Study skills are not the answer to students’ academic woes

Is the current centralised and generic focus on study skills really helpful for students? Kendall Richards and Nick Pilcher suggest another approach.

Kendall Richards is a lecturer at the School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University (UK).


Nick Pilcher is a lecturer and programme leader at The Business School, Edinburgh Napier University (UK).

‘Study skills”, “academic skills”, “study support”: whatever you call them, units such as these are commonplace in higher education.

Delivered from centralised units commonly based in the library, such support for students, in the words of one university, aims to offer “a wealth of resources for both home and international students who want to make the transition between ordinary English and the academic language expected from you in your work at university”.

Some library services even have mascots such as Worcester University Library Services’ Reffie the Referencing Raptor. Some go further, with peripatetic workshops that offer to embed academic skills into specific subjects.

In essence, this whole system is saying: you may be coming from a background that means academic work is challenging or unfamiliar to you, or you may be struggling with your assessments and how to approach them. Don’t worry, the support exists to help you.

We want to emphasise here exactly what this is promising and the high stakes nature and importance of it. We’d argue that these claims and the support approaches they recommend have to be underpinned by a number of key tenets in order for them to be pedagogically viable, and these tenets have to be ones that those delivering and accessing the support believe in (otherwise the whole foundations of the system collapse).

  1. What the centres are delivering has to be definable – because if it isn’t, they’ll all be doing different things.
  2. What the centres are teaching has to be of transferable relevance to all subject areas – because if it isn’t, there is little point in teaching it as it won’t be relevant for all students.
  3. Centres must be able to embed study skills into different subject areas – if they cannot, then what would be the value in trying to do this?
  4. Students’ success must be in some way the result of them having successfully attained study skills – because if it wasn’t, what would be the point in them spending time learning them?

In our view, each of these tenets are baseless from a pedagogical perspective.

Immovable, unknowable, ineffable

With regard to the first, nothing that these centres offer is definable, because they are called different names and all subjects approach them in their own unique ways. For example, the way that a nursing student is expected to “critically analyse” a procedure will involve completely different abilities and knowledge from the way a mechanical engineering student is expected to “critically analyse” a procedure.

If both students went to the skills hub and it was suggested they attend a study skills class, it would have to be assumed that the same class for such diverse subjects can teach them to “critically analyse” in their respective subjects.

At the same time, these “skills” do not transfer, not only because they differ across subject areas but also because they are likely not even “skills” at all and would be better described as abilities or knowledge.

We have heard as much from students themselves. In fact the only thing that we have found that students really value is actual subject help, from experts. Recent sites run by and for UK university student communities feature students complaining that study skills units failed to improve their academic success.

For example, this quote found on the Student Room from a student on a study skills bridging course illustrates the issue:

If S[tudy] S[kills] assignments helped you with the academic subject assignments, perhaps they’d be worthwhile. But I just found them to be a completely separate entity and they didn’t help with the real assignments, they just took my time and focus off them!

In other words, any attempt to embed study skills is akin to trying to “embed” a maths course into a course on the history of renaissance art.

If a student performs well, if they present well, or they do a report well, it’s not because they have good study skills, rather, it’s because they know their subject. If one of us were to give a presentation on the reasons why Nazi Germany’s Operation Blau offensive in the Soviet Union in 1942 failed, we could do so because we know the subject.

If we were instead to attempt a presentation on why the recent helicopter flight on Mars succeeded, we would not be able to do so. For someone to suggest to us that we could do the first because we had good study skills and couldn’t do the latter because we had poor study skills would seem preposterous and the purest example that springs to our minds of one of Nietzsche’s four great errors of confusing cause and effect.

Help where students truly need it

It would be great if such a one-size-suits-all approach did exist, this is a fantasy that encourages users to believe and clap their hands. Perhaps somewhat underwhelmingly, we suggest that the action that students, lecturers, institutions, and HE in general need to take is … to provide support in the subject.

