Skip to Main Content

Reading Strategies Guide

The rationale behind Reading 'Strategies' at Birmingham Newman

In 2012, a working group composed of academics, library staff and students was established by the Learning and Teaching Committee of Birmingham Newman University under the Chair of Chris Porter, Director of Library and Learning Services. The findings of the group were discussed by the Committee in June 2012, and led to a major revision to the University’s policy.

The group was formed to address issues that had been identified as a result of student feedback, anecdotal observation and discussions at various institutional committees.

These issues included some people:

  • using terms like essential and recommended in very different ways, leading to confusion about what they mean.
  • using the ‘indicative’ reading from their validation paperwork as the list they used with students. Sometimes this list was not altered in any way over the five years of the validation.
  • believing that they had to use essential and recommended as the only categories on their reading lists, and that they could not include any items except books and journals – not individual journal articles or less formal types of literature.
  • regarding their reading list as primarily an administrative matter, not a pedagogic matter.
  • mistakenly believing that putting an item on their reading list meant that it would be bought for the Library.

The Group looked at evidence that suggested that, far from being a neutral document, “simply […] a device, a tool and an unproblematic given” (Stokes and Martin, 2008, p. 124), the reading list has often been a highly contested or deeply misunderstood device, confusing to both students and teaching staff.

The results of the Group’s work informed the development of the University’s current policy on Reading Strategies.

Further reading

A discussion of the evolution of a reading strategy approach at the University of the West of England. Although it is a little dated now, it covers some important underlying principles about the futility of supplying a module with multiple copies in the Library:

Chelin, J., McEachran, M. and Williams, E. (2005) ‘Five hundred into 4 won’t go: how to solve the problem of reading list expectations’ SCONUL focus, 36 (Winter), pp.49-51. This issue is available in full text on the SCONUL website (PDF)

Guidance from the Copyright Licensing Agency and the Higher Education Copyright Negotiating and Advisory Committee about good and bad approaches to providing resource packs – either as handouts or by including a number of items within your Moodle course.

Copyright Licensing Agency (2017) The CLA higher education copyright licence: good practice guide in the creation of course packs (PDF).

A strategic approach to reading in arts and education subjects from Australia. This paper demonstrates the value of considering the approach to reading as intrinsically linked to the pedagogy of the subject.

Piscioneri, M. and Hlavac, J. (2013) ‘The minimalist reading model: rethinking reading lists in arts and education subjects’ Arts and Humanities in Higher Education: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice 12(4) pp.424-445.

An excellent study that examines the purposes and uses of reading lists, and examines why those purposes are often frustrated.

Stokes, P. and Martin, L. (2008) ‘Reading lists: a study of tutor and student perceptions, expectations and realities’ Studies in higher education, 33 (2), pp.113-125.

Report a problem | View current service issues