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Students don't read? Try these simple strategies

Research-informed teaching takes many forms. Getting students involved in research can vary according to whether the students are active or the lecturer is, and whether the focus is on the content being produced, or the process undergone to develop that content. 

Richard Inverne, senior lecturer in Performance, takes a research-tutored approach where it is the students who are responsible for going out and generating the research content. 

He was prompted to try something new with his Level 4 students when he kept encountering seminars where not enough students had done the reading to a great enough depth to allow for discussion. He found the seminars unbalanced, making it impossible to carry out effective group work.

He devised a directed independent research task, where each week he offers the students a choice of 6-8 topics. They are to choose one or two from the list, and go and carry out research on them. Usually they come back to the seminar brimming with enthusiasm, because this is what they’re interested in. Everyone has something to say, and everyone can share their findings. 

Richard also has a second research strategy for level 4 students which he calls ‘Richard’s 12-inch rule.’ He tells the students to look up something they’re interested in on the library catalogue and choose a book from the results. Then, at the shelf, they are to look at the books 12 inches either side of their chosen book, take them all off to a desk, and spend three hours doing research. They love it – it’s unexpected, it’s new, and it’s effective. Who wouldn’t love that? 

So, what are the principles of research-tutored teaching? How can you give this a go yourself?

According to Tansy Jessop, Professor of Research-Informed Teaching, these activities work because students are directed towards independent tasks that engage with the physical environment. They have to go out and do something for themselves.

Secondly, the students are given choice. They must take the initiative regarding what they do. It’s a whole journey, not a single moment.

And finally, collaboration works. Whether it’s encouragement, peer pressure or security, socially constructed learning is effective learning. 

Try it yourself and let us know how you get on. Or maybe you’ve got an alternative tip or trick you’d like to share – drop us a line at, we’d love to hear from you.