Event: Symposium on Literacy & Literature , March 22, 2002

Literacy & Writing skills

Event Report

Literacy is the basic requirement for students of English language, literature and creative writing and yet lecturers identify literacy as one of their key concerns. The English Subject Centre’s symposium on literacy and literature which was held at Senate House, London on March 22nd 2002 gave delegates the opportunity to discuss strategies for fostering students’ basic literacy as well as their academic literacy.

Dr Colleen McKenna, a lecturer in Academic Literacies in the Department of Education and Professional Development at University College, London, addressed the issues which are involved in students’ encounters with the conventions of academic discourse. Meanwhile, Pat Hill from the University of Huddersfield discussed her ongoing postgraduate research into the development of undergraduate academic writing in an English department. She has tracked work submitted by a group of undergraduates and the feedback that work has generated from staff. She has also paid attention to the ways in which feedback has been received by the students themselves. She was able to comment on the different kinds of feedback students receive and their effectiveness in improving students’ work. Dr Jonathan Worley, from St. Mary’s College, Belfast, discussed the work he is doing with Dr Matthew Martin as part of one of the English Subject Centre’s departmental projects. The project aims to train students as paid peer tutors in English and to give them experience in assisting their peers with their writing.

Throughout the day delegates discussed the relationship between basic and academic literacies, but we also considered the ramifications of literacy as an issue related to ‘widening access’ in terms of prior education, disability and retention. We discussed the value of using embedded and remedial approaches to literacy, and some of these issues are also being explored by lecturers involved in the departmental projects sponsored by the English Subject Centre. If you are the head of level one in your department you will have received the questionnaire sent out by Dr Derek Alsop from Chester College and we would very much appreciate your prompt response to his survey which aims to improve literacy standards among students across the subject community. We are planning to develop a ‘literacy’ strand on the English Subject Centre website and we would welcome all suggestions about its content. The ‘Literacy and Literature’ symposium was a very successful event and thanks are due to the speakers and delegates for their contributions.

Dr Siobhán Holland