We need to forget any illusions of “study skills” that universities can cheaply and conveniently deliver and are transferable across all areas and, instead, teach the subject.

This means that centralised units need to be decentralised, more people need to be employed on academic contracts to teach the subjects themselves, and that all study skills specialists need to be teaching actual academic subjects.

If students are struggling or need support in their degrees, they don’t need more study skills, they need help with the subjects of their degrees. Because subject knowledge is what creates success and it is this students need help with.

If these centres don’t actually help students, then why are they there? We explore the question of whose interests these centres actually serve in our article for Teaching in Higher Education: “Study Skills: neoliberalism’s perfect Tinkerbell.”

21 responses to “Study skills are not the answer to students’ academic woes

  1. I might be biased because my partner is an academic skills advisor, but I would disagree with a lot of this. I work for an SU Advice service advising on appeals and mitigating circumstances and so many students I see struggle with writing a clear, well structured and compelling argument to explain how their personal circumstances have affected their academic work. The students have the ‘subject knowledge’ in this instance since the subject they are writing about is their own experience and no-one knows what they went through better than they do themselves. Yet it’s all too common for their statements to be written in non-chronological order that makes it very confusing to follow. They often struggle to refer to their evidence to support what they are saying and repeat themselves or include irrelevant information. They frequently provide no analysis on how their circumstances affected their work and don’t show insight into how they can avoid this in future. Study skills would focus on areas like this: how to write clearly; how to structure an argument; how to select and use evidence; how to proof read effectively to guard against repetition; how to decide whether information is relevant or not and how to be analytical or reflective (and the difference between those terms).

    I of course don’t like the trend in higher education to get rid of lecturers and replace multiple lecturers with one academic skills advisor to cut corners and save on costs, but in speaking out against this please don’t forget that academic skills advisors can bring real value to students and help them develop important skills for study and for work. This needs to be present alongside fully staffed academic departments, so that students can benefit from subject specific knowledge and study skills support.

  2. The example of a successful presentation here is an odd one. Yes, subject knowledge is essential for the presentation to be a success, but surely there is a ‘skills’ element to it as well? The student can know the subject inside out, but if they don’t know how to plan, structure or deliver a presentation, they’re not going to do too well? Most mark schemes will have a bit more than ‘Displayed excellent and wide ranging knowledge of the subject matter’.

    I do agree that there can be challenges with centralised ‘skills support’, as it is often too easy to simply direct students to the library or skills centre, placing the onus on the student to upskill themselves and giving teaching staff an out when it comes to building skills development into the curriculum (students who may seek out this additional support are often those with the least additional time to spare). I also agree that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is often inadequate in many areas of skills development, but in my experience many libraries and skills centres do deliver bespoke support within the context of programmes, often co-creating or delivering material alongside academic staff. I expect many staff working in these areas would actually cite under-funding and a lack of resource as key reasons why their support cannot be more tailored and subject specific.

    Skills development should be an integrated part of the day-to-day experience of students within their courses; woven into the teaching and assessment approach within modules. In many ways I think that they should be gaining these skills by stealth, without classes being badged as a ‘skills sessions’. The answer is for librarians and skills advisers to work with academics to integrate this effectively, while continuing to provide 1:1 support to students who seek their expertise.

  3. Quite annoyed to see Worcester’s study skills offer so badly misrepresented. Yes there are generic sessions on topics like referencing but there is also deep subject-specific support from academic liaison librarians who are actually very well embedded in their academic Schools and in many cases considered to be a core part of the course team. Your example of referencing trips you up, speaking as a librarian if there’s one thing that needs delivering in a consistent way it’s referencing and I’ve seen plenty of examples of academics doing a frankly awful job, getting aspects of their own subject area’s referencing style wrong and failing to inject enthusiasm or deep knowledge of the how and why or referencing into sessions. This is exactly why specialists exist.

