5.2 Helping students to study effectively

Do think about the key differences between lectures, classes and office hours. The office hour is an ideal opportunity to develop your mentoring skills. There are two main elements involved. The first is working with individual students to encourage them to identify misunderstandings, and see what they do understand and how they can express themselves in the language of the discipline you are teaching. The second is to help them start to learn 'how to think' as an economist, a historian, or an anthropologist, and to get detailed insight into the thinking processes of the discipline. Recognising the peculiarities of each 'academic world' can be particularly important where you are working with students whose home department is different from the course they are studying with you (for example, helping someone who is well on their way to becoming a historian to grasp how an economist thinks and works). If you want to develop your ideas on being an effective mentor, contact the Teaching & Learning Centre (see Section 10| for contact details) for further guidance.

Students are more likely to visit your office hour when they are preparing for a class assignment or when they are revising for the end of course examinations. Many of the contacts will be about parts of the curriculum that they are struggling to understand or apply and you will be called upon to listen carefully and use probing questions to try and tease out the specific causes of difficulty or concern. You may at times also be asked to give concise explanations and respond to your students' questions. However, you should not try to do the students' work for them and your approach should aim to encourage, prompt and guide students towards understanding rather than to simply 'give the answers' or for you to solve the problem.

Especially when it comes to revising, students may need your help in developing an effective approach to their work and methods of studying. There are many good books on 'study skills' that you could recommend to your students. Some suggestions are given in Section 9. The Teaching and Learning Centre runs a series of study advice events throughout the year - with slides from them and other resources available on its Learning World Moodle site - as well as a limited number of one-to-one sessions for both qualitative and quantitative work. See Study advice events in the Glossary for details. 

Here are some hints and tips that your students may find helpful to follow:

  • TALK to people - teachers, advisers, peers. Find out as much as you can about what is expected of you.
  • Be systematic and get your notes and materials organised.
  • Invest time in mastering the skills you need to study effectively, eg: computing, library, language, information skills.
  • Plan backwards from deadlines and consider drawing up a work or revision plan.
  • Manage your time explicitly, allocate appropriate amounts of time to tasks, be realistic and build in some flexibility but stick to your plans and goals.
  • Think about when and where you work well and do your most demanding tasks when you are at your best.
  • Don't try and eat the elephant all in one go, chop it up into manageable chunks! Divide large and complicated tasks into small achievable pieces.
  • Build in checking and review time so that you can edit, proof-read, spell-check, etc.
  • Reward yourself for getting jobs done (rather than hours spent!) and keep a sensible balance between work and play.

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