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Workshops from the Writing Development Centre, 2015-16

I took up my post as the new Head of the Writing Development Centre earlier this academic year, on the retirement of Alicia Cresswell. Over the last few months I have been familiarising myself with the service and the role it plays in supporting students, staff and the curriculum with academic skills development. As we prepare for the new academic year, I’d like to refresh our workshop offering to Schools, so I can become better acquainted with the demands of the curriculum which we are supporting and also ensure provision continues to be up to date, high quality, and sustainable.

Workshops for Schools are a key part of WDC provision. Our team of tutors are committed to ensuring that our provision for Schools is tailored to the curriculum and the stage and the discipline in which the students are studying, as we recognise that there is a great deal of variation between the practices of different subjects and expectations on students between first year undergraduate and doctoral studies.  As WDC workshops are commissioned this year, we’re asking if we might meet module leaders or other relevant academic staff to discuss the requirements of the course, including

  • assessments typically set and marking criteria/expectations
  • any issues which commonly arise in assessment and feedback
  •  the conventions around study, particularly academic writing, which characterise that particular subject at that level

Demand for the WDC’s services has grown sharply since its beginnings in 2007, and I am reviewing our model of provision to ensure that both workshops and one-to-one provision is sustainable. From the beginning of this academic year, in line with our Liaison Librarian colleagues, we will be moving away from the one-off, lengthy induction sessions covering a broad remit of ‘Academic Writing Skills’ which used to be offered, partly as demand for these sessions has grown beyond the capacity of our small team (2 FTE) to deliver all the requested sessions within the first couple of weeks of the new academic year. Moreover, research and experience suggest that this early generic induction model is not as effective as provision which is more embedded in the curriculum and timed in conjunction with assessment, so that the students can see the relevance and make sense of guidance, put strategies into practice and retain what they’ve learned in the context of work that they are currently engaged in.

We’re therefore recommending that WDC workshops be scheduled later in the semester, after the first or second assignments have been set, rather than as part of induction in the first or second week. We have developed a ‘menu’ of suggested workshop topics to help ensure that our provision is clearly articulated and focussed. This menu has been broadened to cover study skills such as note-taking, reading, exams and revision and plagiarism, supporting the process of writing as well as the final product, and non-written assessments such as exams, posters and presentations. Sessions we currently offer include:

First year Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught students:

  • Induction: transition to Higher Education study and working with the WDC (up to 30 mins – may also be incorporated into Liaison Librarian induction provision)
  • Learning at University: Using Lectures, Reading and Note-taking effectively
  • Approaching Your (First) Assignment: Thinking Critically and Independently
  • Approaching Your (First) Assignment: Authorial Voice and Academic Writing Style

Second-Final year Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Students:

  • Stepping Up: Developing Your Work at the Next Level
  • Approaching Your Dissertation: Proposals, Planning and Structure
  • Reading for Your Dissertation: Reviewing and Critiquing Literature
  • Writing Your Dissertation: Developing and Editing for Authorial Voice and Academic Style

For all students:

  • Citation, Referencing, and Avoiding Plagiarism (also in conjunction with Liaison Librarian and LTDS colleages)
  • Exams and Revision
  • Writing a [specific types of assignment]. Examples might include reports, posters, reflective writing, blogs, etc.

We can tailor these session topics or offer in various formats following discussion with academic staff. We also continue to contribute sessions to the PGR training programmes in each faculty, as well as our own central programme. We are of course continuing to offer our very popular individual tutorial service, and will in the longer term be focussing on developing online resources to enhance our provision.

To avoid confusion over contacts and to ensure that we have the information we need, we have created an online workshop request form. You can find this and further information at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wdc/information/workshops/ Any questions about our provision can be addressed to me at WDC@ncl.ac.uk.

I look forward to working with you to enhance our workshop provision for your students.

Best wishes,

Dr Helen Webster

Head of the Writing Development Centre