Margy MacMillan


How can we help students apply what they are learning in the classroom to the workplace and to their everyday lives?

Librarian Margy MacMillan, participated in the 2012 Nexen Scholars Program.  She wanted to know how instructors could encourage students to read more deeply and connect information from scholarly articles with their academic, professional and personal information needs.

“Many students have difficulties reading and using scholarly articles effectively. One barrier may be that they don’t readily see the connections between dense, jargon-rich articles written for other experts and their own knowledge and information needs.”

In a class on reading articles within a research methods class, Margy had students practice making connections while reading part of an article. Students wrote down what the text reminded them of, connected to, or encouraged them to think about. Students made connections to their personal lives, work experiences and professional values as well their academic experiences in their discipline and other courses.

However, in reviewing the connections using a phenomenographic approach, an even more interesting story emerged. The connections illuminated how students were reading at different parts of the text – at times connecting only with the words and at times with the deeper meaning. These deeper connections showed up as analogies to similar situations, as reflections on prior and future practice, and as links to wider aspects of the discipline.

The work suggested several ways that instructors can support students to read more deeply and integrate knowledge from readings more successfully. Modeling reading with connections, making tacit knowledge and strategies explicit to students, and encouraging students to make connections while they read may be useful, but only if they are backed up with assessment practices that value deeper reading strategies.

Margy presented her work at the ISSOTL 2013 conference in October and has a paper under review.

 “I wondered why, when I could see students finding scholarly articles, they didn’t seem to be using them all that well. Exploring the issue further – it turned out they could find them, but they weren’t reading them, or reading them well. So I decided to see if I could help”. – Margy MacMillan, 20012 Nexen Scholar