Enhancing student engagement through writing for publication

Dr Helen Walkington (SSL)

This paper reports an ongoing research project to enhance and transform the student learning experience through the provision of opportunities for undergraduate students to publish their research work.

Early findings show that this benefits undergraduate authors who receive supportive and constructive feedback and who gain skills in writing for a real audience, an important transferable skill. A trained team of postgraduate students from across four universities form an online community through a wiki and provide supportive and constructive feedback. The postgraduates report having gained reviewing experience which they anticipate will enhance their own writing skills and provides these students with a sense of belonging to an academic community. The published work has the potential to engage an undergraduate student readership.

There are alternative models of undergraduate research journal and this presentation traces the early phases of development of two contrasting electronic journals by the author for undergraduate researchers in the GEES disciplines. The first is focussed predominantly on enhancing the student learning experience by showcasing the range of research work within one institution. All students regardless of stage of degree are encouraged to write for the journal. The second journal mirrors a standard academic journal and selects the highest quality papers from across four university Geography departments. The differing aims and objectives of the two journals are discussed.

As students have been given the opportunity to publish their work in these journals it has become apparent that they require structured experiences to scaffold their learning, so that they have the confidence to write for a wider audience. This has led to:

  • curriculum development with the writing of journal articles being embedded in modules as an assessment task and the teaching of skills in writing for publication;
  • curriculum redesign with the scaffolding of research experiences from year 1 through to the final year to provide an undergraduate research pathway;
  • extracurricular opportunities to share research findings with the development of an undergraduate research conference and involvement in an undergraduate research scholarship scheme.

The provision of a variety of opportunities for publication and wider dissemination of research findings for undergraduates enhances student engagement with their discipline and a sense of belonging to a research community.