    1. Well said Phil. One of the things we have learned from the Covid experience is the value of professional services roles, such as librarians, working with teaching academics to support students with their academic skills, be they delivered through study skills centres or as part of academic library liaison work. In particular, librarians know how to get the best out of digital resources that students need, such as e-books and databases, in a way that academics often simply don’t. My background is HE but I currently work primarily with FE colleges, many of whose students are making the leap into HE, often from a position of disadvantage. For them, academic study skills support from the library is not only essential, it can be transformative. Collaboration between academics and specialist professional roles is more important than ever and I’ll continue to refer to Worcester as a good example of this in my work.

  4. Thank you for this article.

    Are current centralised study skills fit for purpose? No, I don’t think so. Should we give up on trying to teach students how to study effectively? No, we just need to do it in a more scholarly, integrated and convincing way.

    The main contention of this piece appears to be that centralised generic study skills provisions are not fit for purpose, predominantly because of their “one size fits all approach” and the fact that they are often divorced from subject content. Very similar points were made by Wingate (2006) in an article called “Down with Study Skills”. However, Wingate also identified what I perceive as one of the two bigger problems commonly associated with study skills provisions, i.e. advice is frequently not transparently informed by the science of learning. If an academic institution endeavours to help its students study more effectively, then its first duty is to make sure that these efforts are underpinned by academic research on how people learn, communicate & Collaborate.

    The second major flaw (related to the first) is that study skills provisions do not take account of the psychology of persuasion and refutation. We know that many students habitually use ineffective approaches to studying that feel more effective than they are, which makes them (understandably) resistant to advice on how to study. Look at the situation from their perspective: “My approach to studying has got me into university and it feels like it works, so why should I change?”

    A precursor for improving the way that students study is debunking myths about learning and addressing faulty metacognition. Just telling students what to do, won’t cut it. Especially if the guidance appears to be devoid of the academic credibility we expect them to demonstrate in their own work and seemingly not integrated into their degree subject. Unfortunately, this is too often characteristic of study skills instruction.

    In my view, evidence-based advice on learning needs to emerge from the shadow of “Study Skills”. By treating advice on studying as if it is detached from scholarship (perhaps in a misguided attempt to make it more palatable) & divorced from subject matter, institutions have undermined its utility and credibility in the student body. In addressing this, we need to be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. We cannot address flaws in the way students approach studying by simply re-directing efforts to subject level support on degree specific topics. Students spend the lion’s share of their scholarly time studying independently, so we must always be mindful of not focusing too much on what happens inside the lecture theatre at the expense of what happens outside of it. It would also be rather unfair to leave lecturers who might be interested in the science of learning unsupported in locating and communicating the salient advice to students.
    What we need to do is significantly improve the communication and adoption of evidence-based advice on studying and persuasion from psychology to help students (& those who support them) integrate & model effective approaches to studying into the curriculum.

    As far as I can see, many institutions have managed to blunder into a situation where the one topic that most needs to be transparently informed by good scholarship (i.e. how to study effectively) has become the most divorced from the research that should directly inform it and the curriculum it should be located within. This, most certainly, needs attention.

    1. This article comes across as setting up a straw person to rail against organisational structures and practices more than address what is the underlying issue which I take to be what Paul Penn notes, that we need to be more scholarly. Indeed I like to think of Universities as inclusive networks of scholarly practitioners in which all staff and all students are able to make contributions to their community of scholarly practice and can learn about and develop their personal scholarship within and across the network of communities.

      By acknowledging students as also being scholars we fit in with the notion that students are full partners in learning and teaching and that we (staff) do teaching, learning and support with students (a relational exchange) rather than for students (a transactional exchange).

