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'Academic Literacy' - Optimising Engagement with Academic Articles

We are lucky to be positioned within a very academically competitive area of London. I say lucky, because what competition drives is the need to constantly strive for me and to challenge oneself further. As teachers we try and achieve this through a multitude of different strategies, from teaching and learning techniques in the classroom, revision strategies, practice questions and answers, testing etc. Sometimes however we forgot the power of reading!

The quote above encapsulates what we are Putney are trying to re-focus on at the moment. We've never forgotten it and we certainly haven't not been encouraging our students to read - indeed the opposite has been seen through the introduction of whole-school literacy checks across all departments earlier this year - but how often do we consider the importance that engaging with a really challenging article can have on our students progress and success.

Dr Jane Brandon and Mr Andrew Ross kindly led our latest T+L meeting, using their action research project "'Academic Literacy’ in the Sixth Form Optimising Engagement with Academic Articles in Economics and Music through Lesson Study" to highlight some important learnings that all staff and departments can learn from.

I will let the next three pictures speak for themself...

Having spent the year working as a school, and exploring the techniques of the Science of Learning, it is important to highlight that the need for learning to be hard and at times even uncomfortable for students. That cognitive strain that the students have to go through is something they actively seek to avoid, instead preferring to rely on their teachers as a source of security to summarise work and clarify difficult concepts. But if they are truly going to excel then they need to go through this process by themselves. Reading and academic articles can help to achieve this.

For a full list of the literature Dr Brandon suggests, please see:

For further information about the project as a whole and how the lesson study was conducted please see our 'Research Projects' page where a full write up can be found.

The discussion that followed the T+L meeting helped generate ideas that we can all work on, across departments, to elevate the visibility of promoting literacy across the school and to help reduce the concept of 'learnt helplessness' that some students perhaps suffer from in wanting to have the answers provided to them without engaging with the challenge themselves. Below are a list of the take-aways that we generated as a group:

  • Year 13 Reading Log, across departments (not just English)

  • Research presentations, with heavy emphasis on the questions asked at the end to demonstrate their knowledge

  • Podcast’s as homework with follow up questions as a starter in the next lesson

  • Giving students articles that oppose their view and make them consider things from a different angle

  • Sharing reading lists with parents to help with parental support buy-in

  • Harkness tables as follow up to reading provided (helps to reduce reliance on the teacher for answers)

  • Shared ideas doc online for pupils to add the titles of books/articles that they have enjoyed and to add a couple of sentences about what they took from their reading to inspire other readers

If we can promote this way of thinking and learning across departments then the power of reading in relation to academic attainment will increase. After all we are always striving to help our students do better. Get reading!

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