No matter what course you’re studying or who you’re studying with, you’ll probably come across a section marked ‘additional reading’. The list can often be incredibly long, made up of chapters, articles, cases, and even entire textbooks!
To a new learner, this can be daunting.
To help you understand how to tackle the seemingly never-ending pile, we spoke to Law Training Centre tutor, Steven Murray.
What is a reading list, and what is additional reading?
“A reading list is a series of materials that have a relationship with the topic the learner is studying. It tends to have an overarching approach.
“Reading lists and additional reading are something that qualification bodies like CILEX might suggest – so if you are reading probate, they might then suggest the following articles and books will be of interest, creating a reading list.
“However, reading lists can also be created by training providers, where we as tutors and coaches direct learners to particular materials to widen awareness about how a specific area or aspect of the law works in practice.”
Additional reading from qualification bodies
“Sometimes we see directed learning or additional reading lists provided by qualification bodies, telling learners which books, articles or cases will be of interest for their subject of study. However, this can be quite arbitrary and can overwhelm learners.
“The problem is that many learners will simply ask: ‘What is the short article, or the case note that I need that will help me?’ The long list of content that each learner needs to get through means that the decision upon which they decide to follow directed reading can become based on time constraints, rather than what will help them most in their learning journey.
“What’s not helpful – but we see with the very best intentions – is where, perhaps a regulator, gives additional reading and starts naming particular books. A general book on land law, for example, will give you the entire history of land law, and this can actually cause confusion. It can shake learners because they think ‘I thought I knew what I was talking about. I’ve never come across all of that.’ It’s because perhaps the learner doesn’t need it.”
Reading lists from training centres
“Alternatively, training centres can take this additional reading and create reading lists that provide a tangible benefit for the point at which each learner is at in their course.
“This is where Law Training Centre succeeds, and where the strength of the tutor team lies. We understand what the learner is studying, and we have that conversation with them so that we can direct them to reading that will give them something of benefit, something positive.
“It might be a snapshot. It won’t be chapters and chapters because that isn’t beneficial. This is where training providers can really make a difference.
“What we can do as a tutor – when we understand where the learner is in terms of their point of study – we can give reading lists or directed additional reading using subgenres. What we’re doing is giving incremental steps, developing the learner as a whole and creating layers of awareness and understanding, drilling down into knowledge outcomes.”
“You can also have self-generated, self-directed reading. This is really where the importance of coaching comes into place.
“When you start to follow strings of self-directed research, investigation and additional reading, you can easily get lost. I have found that many learners will buy a book but won’t communicate with their tutor when they become confused from running off down into avenues which are important, but not yet important to them at their current point of study.
“But speaking with your tutor about this and finding the correct reading for you is important. This is not dumbing down the content – it’s about finding additional reading that is fit for purpose.
“Reading lists can be generic – and this is a good thing as one size doesn’t fit all. We are very privileged to deal with learners from a myriad of backgrounds, cultures and nationalities. But we must remember that all the reading on these broad lists will not suit everyone – it certainly doesn’t take into consideration aspects like a learner’s prior attainment or any hidden challenges that they might have, such as dyslexia.
“This means that learners should use their tutors and coaches to share and discuss the additional reading to find the right fit for them and ensure progression. You may not get past the finishing line yet, but even running 10 yards down the 100m sprint is progression, and finding the right reading for you is all about making progress and moving forward.”
What should you do if you’re feeling overwhelmed by additional reading?
“Just stop. Speak to your tutor.
“Let’s have a conversation – where are you? What’s your study plan like? Where are you in the study plan? Let’s see where your challenges are at the moment. If you’re comfortable at the moment, do you want to do more or do you want to progress through your learning outcomes?
“Additional reading has to mean something where it’s tied into the learning outcomes prescribed for that subject, curriculum, exam etc. Don’t get overwhelmed. Take a break and a big step back. And what we then do is start to go towards, say, the end of a learning outcome with your tutor, and where you have questions, we can start to give you reading suggestions that will reflect that.
“It’s got to be a communication. A reading list can be part of a constructive communication that can take place between the learner and their tutor or coach. That’s where the coaching element really comes into it. I can show you in my very best, experienced opinion what will best suit your needs right now. If you can give me an idea of where you are, I’ll tailor – I’ll cherry pick from that list something that might be of interest to you.
“Realistically, additional reading is great if you can get through it, but it’s not the be all and end all of your knowledge. It has a purpose, but your tutor can help you to dig into that list and determine what will be most relevant and helpful for you where you are now in your studies.”