      Thus academic communities are communities of practice around cognate subject areas that are embodied in the collective scholarship of and for discovery, integration and application but are also expressed through individual praxis (the process by which knowledge, understanding, concepts and theories are enacted, embodied, or realised). In this framework students are largely undertaking scholarship for learning and application, while the scholarship undertaken by academic staff is but one strand of scholarly activity, albeit through scholarship of and for discovery and application seen in research and knowledge exchange. Thus it is the skills of scholarship (for teaching and learning) that we need to work with, skills that may be similar across different subject areas or be unique to a subject area. And these scholarship skills may be congruent with the skills needed to pursue a career or profession based on that subject or not, but then the formulation and framing of skills work roles is a yet another matter.

  5. In making the above observations I would stress that my intention is not to criticise or undermine the efforts of the dedicated and hardworking folks (be they lecturers, librarians, specialists or other support staff) that are trying to help students succeed. I’m conscious that it’s easy for institutional level criticism to be misconstrued as a swipe at the staff on the frontline, which can be very demoralising.

    Rather, my intention is to highlight the institutional level need for teaching and learning policy to commit to meaningfully embed the scholarship related to effective studying into their support provisions and provide adequate resources for staff to achieve this where it is lacking.

    1. thanks Paul – and as you know, I’ve long been pushing for Learning Development to be professionalised with appropriate, evidence-based expertise, rather than the ‘you’ve done a degree, you can teach others how to!’ low-skilled basis and pedagogically problematic ‘giving students the skills’ discourse on which many of these roles are constituted, if not actually enacted. The issue really is with how this provision is constructed and positioned at that institutional level, as there is much excellent practice at the front line, and a genuine space for those who can act as skilled intermediaries helping surface what academic colleagues may implicit know but find it hard to teach, in a student-centred and integrated way. Generic, central, uninformed, untheorised ‘study skills’ is a nonsense, and many of us in the field have long known this and have tried to negotiate a way through it…..

  6. The article is very pertinent and wise. Study skills could and should be taught within the home discipline of students. Gaps between students on the same courses are generally knowledge as well as skills-related and they should be dealt with by the home department.
    Too many students complain that the Study Skills tutors are overly dogmatic and generally miss the point as they are at best “generalists”.

  7. I have never commented upon a WonkHE article before but I feel compelled to share my views about this article. I get the sense that the author’s have a very narrow view of “study skills” support and what those teams might accomplish at Edinburgh Napier. In fact, I go as far as to urge the authors to really engage and understand what these experts do at their institution. They are not “support” staff who are just messing about with study skills. These professional experts who spend their careers teaching, undertaking scholarly practice and publishing research about what they do. This article reeks of the attitude that we have been up against for decades and isn’t helpful, collegiate or fair. I have statistical evidence that proves the sustained impact of this important work upon attainment and progression. In fact, please have a read of an article published last year to demonstrate exactly this:
    Loddick, A. and Coulson, K. V. (2020) The Impact of Learning Development Tutorials on Student Attainment. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Volume 17. Available from: https://journal.aldinhe.ac.uk/index.php/jldhe/article/view/558/415.

    1. Kate – your article says causality cannot be claimed, but here you are claiming causality.

      Here is what your article says:

      “One of the limitations of this study is that of causality. While there are differences in attainment for students who have tutorials with Learning Development, we cannot say that
      is it the tutorials that caused this. It is possible that students who have tutorials with Learning Development are of a higher attainment level before seeing the team or the fact that they
      have chosen to seek support means that they are already engaged in the learning process.”

      I work in this area too (as a librarian) and the students who seek me out tend to be higher achievers. Not always, as I get referrals from academics, but on average.

      One of the points made by the authors of the above in their article referred to is the lack of evidence of impact which includes control groups; and in fact studies with control groups tend to show no impact. Your piece – published in the house journal of your area of work – does not prove your effectiveness I’m afraid. Similarly evidence based on testimonials is flawed.

      1. Interesting points, James. Could you share the relevant studies “with control groups [which] tend to show no impact”? It can be challenging to set up ethical research in education which uses meaningful control groups, so I’d be very interested to see the body of research to which you refer.

