What is at the heart of the Academic Skills provision??

Academics and library services working together for student success.

Strategic context

This document outlines the support which staff from Library Services, specifically the Academic Support Team (comprising Academic Librarians and Academic Skills Tutors) are able to offer within taught programmes. The professional expertise of the Academic Support Team covers assessment literacy, academic literacy and information literacy, key parts of the skill set need for successful learning as outlined by Phil Race (Race, 2014, pp.12-16). The Team's work with programmes is complemented by a programme of optional workshops run throughout the year, as well as by drop-in support.

Academic and library staff can collaborate in numerous ways to support students at each stage of their academic journey. Reference is made primarily to undergraduate programmes, but the same support can be applied to postgraduate study.

The learning and teaching support offered by Library Services contributes to the aims of the University of Greenwich Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy and the Library Services Strategy.

Aim

To provide support for academic delivery, and enhance the learning experience of students by embedding academic skills in their taught programmes. Recognising the importance of information and its ethical use will also help students progress in their studies.

This provision is designed both to support academic studies and to introduce particular employability and citizenship skills, increasing students' abilities and confidence over time. A developmental approach is taken, with the aim of increasing student satisfaction and retention, as well as allowing opportunities to address attainment gaps relating to students' criticality, writing skills and use of literature.

The same core offer (based on existing practice) is made to all faculties, and has the flexibility to respond to the diverse needs of the wide range of cohorts and disciplines represented within the University of Greenwich. Academic and information literacy skills should always be situated within a disciplinary context (Biggs, 1996; Wingate, 2006). Writing and referencing styles, and the sources of information or evidence needed, differ between disciplines. Library Services aims to support these disciplinary differences through collaboration with academics and integration with the subject curriculum.

This work does not preclude other teaching or training support which a particular programme or discipline may require – the Academic Support Team welcomes discussion with programme teams about what is needed and how best to deliver this, with the intention of developing students at each stage to become:

* Levels 3-4 – The curious student

* Level 5 – The informed and connected citizen

* Level 6 – The accomplished graduate

Visualisation of suggested skills progression

Our "menu"

The menu of options is not prescriptive, and can be adapted to the requirements of each discipline and programme in consultation between the Academic Support Team and the programme team. Items are sequenced in such a way as to build progressively throughout a course of study. Not all items will be relevant to all programmes, and there may be other forms of support required by specific programmes, which the team would be pleased to discuss.

Options from this menu can be delivered separately or several items combined into a single session as appropriate. Different options may be delivered by different members of the team.

Suggested timings are given for each element in our offer, though these will naturally differ according to the diverse needs of disciplines and programmes.

Our teaching and training is markedly more effective when delivered at the times when it is most relevant and useful for the students and wherever possible should be closely aligned to their academic studies (e.g. with a focus on applying skills to a particular course assignment). This can only be achieved through close collaboration and clear two-way communication. Library Services welcomes involvement from the programme/course planning and validation stages onwards to ensure that students' needs can be met in a purposeful way.

Teaching from the Academic Support Team can be delivered in various formats (face-to-face, online, blended) and these can all have impact (Weightman et al, 2017). Face-to-face delivery styles may include lectures, workshops or other methods.

THE BASICS (All students new to Greenwich)

* Finding items from reading lists; effective use of resources; time management.

Essential for direct entrants as well as those entering at levels 3 and 4.

FINDING ELECTRONIC INFORMATION (as students approach 1st/2nd assignment)

* Venturing beyond the reading list; introducing journal articles and other relevant forms of information – what they are and how to find them.

The importance of different information formats will vary between disciplines and can be timed to meet subject-specific needs. Ideally tied to themes being studied or the requirements of an assessment.

BASIC ACADEMIC WRITING SKILLS (as students approach 1st/2nd assignment)

* Format of academic papers, referencing, writing with authority and credibility, planning an assignment, critical reading.

Introducing the conventions of academic writing, different styles and formats. Using references and citations appropriately. Identifying/using the right format for a discipline – scientific report, essay or project proposal. The importance of reading critically.

ADVANCING INFORMATION SEARCHING SKILLS (late in level 4, or early in level 5)

* Introducing the use of databases for identifying/accessing journal articles, conference proceedings etc.

Introducing more advanced techniques/resources for finding academic literature, particularly the effective use of subject databases. Timing to suit the subject area.

