How can collaborative reading techniques impact confidence and belonging?


  • Jane Saville University of the West of England, Bristol
  • Tasha Cooper University of the West of England, Bristol
  • Tom Edge University of the West of England, Bristol
  • Steve Hunt University of the West of England, Bristol



belonging, collaborative, confidence, impact, reading techniques


Recent barriers to engagement in higher education (HE) – including economic, geographic and post-COVID anxiety (Dickinson, 2022; Morgan, 2022; Bennett et al., 2022) – may result in students being less inclined to develop relationships with their peers, share ideas, and invest time in their learning. This challenges our efforts to develop students’ academic skills as they are transitioning into and through HE.  

Academic reading is often neglected in favour of academic writing, largely due to the assumption that competence in reading is an existing skill (Kimberley and Thursby, 2020). However, students report that they lack confidence, resulting in avoidance of reading complex texts (St. Clair-Thompson, Graham and Marsham, 2018). In addition, subject lecturers may not refer to the importance of reading in their teaching. This ‘invisibility’ (Baker, 2019) can lead to a devaluation of the skill, which has serious consequences: reading remains a critical foundation for much thinking and writing in HE (Maguire, Reynolds and Delahunt, 2020). 

Collaborative reading techniques can address these challenges by promoting reading as social practice; improving confidence to tackle texts; and boosting belonging within a cohort and discipline (McCollum et al., 2017). At UWE Bristol, we have a two-year project within Learning Services to promote and improve reading skills, including reading within the disciplines. During 2022, we piloted academic reading circles, textmapping and jigsaw reading. Since then, we have embedded some of these activities across all three colleges at module level. 

Initial student and lecturer feedback has been positive, with participants reporting increased levels of confidence. However, is this a sufficient indication of potential long-term impact?  How do learning developers influence an improvement of competence and confidence in reading, and move towards a more mature model of embeddedness (Wingate, 2016)? Our presentation explored possible answers to this question by presenting case studies and sharing the lessons learnt.  

Author Biographies

Jane Saville, University of the West of England, Bristol

Jane Saville has been a facilitator of learning for over 40 years, having started as an EFL teacher and reinventing herself several times. As a Senior Lecturer and Academic Development Manager, she now supports both staff and students with academic literacies and practice at UWE Bristol. Throughout her professional life, she has nurtured a passion for enabling and empowering people to succeed, driven by a desire to promote inclusivity and equity. Her interests currently lie in assessment and feedback literacy; pedagogy within HE; and developing students' confidence in their reading skills. She is a Senior Fellow of Advance HE.

Tasha Cooper, University of the West of England, Bristol

Tasha Cooper works under the umbrella of learning development for UWE Bristol as a Library Academic Support Coordinator, within the College of Health, Science and Society. She is a Fellow of Advance HE, and her special interests include digital literacy, digital reading and adopting new learning technologies.

Tom Edge, University of the West of England, Bristol

Tom Edge is a Library Academic Support Coordinator for the College of Arts, Technology and Environment at UWE Bristol and is a Fellow of Advance HE.

Steve Hunt, University of the West of England, Bristol

Stephen Hunt is the Library Academic Support Coordinator for the College of Business and Law at UWE Bristol. Within this role he coordinates academic skills and English language teaching and learning materials for university-wide and embedded College-specific purposes. He has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Information and Library Studies (Aberystwyth University), CELTA (University of Bristol) and PhD (University of the West of England).



Baker, S., Bangeni, B., Burke, R. and Hunma, A. (2019) ‘The invisibility of academic reading as social practice and its implications for equity in higher education: a scoping study’. Higher Education Research and Development : 38 (1). [Accessed 13 January 2023].

Bennett, J., Heron, J., Gunnell, D., Purdy, S. and Linton, M.J. (2022) ‘The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student mental health and wellbeing in UK university students: a multiyear cross-sectional analysis’. Journal of Mental Health: 31(4), 597-604.

Dickinson, J. (2022) What if they’re all part-time students now? WONKHE [blog]. 9 December. [Accessed 11 December 2022].

Kimberley, E., and Thursby, M. (2020) ‘Framing the text: understanding emotional barriers to academic reading’. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice: 17(2). [Accessed 6 December 2022].

Maguire, M., Reynolds, A.E., and Delahunt, B (2020) ‘Reading to Be: The role of academic reading in emergent academic and professional student identities’. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice: 17(2). [Accessed 5 January 2023].

McCollum, B. M., Fleming, C. L., Plotnikoff, K. M., & Skagen, D. N. (2017) ‘Relationships in the Flipped Classroom’. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: 8 (3). [Accessed 22 May 2022].

Morgan, M. (2022). How can universities support students through the cost of living crisis? WONKHE [blog]. 7 July. [Accessed 12 January 2023].

St Clair-Thompson, H., Graham, A. and Marsham, S. (2018) ‘Exploring the Reading Practices of Undergraduate Students’. Education Inquiry : 9 (3), 284-298. [Accessed 12 January 2023].

Wingate, U. (2016) Embedding academic literacy instruction in the curriculum: the role of EAP specialists. BALEAP PIM 19th March 2016. [Accessed 22 May 2023].




How to Cite

Saville, J. (2023) “How can collaborative reading techniques impact confidence and belonging? ”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (29). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi29.1112.

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