        Your implied criticism of Kate for publishing in a journal within her area of work seems a little harsh considering normal conventions of academia follow this pattern.

        You’re right to say that evidence (solely?) based on testimonials is flawed. For this reason it is surprising that the authors of this WonkHE article make very strident claims, but base them on no other empirical evidence than a single student testimonial.

        1. S. White – there is a paucity of literature with control groups it seems – it’s almost impossible to do. The authors’ ‘Tinkerbell’ article refers to Ramsden, 1987 and that is all, so its neither overwhelming nor up-to-date. The only other one I know is Conway and Ross (1984) – Getting what you want by revising what you had. They chose to look at a study skills program as an example of cognitive dissonance experienced by participants. This is interesting on why user testimonials are flawed.

          You might find something in Gibbs (1981) book ‘Teaching students to learn’ which has been a big influence on me. He has quite a lot to say on the effectiveness of teaching study techniques, and cites a number of studies that show a lack of effectiveness. He also draws attention to claims made on the basis of correlation. He claims to have heard of students being advised to sit at the front because students who sit near the front tend to do better.

          There is also a good meta-analysis available – quite old – and looks at HE and school interventions. Its quite complex, but they found that the older the students, the less the impact. I appreciate a lot has changed in HE though:

          Hattie, J., Biggs, J., Purdie, N. (1996). Effects of learning skills interventions on student learning: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 66 (2), pp. 99-136 URL: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.3102/00346543066002099

          The WonkHe article makes rhetorical arguments but that doesn’t mean its without merit; their ‘Tinkerbell’ article does as well, but cites more. The ‘Tinkerbell’ article itself is not without flaws – I’d have like to have seen some distinction between different modes of support and yes to reflect on good and bad practice but I think they shine a light on problems in this area, which I think it takes ‘outsiders’ to highlight.

      2. Interesting points James. It can be challenging to set up ethical studies involving meaningful control groups in education. I’d be very interested to see the body of research you mention which does so if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

        It seems harsh to criticise Kate for publishing within her area of work given that within academia this is common practice.

        You rightly state that ‘evidence based [solely?] on testimonials is flawed’. It is worth noting that in the original WonkHE article the authors make strident claims based only on a single piece of testimonial evidence.

        Though it’s necessary and useful to continually interrogate the impact and effectiveness of academic practice in various areas, I feel that Richards and Pilcher’s article is seriously flawed. As noted above, they
        – use a straw man argument to represent much Learning Development practice
        – make a facile underlying claim (doing ‘Study Skills’ badly is bad)
        – draw on a single piece of testimonial evidence to make sweeping claims
        – display no knowledge of the theory of Learning Development
        – use flawed examples to illustrate their point (improved content knowledge = improved communication of it)

        A career in politics awaits?

  8. Study Skills are a shibboleth; the term is at least twenty years out of date and fails to adequately conceptualise the work of practitioners in the field. Very few of us would recognise the bolt-on, generic support (see Wingate) described in this blog as constitutive of recent learning development practice.

    It is, however, often indicative of how our practice is conceptualised by senior management within our institutions. It’s easy to promote a centralised, one size-fits-all approach and claim that this blanket approach will resolve some of the long-standing issues described above.

    But, as Helen Webster succinctly notes above, the issue really is with ‘how this provision is constructed and positioned at that institutional level’.

    Many of the issues described in this blog could be resolved by senior management integrating these practitioners within specific schools or departments to help tailor their approaches more closely to specific subjects.

    Another option is to integrate these teams within institutional centres for Teaching and Development to encourage further research in this field. It would also help these practitioners to work more closely with lecturers to embed these learning development approaches across the curriculum.

    Some institutions are doing wonderful work by adopting these two approaches; others are miles behind the curve.

