Reading list (R)evolution - exploring the value of reading lists as a pedagogical tool to support students' development of information skills

  • Reading list (R)evolution - exploring the value of reading lists as a pedagogical tool to support students’ development of information skills

    Gillian Siddall, Library and Learning Services, University of Northampton, Northampton, UK

    Hannah Rose, Library and Learning Services, University of Northampton, Northampton, UK

    Reading lists are a ubiquitous part of U.K. Higher Education (H.E.); every course has one, tutors are required to provide them, students expect to have them. There are clear expectations that reading lists exist in H.E., but beyond that, it is not exactly clear what their value is and how they are really being used. Existing literature is primarily concerned with the content and structure of reading lists, rather than their role in supporting students’ learning (Thomson et al., 2003; Stokes and Martin, 2008). Some studies have highlighted the value of annotated reading lists for signposting students to different sources of information in terms of format, level and style of writing (Smith, 2008; Chelin et al., 2005; Maher and Mitchell, 2010). This can help to support or ‘scaffold’ students’ development of key information skills (Lumsden et al., 2010), notably the ability to access, retrieve and use information appropriately and effectively. The use of reading lists as a tool for supporting information skills development requires an active approach to the design and management of reading lists (Miller, 1999; Stokes and Martin, 2008).

    It is time to put reading lists under the spotlight (Martin and Stokes, 2006) and to recognise that reading lists are a core part of students’ learning experience. We need to explore how students use and view reading lists, and design them accordingly, so that we can create relevant and valuable reading lists. This seminar presents interim practitioner research designed to explore the potential of enhanced reading lists to support students’ information skills development.

    In summer 2011 the presenters were awarded the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) Research Award to fund their action research into reading lists. The first stage of the project involved a reading list analysis, based on a checklist of criteria informed by key themes emerging from the literature. The themes were then used to plan semi-structured interviews with academic staff and focus groups with students to explore their expectations and experiences of reading lists. This research has been supported by the work of a university funded student research assistant, who gained research experience and a bursary. The student researcher added another perspective to the project and was involved in conducting the focus groups to encourage students to share openly amongst their peers. This research seminar will report our findings so far and consider the impact of reading lists on the student experience.

    The seminar will engage participants in discussions around the value and relevance of reading lists for supporting students’ learning and skills development, including views of the use and expectation of reading lists. Examples of reading lists will be used as discussion points and to encourage participants to reflect on the students’ experience of reading lists. The seminar will facilitate the sharing and generation of ideas on how we can promote more active engagement with reading lists by all stakeholders (academics, students, librarians). Our research is designed to encourage the (r)evolution of reading lists so that they are used as a valuable pedagogical tool to support students’ information skills development and enhance their learning at university.