Craig Bartle
  • Source: Scopus
  • Calculated based on no. of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus

Research activity per year

If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile


Experienced social researcher with a broad knowledge of the theoretical and practical principles of conducting research in the higher education sector. An MSc in Social Research Methods and the successful completion of fifteen research projects across five higher education institutions have given me a comprehensive understanding of the processes involved in the design and implementation of projects using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. My research to date has included several projects funded by the Department for Transport examing the processes leading to road traffic accidents, and a number of in-depth studies funded by HEFCE, the HEA and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation examining the student experience within higher education.


PhD Project

Life Beyond The Classroom: Helping university students become effective independent learners.

An ability to study independently is generally accepted as one of the key attributes students need to be successful in higher education. What students and university teachers understand by the term independent learning, however, can differ. Mckendry and Boyd (2012) noted ‘a paucity of research on what is currently meant by independent learning within the UK university sector’ and attempted to explore what students and university teachers at Glasgow Caledonia University understood by the term. Although they found similarities in the types of activities generally associated with independent learning, all the University’s teachers expressed concern that the concept of independent learning lacked clarity or any shared understanding.

 This apparent confusion is complicated by the uncertainty surrounding the practices students engage in while learning independently. Connaway et al. (2013) explain how information technology has made the process of tracking students’ independent study habits very difficult, as an ever-increasing number of resources are available online. Their investigation into students’ information seeking habits revealed that students often relied on information from Wikipedia or a basic Google search, and frequently made the dangerous assumption that the most popular articles must be the most reliable. Students were also reluctant to admit their information seeking habits to their teachers in case their approaches were not seen as legitimate, and regularly cited articles referred to by Wikipedia without directly mentioning Wikipedia in their coursework. The concept of ‘independent learning’ from both students’ and staff members’ perspectives in the HE sector is, therefore, being considered as part of this research as it is important that staff and students have a shared understanding of the term, and the activities students engage in.

Despite some disagreement about how independent learning should be defined and what it entails, university teachers appear to agree that, whilst students clearly undertake independent learning, secondary education does not adequately prepare students for undergraduate study, which requires a far greater degree of autonomy and critical thinking than has previously been expected of them. Yorke (2000) examines the factors that contribute to student attrition before considering what HE institutions can do to reduce their attrition rate. As part of his recommendations, he suggests institutions should design their curriculum to ensure that students are effectively inducted into the processes needed to be autonomous learners. Ideally, these processes would be assessed with appropriate and timely feedback so that any necessary support could be offered. Laing et al. (2005), who assessed several online activities developed at the Southampton Institute to help students take responsibility for their learning, also stressed the importance of understanding the needs and expectations of students entering HE so that effective induction programmes can be introduced. Feedback from these activities was found to be important in helping both staff and students identify any subsequent skills training that may be required.

In a paper outlining the key findings from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Higher Education Funding Council for England funded project “What works? Student Retention and Success”, Thomas (2013) provides evidence about what actually works to improve student retention by evaluating practices across 7 projects and 22 HE institutions. Thomas reports that effective induction is important for an effective transition into higher education and that students with a poor understanding of the different learning criteria required for studying in higher, rather than secondary, education were more likely to consider leaving. 

The level of study skills training offered to students entering higher education appears to be extremely variable. Some university teachers expect their students to arrive with the necessary study skills required for independent learning and therefore fail to make a provision for study skills training within the curriculum. For others, there is an acceptance that not all students will have the necessary skills to be effective independent learners, but they expect their students to use the institutions support services to address any study skills deficits. A recent institutional study at the University of Leicester suggests this is not a particularly helpful approach and the most effective way of engaging students is to integrate study skills training into the curriculum, which has the advantage of allowing students to see how the skills they are being introduced to are used within their discipline, rather than delivering generic study skills sessions that students may fail to see the relevance of. Andrade (2006) highlighted the importance of ensuring study skills training also takes into account students’ cultural differences, which may also influence their learning styles. This is particularly important given the rise in the numbers of international students. Andrade suggests it would be prudent for universities to familiarise themselves with the adjustment issues international students encounter and ensure the appropriate support services are in place.

Competing definitions of ‘independent study’, and conflicting expectations from staff and students about the activities students engage in away from the classroom, however, make it increasingly difficult to integrate appropriate study skills sessions into teaching and identify appropriate resources to help students adapt to new ways of studying. Similarly, even where study skills sessions are provided for students, their efficacy is often heavily dependent on external factors, which university teachers may not have considered or, given the constraints of the curriculum, may feel unable to address.

Gansemer‐Topf (2013) explains the importance of appropriately timed study skills interventions, which should take place early in a students’ programmes, not only to develop students’ experience but also to give university teachers the opportunity to assess students’ learning techniques and make the necessary adjustments to their teaching to address any shortfalls. Introducing study skills to students too early, however, may be counterproductive as many students struggle to adapt to the challenges of living away from home for the first time, making new friends and engaging in the distractions of freshers’ week.

Even with due consideration of the above factors, conscientious students who regularly engage in independent study will occasionally require help. University teachers need to make it clear to students where this help can be most usefully acquired. 

This project is investigating what is understood by the term ‘independent learning’ and exploring how students choose to utilise their independent study time, and what higher education institutions can do to help students become more effective learners through an in-depth investigation into the experiences of staff and students at Coventry University.





Churchill, W. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2014, from Web site:

Andrade, M.S. 2006, "International students in English-speaking universities adjustment factors", Journal of Research in International Education, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 131-154.

Connaway, L.S., Hood, E.M., Lanclos, D., White, D. & Le Cornu, A. 2013, "User-centered decision making: a new model for developing academic library services and systems", IFLA journal, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 20-29.

Duah, F., Croft, T. & Inglis, M. 2014, "Can peer assisted learning be effective in undergraduate mathematics?", International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 552-565.

Gansemer‐Topf, A.M. 2013, "How Assessment Can Advance Efforts to Enhance Undergraduate Student Persistence", New Directions for Student Services, vol. 2013, no. 142, pp. 61-70.

Laing, C., Robinson, A. & Johnston, V. 2005, "Managing the transition into higher education An on-line Spiral Induction Programme", Active Learning in Higher Education, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 243-255.

Mckendry, S. & Boyd, V. 2012, "Defining the" Independent Learner" in UK Higher Education: Staff and Students' Understanding of the Concept.", International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 209-220.

Thomas, L. 2013, "What works? Facilitating an effective transition into higher education", Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 4-24.

Yorke, M. 2000, "Smoothing the transition into higher education: what can be learned from student non-completion", Journal of Institutional research, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 35-47.


Education/Academic qualification

Social Research Methods, MSc, Northumbria University

Social Sciences, Degree, Nottingham Trent University

Social Research Methods, Postgraduate Certificate, Nottingham Trent University


Dive into the research topics where Craig Bartle is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 12 Similar Profiles
Your message has successfully been sent.
Your message was not sent due to an error.