Dr Paul Curzon

Paul Curzon's Home Page

Interaction, Media and Communication (IMC) Group

Department of Computer Science

Queen Mary, University of London

The Centre for Learning Development Reading Group Project

The Centre for Learning Development Reading Group Project was a practical investigation undertaken at Middlesex University into whether an online reading group could be used to support the practice of teaching in Higher education. The online reading group set up consisted of people interested in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, both academics and other staff. The purpose of the group, and its associated archive and mailing list was to:
  • encourage an interest in the theory and practice of teaching and learning in Higher Education,
  • disseminate information about and increase the awareness of the group members to current issues and research in teaching and learning,
  • share the reading of the group, to gain the most mileage from the minimum effort,
  • direct staff to papers relevant to their own current concerns,
  • provide a resource for staff and students undertaking research in Teaching and Learning, and
  • provide a resource for new teaching staff to encourage and support innovative teaching in the University.
A key finding about the success of the reading group was the importance of direct social contact between the moderator and members of the list, both for recruitment and to give contributors the confidence and motivation to submit articles. It was very important that the moderator physically networked with members of the group. The Reading Group was funded by a SEDA grant with matching funding from the Middlesex University School of Computing and Center for Learning Development. The way the group works is that individuals write summaries of teaching related articles that they read. They are forwarded to the mailing list for the group to read. A copy is added to the permanent web archive, and (where possible) a copy of the original article is lodged in a central archive of papers. Group members who have a particular interest in the subject can then easily obtain a copy (and may then wish to write an alternative summary).

Summaries in the database may be of books, journal articles, conference papers, web pages or even newspaper articles. They may be on articles on any topics related to teaching and learning that affect Higher Education. Topics of interest include:

  • Innovative Teaching Methods
  • Innovative Assessment Methods
  • Issues related to problems students face that affect learning
  • Practical problems associated with teaching and assessment
Members of the group were not obliged to provide summaries. Reading-only members were encouraged. It was recognised that many members may find it difficult to find the time to write summaries. However, if they did read an article that they feel would be of interest to the group, or that they feel strongly about, they were encouraged to write a summary.

Submitting Summaries

Summaries could be in several forms including an abstract similar in style to one that the author might write, a review constructively criticising the article, a discussion of how the article relates to personal experiences, or even a short and gushing soundbyte such as "The best book I've read on teaching - a must".

Summaries had to be:

  • no more than a paragraph long,
  • written in plain English,
  • include a full reference,
  • include a small number of keywords,
  • include the reviewer's name with the month and year of the reveiw, and
  • if appropriate include a web address where the full article/page can be found.
See the existing entries in the database for examples. Multiple reviews giving different viewpoints of the same article were encouraged.

Submissions were sent to the moderator, Paul Curzon, for addition to the database and to be forwarded on to the mailing list (once per week to keep the volume low). Where possible a physical copy of articles reviewed were sent to the moderator.


  1. Paul Curzon and Judith Harding. "Spreading the word about pedagogic research". In Academic and Educational Development: Research, Evaluation and Changing Practice in Higher Education, edited by Ranald Macdonald and James Wisdom, The SEDA Series, Chapter 13 pp152-163, Kogan Page, 2002.
  2. P.Curzon and J. Harding, "Drip Fed Academic Staff Development Using a Virtual Reading Group";. On Reflection: Professional development for the future, the 4th Annual SEDA Conference for Staff and Educational Developers, November 1999.
  3. Paul Curzon and Judith Harding, "A Summary of the Virtual Reading Group Project", inThe SEDA Newsletter, November 1999.