The trouble with academic reading: exposing hidden threshold concepts through academic reading retreats

Angela Rhead


Acknowledged as a troublesome threshold concept for students and teachers alike in higher education (HE), academic reading persists as a significant yet under-investigated challenge. This paper introduces an exciting teaching innovation launched in 2017 at Keele University to meet that challenge: academic reading retreats. Adapting a writing retreat format, they deliver a range of strategies for reading journal articles and provide opportunities for private practice and shared reflections, which can facilitate deep learning about complex epistemological concepts. They open a dialogue within the academic community that helps students better understand the relationship between reading and enquiry, and helps academics better understand their students’ reading challenges. This case study provides a brief literature review and personal reflections about facilitating student reading, an introduction to our academic reading retreats and a preliminary evaluation of their potential. It concludes with a recommendation for extended time and space for academics and students to explore academic reading together, alongside an acknowledgement of the challenges that entails.


academic reading; higher education

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ISSN: 1759-667X