Monday, May 16, 2011

Writing tutorials; engineering students

Continuing on from the report about the 9th May meeting of the University Science and Technology Librarians’ Group meeting held at Sheffield University , Moira Bent (Newcastle University) was talking about Rebuilding the SCONUL Seven Pillars (which I blogged about recently, so I won’t say any more about that, except that she had some really nice photos of pandas).
David Stacey, University of Surrey, talked about Creating an online tutorial on academic writing skills. He referred to the Writing Matters: The Royal Literary Fund Report on Student Writing in Higher Education (published in 2006) which had identified undergraduates’ lack of writing skills (a common complaint from academics).
They had put together a bid for internal funding to support development of an online tutorial. The team consisted of a Royal Literary Fund Fellow (who wrote the content), a librarian (who was the Moodle (Virtual Learning Environment) expert) and a chemistry academic, who provided academic insight and helped out with piloting etc. The tutorial is a Moodle module, also using open source software eXe Learning for interactive elements (although one issue was that this software didn’t interface with Moodle as well as it could have done). The module is only for use by University of Bath staff and students.
The tutorial has six main sections: Critically evaluating what you read; Writing an essay; Writing a practical report; Getting your argument across; Plagiarism; Citing and referencing. It incorporates some quizzes and also some video material e.g. students giving essay-writing tips. The tutorial has been used as a scheduled part of teaching in at least one class, is publicised by departments, and used by the librarians in their own teaching. The most used element is the one on plagiarism.
Another talk, which I missed because it was in the afternoon, was Elizabeth Gadd, Loughborough University, talking about developing a new approach to teaching the literature review. However, her handout was in the delegate pack, so I can say something about it. They had surveyed staff and students about what information searching problems they thought students had, had used data comparing numbers of citations used with marks gained in assignments (showing a correlation between larger number of citations and higher marks) and also found a positive correlation between attending IL sessions and getting better marks for the literature review. At the end of the handout she listed three papers which are on Loughborough’s institutional repository:
Gadd, E. et al (2011) “Using the evidence: a comparison of civil and building lecturers’ and students’ approaches to the literature review.” Journal of professional issues in Engineering education and practice.
Baldwin, A., Gadd, E. and Balatsoukas, P. (2010) “A study of students’ information searching strategies.” CEBE transactions, 7 (2), 3-25.
Gadd, E., Baldwin, A. and Norris, M. (2010) “The citation behaviour of Civil Engineering students.” Journal of information literacy, 4 (2), 37-49.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Coastal view, Tallinn, Estonia, May 2011.

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