In this blog, Barbara Allan talks about why she wrote her new book, Emerging Strategies for Supporting Student Learning
Why did you want to write a book on ‘Emerging strategies for supporting student learning’? A colleague asked me this question a few weeks ago and it prompted me into reflecting on my motivation for writing my new book.
Thinking about it made me realise how much I enjoy the process of writing a book and, in part, this is because I am very nosy. Higher education is under huge pressures at the moment and as a result many universities and colleges are going through radical change processes. In some instances, the whole undergraduate curriculum has been redesigned and redeveloped to bring it into line with the needs of current students and their future employers. In many institutions, everyone is expected to do ‘more with less’ and teams and individuals have risen to this challenge by introducing fascinating innovations to their approaches to learning and teaching. Sometimes, these changes have been supported through technology while others have involved working in new ways with colleagues from across their university or college. At the same time, new theories about digital and information literacy continue to develop.
Writing a book gave me an excuse (not that I really needed one) to explore current practices in supporting student learning in universities and colleges. This meant that I found time to talk to colleagues, visit institutions, constantly search on-line for new developments and innovations, as well as articles, and also network through conferences and professional events. One of the highlights of my research was my visit to the annual international LILAC conference in Newcastle in 2015. This friendly and accessible conference provided so many opportunities to listen to and talk with practitioners representing many different types of institution from across the world. Their online archive provided a great resource when I came to writing the book. The conference also gave me the opportunity to join a tour of the historical Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society (the Lit and Phil – http://www.litandphil.org.uk) which is home to many scholars and authors.
Finally, I enjoy the process of putting it all together – the practice and the theory – rather like a giant jigsaw. Only, in this case, some of the pieces over-lapped and others were contradictory. I was fortunate enough to do much of the writing in Whitby and so enjoyed long walks whenever I got stuck or needed to think through my findings. Puzzling through my research and making sense of it was intellectually challenging and helped me to understand the current status of supporting student learning in higher education. It also made me realise how vibrant is the library and information profession and the willingness of colleagues to change and innovate.