CRITICAL THINKING AND EVALUATING INFORMATION (late in level 4, or level 5)

* Understanding how to select the most appropriate sources of information that inform an argument or issue through the process of critical thinking. Evaluation of the information selected.

Helping students develop skills for the critical thinking process; analysing information, reflecting /questioning its validity and synthesising the information to formulate their own argument and conceptual frameworks.

EFFECTIVE USE OF ONLINE TOOLS (all levels as appropriate)

* Effective internet searching, social media for academic & professional purposes.

Key skills for employability and citizenship, vital for the 21st century workplace as well as for academic study.

PRESENTATION SKILLS (as required)

* Identification of audience; presentation methods; confidence; use of technology

Hints and tips for presenting information to a range of audiences. Considerations for register (formality), voice and style of delivery. Audio Visual aids, handouts and posters.

FINDING AND CITING SPECIALIST INFORMATION SOURCES (as required)

* Examples include audio-visual sources, patents, company information, maps, statistical data, primary historical sources, newspaper archives, evidence-based health sources, legal information, grey literature.

Training on accessing, using and referencing resources that are particularly required for students' academic disciplines.

REFERENCE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE (level 5 or 6)

* Use of software such as Endnote Web, Mendeley or Zotero.

Best taught once students have got to grips with what references should look like and the purpose that citation serves, as well as how to search for and access information sources.

STRUCTURED LITERATURE SEARCHING (late level 5 or early level 6)

* How to construct a literature search for a literature review.

Usually presented as part of a research methods or similar course, covering advanced techniques for searching and using information to help students preparing for dissertation.

WRITING LITERATURE REVIEWS AND DISSERTATIONS (level 6 or transition from level 5)

* Applying skills to skim, scan, review, appraise and synthesise information and present this in appropriate format.

Understanding how communities of practice discuss, build upon and expand on theories and concepts within a discipline. Appropriate methods for building and presenting an argument at dissertation level.

 

 

 

Distance learning/off-campus learners

Where programmes are delivered fully or partly through distance learning, including partner college students, and those studying degree apprenticeships, our support will be adapted to the needs of off-campus students. Interaction (synchronous or asynchronous) with the team can be provided through webinars or other digital technology.

 

On-demand support

In addition to support delivered as part of the curriculum (outlined above), we provide:

  • Orientation – in the form of a tour or treasure hunt, or a presentation from a team member. Orientation is intended to familiarise students with our services. 
  • Fixed workshops at each campus, covering many of the skills outlined above, but not in a discipline-specific way.
  • Face-to-face support at designated spaces on each campus, with the possibility of booking one-to-one appointments for in-depth enquiries.
  • iProgress, a Moodle-based course covering information searching and selection, referencing and the professional use of social media.
  • The Academic Skills Hub, providing information and advice on a wide range of topics relating to academic skills. https://www.gre.ac.uk/academicskills  

Best practice examples

Nursing: responding to student feedback regarding the "jump" in information search, retrieval and appraisal skills between level 4 and dissertation, academic staff invited the librarians to deliver a taught session in level 5, which has been well evaluated by students.

Business: Library Services staff run a workshop for level 4 students on the differences between information formats (e.g. trade journals vs academic papers), as well as how to locate them, which is timed to coincide with assignments.

Sociology: A pilot project seeking to create a closer sense of integration with subject tutors and their students aimed at trying to break down the distinction between subject specific tutors and academic support tutors in the minds of students. Library Services staff were introduced to new students as part of the teaching team during the induction process and have provided coursework specific workshops during reading weeks.

References

Biggs, J. (1996) 'Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment', Higher Education, 32(3), pp. 347-364.

Race, P. (2014) Making learning happen: a guide for post-compulsory education. 3rd edn. London: Sage.

Weightman, A.L., Darnell, D.J.J., Morris, D., Strange, H. and Hallam, G. (2017) 'A systematic review of information literacy programs in higher education: effects of face-to-face, online, and blended formats on student skills and views', Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12(3), pp. 20-54.

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

Contact us

For more information or to participate in this initiative please contact Sharon Perera, Academic Support Manager on s.r.perera@gre.ac.uk

To book a specific session, you can also contact the librarian or skills tutors linked with your Faculty or Department directly.