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CLeaR Fellows 2017 – Dr Jenny Mendieta Aguilar

An inquiry into University of Auckland teaching staff and students’ experiences of using the ‘write@uni’ online resource

Dr Jenny Mendieta AguilarLibraries and Learning Services have developed the ‘write@uni‘ online resource, which promotes entry-level students’ understanding of the values and attitudes central to writing at university. This resource, which will be made available to students and staff from Semester 1 2017, addresses the need to improve the academic writing proficiency of Stage One students by creating a greater awareness of the basic concepts underpinning the conventions of academic writing at tertiary level.

To this end, the resource is built around five essential concepts for understanding not only writing but the wider experience of this aspect of academic culture; namely,

a) expectations for writing at university,
b) critical thinking,
c) effective reading,
d) writing with purpose, and
e) independent learning.

These interrelated concepts are designed to alert students to their own assumptions about academic writing and prepare them for the writing demands that teaching staff will place on them during their studies. Overall, the creation of the ‘write@uni’ resource is an attempt to equip students with the knowledge they need to approach their own writing with a clearer insight into what they are doing and how they can shape their work to achieve their communicative goals—an aim that is also represented in the ‘Writing, writing everywhere’ theme of the CLeaR 2017 Fellowship.

Hence, considering that the resource will go live in 2017, the CLeaR 2017 Fellowship provides us with the opportunity to assess the outcomes of the initial implementation phase of the online tool. An academic evaluation of students’ perceptions about and engagement with the content of the writing resource may allow Libraries and Learning Services to identify areas for improvement, make any necessary adjustments, and more importantly, evaluate the initial impact of this e-learning initiative.

Because the CLeaR Fellowship Programme brings together academic staff from different faculties and the resource is a result of a cross-faculty collaboration, the Fellowship would also become an opportunity to create a network with other fellows who are interested in writing and who may be willing to promote the use of the resource in their faculties and possibly engage in our assessment of the uptake and impact of the project.

The creation of this online resource can be seen as an innovative response to the need of Higher Education institutions to help students develop effective information and academic literacy skills and knowledge. The online and open-access nature of the resource has also the potential to reach and benefit every Stage One student at the University and beyond. Nevertheless, its implementation should be followed by a careful assessment of students’ (short and long-term) engagement with learning content and activities, and their perceptions about the usefulness of the resource.