‘Fighting the academic machine’: active reading in the Information Commons

An exhibition in the Information Commons focuses on students’ experience of academic reading, identified through Dr Will Mason’s research with second year students.

Will found that students often felt overwhelmed by the volume of reading required for their course and deflated by the lack of guidance about what to read and how to read it.

Academic machine illustration
Image credit: harryvenning.co.uk

During the research, students asked that their experiences be shared with fellow students to help them feel less alone when finding academic reading difficult. Advice includes: 

Take time to read - “… take it slowly if you need to, like there’s no point rushing because it’s better you understand it”.

Don’t panic - “... the more you practise the better it will become”. 

Students also provided recommendations for teaching practice.They called for reading lists to include a range of material types, covering the basic concepts, and to make it clear why texts have been assigned. 

As you look at the display you’ll see the student perspective illustrated by images. Cartoonist Harry Venning translated the student viewpoint into images to help disseminate the research findings in an accessible format. A short animated film will be added to the exhibition in April.

Will’s research has led to the development of a new tutorial that helps students understand how to read at university. Active reading involves seeking out information and is purposeful and demanding. The tutorial ‘Active reading for understanding: how to read an academic text effectively’ was co-created by the Library and 301 Academic Skills Centre. 

The active reading display will be available on level 1 of the Information Commons until the 25th September.  

Mason, W. and Warmington, M. A. (2022) “Fighting the academic machine”: using illustration to depict student reading experiences. Available at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/smi/news/fighting-academic-machine-using-illustration-depict-student-reading-experiences (Accessed: 13 January 2023).

Mason, W. and Warmington, M. A. (2022) If you want students to read more, consider asking them to read less. Available at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/campus/if-you-want-students-read-more-consider-asking-them-read-less (Accessed: 5 December 2022).

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