can adapt and contextualise for their own disciplinary contexts.
Current resources are organised under the three categories below. A fourth, focussing on supporting students’ presentation skills, will be added very shortly.
Teaching resources to support students’ academic writing
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is an area for which we receive the most requests for advice and materials. In addition to the resources previously housed under this theme, we are delighted to add some exercises shared with us by Dr Matthew Allen (School of Business) which take an inventive, playful and refreshingly irreverent approach to enabling students to identify some common linguistic and rhetorical features in academic writing. The exercises are designed to help students recognise and interrogate how academic discourse ‘works’ and also to practise and develop their own ability to participate in this discourse. As well as being of practical use, this approach also of course potentially opens up various academic discourse conventions to more critical scrutiny and reflection.
Other resources in this section invite students to think about, and discuss their understandings of, assessment criteria for written work as well as applying these understandings to their own and other students’ writing.
Teaching resources to support students’ criticality
The expectation that students be ‘critical’ is a commonly stated one across all disciplines. As you would expect, however, definitions and understandings of what this actually means and why it matters can differ enormously. This is true within, let alone across, different disciplines. Invite a group of scholars to discuss the nature, purpose and practices of criticality, and the chances are it won’t be long until differences and disagreements come to the fore. Universities remain, after all, places where a diverse range of intellectual, epistemological, political etc. values co-exist and where contestation and debate are the norm.
The teaching resources in this section are designed to stimulate discussion and reflection around what criticality can mean, why it matters, and what it looks like in different contexts (hence, there are strong overlaps with the aforementioned resources in academic writing). Rather than trying to impose a single, reductive definition of criticality, or to artificially synthesise diverse and often competing definitions, the materials instead encourage students and staff to engage with criticality as a contested concept, and to think about what it can mean to different people in different contexts. In other words, to be critical when learning about what it means to be critical! The resources also acknowledge that criticality is closely bound up with a range of important academic practices – from reading academic texts, to making notes, to writing assignments.
Teaching resources to support students’ group working
Last, but not least, we’ve added some new resources to support student group working. In addition to our own materials, we are delighted to be able to share the work of Dr Steve Cooke (Department of Politics and International Relations) who has provided details of a structured approach to group seminar readings. This involves assigning particular roles to different group members – roles which can be shifted around the group so that everyone gets to approach a reading via different ‘lens’. In addition to providing greater structure to the group work, the exercise is also designed to help students understand the different purposes for reading academic texts – from deepening or extending knowledge, to summarising content, to critiquing what is claimed.
In addition to the resources on our website, we have a Supporting Student Learning Resource Hub, for activities particularly suited to Blackboard, where you can browse and copy resources over to your own course site. You can self-enrol by logging onto Blackboard, clicking on ‘Courses’ on the top right hand side, selecting Leicester Learning Institute, and enrolling on the LLIX001 Supporting Student Learning: Resource Hub course site.
Finally, we are aware that many colleagues will be using a range of creative and innovative approaches to supporting their students’ learning and we are very keen, indeed, to share this work as widely as possible. If you would like to share an approach you use with your students, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.