Using reading groups to improve understanding, connect with others, and develop new skills Faculty Spark - View, reflect and apply

Last updated on 10/09/2019

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Description

A lot of academic material, as we all know, can be difficult to "decode". There are often questions we'd like to ask, but feel embarrassed to speak up. A voluntary reading group is a safe place to discuss, ask questions, and learn collaboratively.

Challenge

Discourse - meaning “language in context” - is at once all-pervasive, interdisciplinary and (at times) challenging. Students and scholars in any academic field may be interested in discourse, because it impacts all human activity: business, education, politics, medicine, psychology, law, and creative arts to name a few.

Discourse Analysis is taught at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science (HLSS), but what if there was a drop-in forum open to anyone at Griffith, where participants could come along and expand their knowledge of the area while meeting like-minded individuals from other programs, schools or campuses? What if there was a forum where academics, students and general staff could meet and discuss without ego or apprehension?

It was out of these challenges that the Interdisciplinary Discourse Analysis Group (iDag) was born.

Approach

The reading group meets approximately once every 3-4 weeks during term, with meetings advertised via Griffith Online News and a mail-out facilitated by the Griffith Centre for Social & Cultural Research.

The iDag convenor also maintains a Learning@Griffith site, which anyone can join. An article is made available online and participants simply turn up having read the material and enjoy a one hour free-for-all discussion.

No prior knowledge is assumed. It's designed so that people can participate without worrying about whether they actually 'get' the material. It's about helping each other out, so that by the end of the session everyone has a better understanding of the topic. Because the reading group is open to all Griffith staff, students, and academics, so many different opinions and points of view come together in a non-formal, relaxed setting.

Members often suggest a future reading or issue, so that they can explore an area of interest or break down a difficult topic with the help of others.

Outcomes

The outcomes from this group project have been significant. Members report that they have...

  • grasped the interconnection of discourse, society and culture,
  • developed skills in discourse analysis and knowledge of discourse theories,
  • forged new interpersonal and interdisciplinary links across the University,
  • generated ideas for research in discourse analysis, and
  • achieved a safe space to share ideas, opinions and learn more.

Because this is a voluntary group, there is no pressure to be assessed, so participants are more relaxed. Feedback received has been positive with attendance numbers growing as word spreads.

Enabling Technology

Meetings are video-conferenced between the Nathan and Gold Coast campuses to enable wider participation.

Implement

Reading groups are surprisingly easy to implement. Research centres are happy to support such activities by assisting with room bookings, promotion and even food or drinks.

A Learning@Griffith site can be painlessly set up with the help of Griffith IT staff. A central organizer is required, but although you might wonder if the effort is all too much in your busy professional life, it’s worth remembering that you’ll personally derive more from these sessions than often get at overseas conferences: all in your workday!

Next Steps

To be successful, a reading group needs to offer convenience for time-poor staff and students.

The group has tried a few different time slots, but will now settle with a ‘bag lunch’ approach to maximize attendance.

Griffith Graduate Attributes

The use of reading groups aligns with the following graduate attributes:

  • Knowledgable and skilled, with critical judgment
  • Effective communcators and collaborators

Media

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Licence

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The Griffith material on this web page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). This licence does not extend to any underlying software, nor any non-Griffith images used under permission or commercial licence (as indicated). Materials linked to from this web page are subject to separate copyright conditions.

Preferred Citation

Fenton-Smith, B., and Learning Futures (2019). Using reading groups to improve understanding, connect with others, and develop new skills. Retrieved from https://app.secure.griffith.edu.au/exlnt/entry/6125/view