‘What did I do wrong?’: Supporting independent learning practices

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 (TLDF).

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.

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

This post is also on the Engage in Teaching and Tearning blog.

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