  9. “In our view, each of these tenets are baseless from a pedagogical perspective.”
    I refer you to your own library page on critical thinking. Including a list of books on the right column from various professionals addressing the tenets, likely from a pedagogical perspective.
    https://libguides.napier.ac.uk/criticalthinking/reflect

    “At the same time, these “skills” do not transfer, not only because they differ across subject areas but also because they are likely not even “skills” at all and would be better described as abilities or knowledge.”
    Define skills? “the ability to do something well; expertise.”
    Would you describe your ABILITY to write this article and your KNOWLEDGE to write it make you particularly SKILLFUL at writing? Abilities and knowledge contribute to skill.

    “If a student performs well, if they present well, or they do a report well, it’s not because they have good study skills, rather, it is because they know their subject. If one of us were to give a presentation on the reasons why Nazi Germany’s Operation Blau offensive in the Soviet Union in 1942 failed, we could do so because we know the subject.”
    This section is ironic. The article itself shows no expertise or research in the discipline at all ( I would hope it is in the paper) and it would be improved if you had applied basic generic ‘study skills’ theory, likely the exact content that you are arguing is useless to learn.

  10. The authors of this article show little understanding of teaching and learning theories and seem to espouse an ’empty vessel to be filled’ method of educating. What do they mean by ‘if they know their subject…’? If a student writes a paper because they ‘know the subject’, where do they learn skills of rhetoric, debate, different styles of discourse etc. etc. Ah, yes – some schools teach this; some students develop this at school. Sadly, many were not taught this at school, or perhaps were not ready for such cognitive processing development when they were in school. Students’ requests for help in understanding how to ‘engage with the literature’ ‘synthesis and respond to sources’ are anecdotal but clearly demonstrate a need for certain learning processes to be made explicit and addressed by people who understand this learning development. Whether this is done by academics who understand the many facets of teaching, or skilled pedagogic staff, I am not arguing for centralised Study Skills provision per se, but please, do your homework before making wild claims.

  11. While I agree with part of this – namely the issue of consistency and definitions across the academic skills field – the majority of this paper suggests the writers could do with a session in critical thinking…!

    I don’t think taking a single comment from The Student Room (which talks about a whole module, not academic skills support in general) is very good journalism. On top of this, statements like the following are simply untrue:

    “If a student performs well, if they present well, or they do a report well, it’s not because they have good study skills, rather, it’s because they know their subject.”

    So referencing, writing style, finding reliable resources – all of these things don’t factor into a student’s mark?

    As I say, there are kernels of true issues here, but let’s not make sweeping statements about often valuable support.

  12. A slightly thought provoking article, yet not convincing, and not evidencing critique in the way it’s written. As someone who has taught dedicated ‘stand-alone’ study skills modules and modules where study skills are embedded, my view is that study skills usually need embedding, within disciplinary contexts, yet there is a clear role for more generic study and learning skills (such as grammar, spelling, using apostrophes correctly, using spellcheck function and so on). My preference is to use the term ‘learning skills’, rather than study skills.

  13. This may be the least persuasive article I’ve ever read on WonkHE. In the past, I’ve taught both within a discipline (History) and in what would probably be called a study skills unit, and the authors don’t seem to understand what the latter do. The entire article sets up a strawman and knocks it down. Barely any research evidence is given, either here or in the fuller article available via the link. The only piece of evidence here – the quote from the Student Room – is from a wider comment which is actually about a specific study skills module on an Access to HE course – delivered, it seems, at an FE College, and hardly applicable to skills support within universities.

    Maybe it’s different elsewhere – though prior comments suggest not – but in my institution study skills practitioners mostly teach in a way that is embedded in discipline-specific modules and tailored to that discipline. E-resources are likewise tailored to disciplines. In other words, study skills units do exactly what the authors suggest they should do in their fuller article.

    There may be generic workshops on top. These are, I think, less effective (for the reasons the article describes), but a lot of skills – how to structure an essay; what constitutes an argument; how to find the key information from a text; techniques to compare texts – are reasonably generic. Yes, ideally students should receive adequate instruction on these issues from academics, but in practice they don’t, or it doesn’t sink in. Generic workshops are better than nothing. It would be very difficult to deliver a generic workshop to both Physics and History students (in practice, you’d do separate workshops for Sciences); but you could do an effective workshop for a general Humanities / Social Sciences audience.

