Staffordshire lecturer’s illustrated activity book introduces students to research techniques
Because of the time students get to university, it will probably have been a couple of years given that they came across an activity book that is illustrated.
But Writing Essays by Pictures is no ordinary activity book. With a theme that is nautical it casts essays as icebergs and sources as sea creatures in a forward thinking make an effort to introduce first-year students into the practice of academic research and writing.
Author Alke Grцppel-Wegener, senior lecturer in contextual studies at Staffordshire University, based the handsomely presented book on the essay-writing sessions with art and design students.
After raising nearly Ј2,000 from supporters from the Kickstarter crowdfunding website to fund a preliminary print run, the book was launched this week and it is hoped that wider distribution will observe.
It opens aided by the call for students to consider their essays as icebergs, with a focused argument “above the water” backed up by research and thinking below.
It then introduces students to reading, note-taking and thinking that is critical, inviting them to undertake practical, creative activities along the way.
It implies that readers try drawing pictures in an attempt to demonstrate the level of engagement that texts require while they examine sources, rather than taking notes, and encourages students to walk a familiar route at a quarter of their usual speed while taking notes on what they see around them.
The book advises students to categorise sources by thinking about them as different sea creatures, and to judge their academic rigour with regards to of the depth at which they are now living in the ocean.
Other suggested learning techniques include writing poems that condense source material and creating handmade cards as reminders of texts.
Dr Grцppel-Wegener said that she had developed her usage of analogies and activities in order to address, in an engaging and non-threatening way, the possible lack of confidence around academic writing that she present in first years.
“Giving students images them to remember what they meant and to understand the explanation better,” said Dr Grцppel-Wegener, a bookmaker and printmaker by training that they might remember better, like the fish and the iceberg, will hopefully help. “I was thinking that, it wouldn’t normally you should be a thing that is a reference, it might be their particular plus they would want to keep it. if it was something students could add things to,”
Dr Grцppel-Wegener argued that the book could prove useful across a wide selection of subjects.
“People who choose to think visually are not merely found in arts and design,” she said. “There might be more in art and design, but I try to explain things for everyone and hopefully there is a large number of people who can react to it.”
Dr Grцppel-Wegener rejected the idea that creating a task book represented “dumbing down” of academic practice, arguing in a different way”, and that better critical thinking ability would flow from stronger research skills that she was simply “framing it.
But she acknowledged that her approach wouldn’t normally suit every learner.
“When I am teaching, I am aware that this approach does work for everybody n’t; some individuals don’t make use of metaphors at all,” she said. “I always utilize this as you option.”
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