Fostering belonging: an interdisciplinary journal club


  • Katie Winter University of Surrey
  • Jennifer McLay University of Surrey



Journal club, interdisciplinary, belonging, collaborative skills


This session explored the evolution of an interdisciplinary journal club open to undergraduate and Master’s students, the challenges faced, and how we plan to develop the project going forward.

The aim of the club is to empower students through an initial staff-led workshop, followed by student-led peer-to-peer discussion sessions, developing their confidence in group working (and indirectly meeting new people), critical reading and analysis. The club also provides the opportunity to analyse and interpret statistical data, an area that can be daunting for students (Mezgebe, Chesson and Thurston, 2019). Articles for discussion in the club are chosen to be accessible to students from all disciplines, with a focus where possible on aspects of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Collaboration between different facets of our learning development team allow our Librarian, Writing, and Maths and Statistics advisers to bring their specific expertise to the initiative, resulting in a holistic approach additionally underpinned by students’ increased ownership.

Impact is measured through pre- and post-participation surveys* with mostly positive comments, touching on benefits beyond obvious ‘skills development’, most notably participation being seen to instil a sense of connection and belonging with fellow students, contributing to students’ sense of wellbeing and the appreciation of having a space to explore learning outside of the core assessed curriculum.

We hoped to tap into delegates’ experiences of any similar initiatives and explore possibilities for further developing our initiative, which could include embedding subject-specific clubs within course programmes (i.e., empowering academic staff to facilitate these), with the aim of further enhancing a sense of belonging across the institution. Equally, the model we have developed is adaptable to different contexts, so we would encourage delegates to consider the potential for adaptation to their institutional contexts.

*Ethical approval has been obtained to use survey responses for research.

Author Biographies

Katie Winter, University of Surrey

Katie Winter is a Learning Development Librarian at the University of Surrey, providing embedded support for students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She also provides one-to-one support for students across the university as part of her role and has a keen interest in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, chairing the EDI group within Library and Learning Services at Surrey.

Jennifer McLay, University of Surrey

Jennifer McLay is a Learning Development Adviser at the University of Surrey. After a varied career in industry, including academic publishing and event management, Jen joined the University of Surrey Learning Development team in 2017. Jen is primarily affiliated with the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and delivers a range of learning development support for the faculty from embedded teaching sessions to one-to-one support. On a wider level, Jen is actively involved in the diverse range of activities and programmes that the Learning development team at Surrey are engaged with, including multi-disciplinary journal club, resource development, workshops, and more recently, Academic Integrity practices. Jen was awarded FHEA in 2020.


Abegglen, S., Burns, T., Middlebrook, D. and Sinfield, S. (2019) ‘Unrolling the text: Using scrolls to facilitate academic reading’, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 14.

Deenadayalan, Y., Grimmer‐Somers, K., Prior, M., and Kumar, S. (2008) ‘How to run an effective journal club: a systematic review’, Journal of evaluation in clinical practice, 14(5), 898-911.

Gee, J. (2014) ‘Reading Circles Get Students to Do the Reading’, Faculty Focus, 27 March. Available at: (Accessed: 03/08/2023].

Mezgebe, M., Chesson, M. and Thurston, M. (2019) ‘Pharmacy student perceptions regarding understanding of and confidence in literature evaluation following a student-led journal club’, Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 11(6), pp. 557-564.

Topf, J. M., Sparks, M. A., Phelan, P. J., Shah, N., Lerma, E. V., Graham-Brown, M. P., ... and Hiremath, S. (2017) ‘The evolution of the journal club: from Osler to Twitter’, American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 69(6), 827-836.




How to Cite

Winter, K. and McLay, J. (2023) “Fostering belonging: an interdisciplinary journal club”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (29). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi29.1135.

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