    Many institutions also offer 1-1 support via study skills units. At my institution, this is mostly used by students who are in some way struggling – e.g. international students who are adjusting to English academic culture. With a bit of training and experience, you really don’t need a fundamental knowledge of each discipline to help students. What you need is an understanding of where students might go wrong. I know – from evaluation, and because students have effusively thanked my colleagues – that the unit I worked in saved many students from failing or dropping out. The effectiveness of this sort of support is well established in research literature.

    Certainly students need to have knowledge of their subject to perform well, but they need much more than that. In History, I’d expect to see students constructing sound arguments, in well-structured essays, based on critical analysis and comparison of different texts – in another words, using study skills. An essay without these things, based purely on knowledge of the 1942 German invasion of the Soviet Union, say, would get a poor mark.

  14. Thank you to all who have commented. We are very pleased to see the debate the piece has generated. We want to respond with the following:
    1. We feel the piece has been considered as constituting an attack on the individuals in Study Skills units and who deliver Study Skills. This was not the intention and certainly is not what we think. We would like to quote from the paper the article is linked to – suggesting that what needs to be done is the following: “This would involve, we suggest, employing greater numbers of subject specialists to help deliver additional support, and recalibrating the support given by existing staff to more subject-specific areas.” In other words, we feel those who give the current support should be moved from the centre to give subject and assignment focused support in the departments. Furthermore, as we outline in the paper, if this was the case support would be more specialist and as such would mean those delivering it needed to be both valued (in permanence contractually) and remunerated (in higher salaries) more appropriately.
    2. One comment noted Wingate (2006) famously ‘did away’ with Study Skills – we noted in our paper that Wingate (2006) said Study Skills should be embedded – thereby actually keeping them.
    3. One comment related to there being ‘Essays’ – we have found lecturers see ‘Essay’ (and other vehicles) to differ widely according to individual and area. Consequently, to produce materials saying that an ‘Essay’ has particular characteristics misleads students. We find support needs to be in the subject working with subject-specialists in the context of the specific coursework.
    4. We are interested to see comments accusing is of creating a ‘straw man’ – we see this in relation to other critiques (of corpus linguistics) we have made in the past. We are also interested to see what we read and interpret to be comments that say the piece is nonsense, but what it advocates is right and should happen. We are curious about these comments and are thinking about them.
    5. In relation to the point above is our confusion at suggestions that we would benefit from study skills given the style we used in writing this piece. We felt we wrote according to the context of the ‘home’ of the article. We guess this actually highlights our argument that writing (and other forms of communication) need to be considered in the context of subject.
    6. We consider much work outlined in the comments of great help – for example Kate Coulson’s one to one learning development sessions outlined in her paper – where we feel these help, and where we feel anything helps, is when support is tailored to the specific context of the subject and assignment the student is faced with – and we surmise this is what happened in these one to one learning development sessions, and why they are so useful. We may be wrong in surmising this, but it is certainly what we do in one to one sessions we give.
    7. We are interested to be described as ‘outsiders’. In fact we are simply relics of a former approach where support was delivered in the schools and departments. Nick (originally employed as a Lecturer for in-session support) still retains his former role in parts of what he does, and Kendall is the last of three (Lecturer in the faculty) Academic Advisors. The two who left were not replaced – the in-session support has become more centralised. We detailed our journey (and give details of papers explaining key points) in a blog we were invited to do after presenting on the paper at the ScotHELD Winter 2021 conference – a link to the blog is here:
    https://aldinhe.ac.uk/study-skills/take5-58-from-text-to-teapot-to-tinkerbell-supporting-students-in-their-subjects/
    We are very happy to talk more about these things if possible – just let us know if interested.

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