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Vignette 11 Developing students' academic skills: An interdisciplinary approach

Interdisciplinary Higher Education: Perspectives and Practicalities

ISBN: 978-0-85724-371-3, eISBN: 978-0-85724-372-0

Publication date: 8 November 2010


‘Good writing’ is often thought to be generic and somehow non-disciplinary, but it is more accurately conceived as interdisciplinary. The purpose of knowledge-making in each discipline generates characteristic questions, text structures, kinds of evidence and language choices, but insofar as the project of knowledge-making is similar across a range of disciplines, this purpose is reflected in common features of writing. Rather than separate students' learning about academic discourse from their discipline studies, we have developed an approach of integrating a focus on academic discourse into the regular teaching of first-year subjects. Students' learning can be discipline-specific at the same time as giving coherence to students' work in a range of subjects. This helps to develop students' awareness of a common culture of enquiry underlying writing for their subjects. Rather than seeing skills or ‘graduate attributes’ as non-disciplinary, this approach recognises that all work is done within communities that construct knowledge according to their purposes, and offers students some ‘meta-knowledge’ of this process. This vignette shows how the aim of raising students' awareness of a discourse community's role in shaping writing for their subjects breaks down into activities week by week, examining each subject's questions, use of primary and secondary evidence, structure of argument, practices of use and attribution of sources, and habits of critical reading. It describes the method of developing a kit for tutors in the disciplines to adapt to their own subjects across the faculty. Finally, it looks at how this project has raised tutors' awareness of the common patterns in their subject designs, a kind of incidental academic development that touches everyone who uses the kit in their teaching.


Chanock, K. (2010), "Vignette 11 Developing students' academic skills: An interdisciplinary approach", Davies, M., Devlin, M. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Interdisciplinary Higher Education: Perspectives and Practicalities (International Perspectives on Higher Education Research, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 269-278.



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