The Teaching and Learning Institute is gathering short case studies of academic practice to enable colleagues to share their approaches to teaching and learning more widely and encourage interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning.
The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
In this case study, Cheryl Reynolds, senior lecturer in the School of Education and Professional Development, writes about using writing ‘boot camps’. As part of a two-year, blended learning degree in Education, undergraduates need to develop the confidence and expertise to write convincingly about their own educational research. One way to support this is to foster proactive and supportive writing cultures for undergraduates. A two-day, writing ‘boot camp’ that sought to initiate such a culture was devised.
Why did you decide to try this out?
Many students struggle to meet the challenge of writing academically and were frequently requesting more emphasis on academic strategies and skills. However, support for academic writing in the institution is preponderantly remedial in character, coming as help from academic skills tutors for struggling writers or as feedback and feed-forward on problematic aspects of finished work. The need to establish proactive cultures that model and foster good writing as the writing is taking shape has been convincingly argued for at doctoral level (Kamler & Thomson, 2014) but scant attention has been paid to the potential benefits of such a culture introduced for undergraduates.
Where did you get the idea from?
The idea came from my own participation as a postgraduate student in a Thesis Boot Camp run at the University by Dr Peta Freestone. I felt there was potential for this kind of approach to be used productively with undergraduates, too.
What were the benefits and challenges for you?
The Boot Camp was relatively easy to initiate and organise. The supporting materials were adapted from the Thesis version mentioned above and thereafter, all that was needed was to set a date and book a suitable room, explaining the idea to students and sending interested students some preparatory emails. These, too were adapted from those I had been sent for Thesis Boot Camp. We booked students onto a register, sent them joining instructions and delivered the event.
The benefits students reported included a sense of liberation from an overly anxious ‘internal editor’ which increased the speed with which they were able to write and the quality of their academic voice in the final written work. They also described some productive shifts in their relationship to the text, and in their scholarly identity.
These findings indicates that this approach potentially has a range of attendant benefits that make it worthy of further development and wider take-up at undergraduate level. Our second writing boot camp to help students working on their Reflexive Study will take place in May. We are currently writing a collaborative paper on this intervention which has been accepted for presentation at the Association for Research in Post Compulsory Education Conference in July and I am writing a single-authored paper which has been accepted for presentation at the Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults.
Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. (2014). Helping doctoral students write: pedagogies for supervision. London; New York: Routledge.
Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen), Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute
The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter