Building research student
communities: is there a role
  for library and learning
          services?
Research students at De Montfort
           University
• Research students across all faculties
• Increasing numbers
• Mix...
Introduction to library research support

  • Library is integrated library and learning development
    service (plus e-l...
Library support for research students
 • Research Training Programme
     – Central provision established 1998
     – Mand...
Issues about research student use of
             the library
• Level of physical use
• Spaces and opportunities for resea...
Comparing Practice:
          Research Support
• Colleagues with experience of other
  universities:
  – What research sup...
Communities of Practice

• Learning as apprenticeship (Lave &
  Wenger, 1991)
  – Community practicising an activity
  – L...
Multiple Communities of Practice

• PGR students can be viewed within
  multiple communities:
  – of academics
  – of prof...
Comparing Practice: Communities
          of Practice
• Colleagues with experience of other
  universities:
  – Are curren...
Benefits of Communities of
              Practice
• Support for those on periphery
• Allows for situated learning
• Shared...
Difficulties with ‘centralised’
     Communities of Practice
• CoPs are emergent, not prescribed
  (Schwen & Hara, 2003)
•...
DMU Experience

• Two Communities of Practice supported
  by Department of Library Services
  – One face-to-face, focused ...
Case Study 1: The Writing Group
    for Research Students
Outline of discussion

 How much impact has the Writing Group for
  Research Students had upon the research
  community a...
The rationale
 20% increase in the number of students enrolling
  on research degree programmes since 2007

 Significant...
Aims of the group
 To increase the output of writing

 To improve the quality of writing

 To empower students to becom...
The writing group method

 Set monthly writing objectives

 Discuss ‘hot’ writing topics identified by the group
  or co...
The group demographic

 8 regular members (attending two or more
  meetings)

 5 out of 8 members are female

 Regular ...
Measuring the impact
 Small impact at institutional level involving 1.5% of
  the research student body

 Measurable and...
Does the writing group offer
    legitimate participation?

 To what extent can an inter-faculty approach work
  towards ...
Case study 2: The Research Wiki
Format of Wiki

• http://dmuresearcherwiki.wik.is/
• Captures breadth of research student
  experience
• Student accounts
...
Experience of Use

• Introduced to students at research
  induction
• Small numbers sign up
• Very little use of system
• ...
Feedback from a student

• "I think the strengths of a wiki are that it
  is NOT centrally controlled but everyone
  can m...
Does the wiki offer legitimate
     peripheral participation?
• To what extent is the software holding
  students back?
• ...
Group discussion

• Split into groups
• Pick a case study (ours or personal)
• Discuss the questions on the following
  sl...
Points for discussion
• What could you do to support your
  chosen CoP?
• What difficulties / challenges / risks are
  ass...
Contacts

• Dr Katie Fraser, Information Librarian,
  University of Leicester
  KCF5@le.ac.uk
• Dr Melanie Petch, Writing ...
Building research student communities: is there a role for library and learning services?
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Building research student communities: is there a role for library and learning services?

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Slides from a symposium exploring the role and experiences of librarians and learning developers in building communities of practice for researchers.Uses two case studies from De Montfort University (Leicester, UK) onexperiences of building a virtual CoP (wiki-based) and a face-to-face writing group.

Symposium was led by Katie Fraser (now University of Leicester), and content contributed by Melanie Petch and Jo Webb (both De Montfort University).

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Building research student communities: is there a role for library and learning services?

  1. 1. Building research student communities: is there a role for library and learning services?
  2. 2. Research students at De Montfort University • Research students across all faculties • Increasing numbers • Mixture of full-time, part-time, home, EU and international • ‘6-week rule’ part-time courses • Institutional audit of research degrees
  3. 3. Introduction to library research support • Library is integrated library and learning development service (plus e-learning) • Core activity – Staffed from within existing resources – Some Roberts project funding • Dedicated research student spaces • Committee membership – Research Training Sub-Committee – Higher Degrees Committee • Mandatory deposit of etheses
  4. 4. Library support for research students • Research Training Programme – Central provision established 1998 – Mandatory induction – Literature searching and reference management (mandatory, pre-transfer) – Advanced Endnote / reference software (optional) – Current awareness (optional) • Institutional audit of research degrees • Evaluation (e.g. PRES) • Subject librarian support • Demand for English language, writing support and maths and stats
  5. 5. Issues about research student use of the library • Level of physical use • Spaces and opportunities for research students to interact – No physical Graduate School • Minority group (when compared to undergraduates and taught postgraduates) • Different needs and expectations?
  6. 6. Comparing Practice: Research Support • Colleagues with experience of other universities: – What research support does your university offer? – How does the library fit into this?
  7. 7. Communities of Practice • Learning as apprenticeship (Lave & Wenger, 1991) – Community practicising an activity – Legitimate peripheral participation – Moving towards more active participation
  8. 8. Multiple Communities of Practice • PGR students can be viewed within multiple communities: – of academics – of professionals – of disciplinary experts – of PGR students
  9. 9. Comparing Practice: Communities of Practice • Colleagues with experience of other universities: – Are current PGR student communities: • Focused on activities? • Focused on the student experience? • Disciplinary? • Other
  10. 10. Benefits of Communities of Practice • Support for those on periphery • Allows for situated learning • Shared developmental experience
  11. 11. Difficulties with ‘centralised’ Communities of Practice • CoPs are emergent, not prescribed (Schwen & Hara, 2003) • Students need become ready to engage (Janson et al., 2004)
  12. 12. DMU Experience • Two Communities of Practice supported by Department of Library Services – One face-to-face, focused on writing activities, looking to move into an online arena – One online, focused on the experience of PGR students
  13. 13. Case Study 1: The Writing Group for Research Students
  14. 14. Outline of discussion  How much impact has the Writing Group for Research Students had upon the research community at DMU?  Can a cross-disciplinary writing group offer participants legitimate and meaningful opportunities to develop the practice of academic language and culture?
  15. 15. The rationale  20% increase in the number of students enrolling on research degree programmes since 2007  Significant numbers of research students tapping into writing and more general academic support services  A recent survey to measure the levels of confidence students have in their writing showed that 96% identified with one or more writing ‘anxieties’.
  16. 16. Aims of the group  To increase the output of writing  To improve the quality of writing  To empower students to become confident and scholarly writers  To empower students to become confident and scholarly readers of their own work and the work of others
  17. 17. The writing group method  Set monthly writing objectives  Discuss ‘hot’ writing topics identified by the group or complete a research-related writing activity  Complete a peer-review activity which involves group members discussing work-in-progress
  18. 18. The group demographic  8 regular members (attending two or more meetings)  5 out of 8 members are female  Regular members span four faculties:  Business and Law 12%  Humanities 25%  Health and Life Sciences 38%  Art and Design 25%
  19. 19. Measuring the impact  Small impact at institutional level involving 1.5% of the research student body  Measurable and meaningful impact within the group itself:  100% of respondents felt more motivated to write  100% of respondents felt more confident about the academic writing conventions at doctoral level  Social aspects of the writing group seen as being positive
  20. 20. Does the writing group offer legitimate participation?  To what extent can an inter-faculty approach work towards building an effective community of practice?  How far can the practice of writing unite students in a community of practice?  Can a centrally-located community have currency with a wider academic community?
  21. 21. Case study 2: The Research Wiki
  22. 22. Format of Wiki • http://dmuresearcherwiki.wik.is/ • Captures breadth of research student experience • Student accounts • Contribution by comment • Presented previously by Rush (2009) at LILAC 2009
  23. 23. Experience of Use • Introduced to students at research induction • Small numbers sign up • Very little use of system • Why?
  24. 24. Feedback from a student • "I think the strengths of a wiki are that it is NOT centrally controlled but everyone can make a direct contribution." • "The wiki-engine implemented seems to be very professional... [but] I would really like... to communicate with my peer-research-students rather than the library staff."
  25. 25. Does the wiki offer legitimate peripheral participation? • To what extent is the software holding students back? • Is there information students will share formally? • Still a useful resource!
  26. 26. Group discussion • Split into groups • Pick a case study (ours or personal) • Discuss the questions on the following slide
  27. 27. Points for discussion • What could you do to support your chosen CoP? • What difficulties / challenges / risks are associated with your strategy? • To what extent does your approach allow legitimate participation? • What kinds of CoP can libraries support?
  28. 28. Contacts • Dr Katie Fraser, Information Librarian, University of Leicester KCF5@le.ac.uk • Dr Melanie Petch, Writing Support Lecturer, De Montfort University mpetch@dmu.ac.uk • Jo Webb, Head of Academic Services, De Montfort University jwebb@dmu.ac.uk

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