Collaborative Reading – Working together to increase the impact and value of reading.

You may remember Harry Potter having an annotated potions book in the Half-blood prince. The side notes and extra tips provided helped him master complex potions, and avoid common mistakes.

Advanced Potion Making textbook open to a page with a number of hand written notes across the pages
Advanced Potion Making text annotated from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Image Source: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Movie (Warner Bros.) via Viliusr and the Harry Potter Wiki)

Imagine if you and your students could transform readings share some of their wisdom or experiences with future readers.


What is collaborative reading?

Collaborative reading is where a group (or class) of students read and annotate (ask questions or share observations) a reading or file. The comments, questions and notes students make are visible to their peers and the teaching staff.


Collaborative reading, encourages students to actively engage with the text and allows them to record and ask questions in real time. Other peers who are reading at the same time, or later are able to view and respond to questions ask, academic staff are able to see the notes, comments and questions and can use this information to determine the focus for the next face to face session.


How could it work?

The educator may assign a two page briefing document from an industry body for students to read as preparation for and in-class activity. While reading students can ask questions, make notes or highlight words and sentences for their own record (which they will be able to see in isolation).


The morning before the session, the educator review a summary of the notes, comments and questions to determine the focus and emphasis for the session. In this example, multiple students may have asked about the geographic location of a case study, or how the data was collected. This allows the educator to address these key points during the start of the session.


During a session, educators may ask students to work in small groups to read a research paper. Students may make notes on techniques or abbreviations they don’t understand. The educator can then sequentially work through these comments and questions to support students understanding. Students may then be asked to complete a related activity – an additional experiment, propose a different tool or technique which could have been use.


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What types of tasks could be assigned?

  • Lecture notes: Academic staff can provide lecture notes or slides and students for students to annotate and discuss prior/during/after lectures or tutorials. Staff can tag sections of a document to identify themes or topics or connections to other courses, or professional practice. These documents can be revisited at any time and can become the basis for ongoing discussion.
  • Student centred course improvement: students can annotate the course guide or schedule to bring about a better teaching and learning experience for themselves during the semester or as feedback for future cohorts.
  • Revision: academic staff can provide students with revision materials that as a community students can revise as a group (i.e lecture slides, past exam papers, websites etc.).
  • Open Educational Resources (OER): any material that is classified as Creative Commons can be presented in this reading platform to create a completely new (and free) learning and teaching experience for students and staff.
  • Journal articles: You could include an open access journal article, and focus student’s attention to specific features (maybe the connection between the figures and how they are described in text), or connect the methods and approaches to recent laboratory experiences.

Would you like to explore a social reading tool? Download this guide and join our discussion in Perusall.