Deepening critical reading with undergraduate students

At the UK Literacy Association international conference in Glasgow at the beginning of the month, I attended a presentation by Dr Naomi Boakye of the University of Pretoria, where she described her approach to developing academic literacy with English as a second language learners in the sociology department, which I fully intend to develop. She uses an approach that I recognise from my primary teaching days: Literature Circles roles.

I have been thinking about a piece of feedback received from my mid-module evaluations: “Alison talks too much”, which, while my initial response was “I’m a lecturer! It’s my job to talk!” made me consider to what extent I am really meeting my students’ needs. By presenting them with information in lectures and then just expecting them to discuss it, am I disempowering my students, particularly those who need longer to digest information? In addition, my frustration at those who don’t do the reading may not be helping them. Perhaps I need to make it clear to them why I have selected the weekly reading, how to read it critically and what I mean by discussing it.

So, I have adapted literature circle cards. I am going to put my students in randomly assigned groups of 5 for seminars (I have 40 students on my module next academic year) and each group will be given the role cards. They will be assigned a role for the following week’s discussion, and the roles will circulate each week. I am hoping that the need for the role cards will lessen as reading critically becomes internalised. I am seeking ethical approval for a small piece of qualitative research with my students to find out their experience of critical reading and whether or not this approach has helped them, and I will report back.

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

Literature circle role cards