• Author(s): Dr Colleen McKenna
  • Title: Academic Literacies
  • Subject: HE - Education
  • Keywords: UKOER, UKPSF, OMAC, CPD4HE, academic writing, academic literacies, student writing, writing in the disciplines, writing for learning, writing development, writing in higher education
  • Language(s): English
  • Material type(s): Text, Presentation, Audio
  • File format(s): ZIP, HTML, PDF, DOC, PPT, MP3
  • File size: Various
  • Publish Date: 31st October 2011
  • Licence: CC-BY-NC-SA



These materials are intended as an introductory level workshop for academic staff who have teaching experience, but who perhaps have not encountered approaches such as academic literacies or writing in the disciplines. Although the materials are designed to be used in sequence, you may find that you prefer to work with particular writing activities or examples of curriculum development.

The approach

Writing is the core activity of higher education. Through writing, we develop academic thinking and a sense of selfhood; writing is also a primary way in which all of us articulate ideas. In terms of HE, writing is the most frequent means by which students are assessed and it is one of the main ways in which they enter into dialogue with their teachers (for example, through feedback, coursework, online interaction.) So, from our perspective, writing is inseparable from considerations of learning and teaching in higher education.

This unit is constructed around an academic literacies approach to writing development, whereby writing is seen as a social practice. The unit addresses theories of writing in higher education, curriculum design, student experience and writing as part of learning. There are writing activities included in the session that aim to both illuminate some of the concepts discussed as well as to model activities that could be used in the classroom.

Content overview

The unit includes a set of PowerPoint slides on academic literacies and writing in higher education; a contextual narrative for the slides, which could be used by workshop leaders or people using the slides for self-study purposes; a case study that can be integrated into a workshop or used as an exemplar; a guide to further reading and a podcast discussion about academic literacies.

Following some introductory slides and commentary, the Writing in the Disciplines (WiD) and academic literacies approaches are discussed and compared. These are considered from both theoretical and practical perspectives. In the first half of the workshop, there are two main exercises for participants to do – both of which aim to illustrate the idea of writing as a social practice. The tasks are designed to get participants thinking about their own experiences with writing and learning and to help them articulate some of the writing practices in which they engage as they draft and publish academic work. (We then try to make the link between these experiences and those of the participants’ students.) The second half of the presentation considers what some of these ideas might mean for curriculum design.

Contact us: cpd4he@ucl.ac.uk

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