Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts

1 August 2016

Avoid assignment delays: get moving with effective preparation

So you’ve settled into the start of semester and have discovered all the assignment tasks you’ll need to complete in the next couple of months. Sometimes it can feel like you just don’t know where to start, or need to keep reading before you can start writing, or maybe you just start writing straight away on whatever you can think of. Don’t fall into these traps - good assignment writing needs good preparation. Here are some tips to get you pumping out your assignments effectively from Learning Skills Adviser, Emma Price.

  1. Analyse your task

The first step in any assignment is to make sure you clearly understand what it is asking you to do. You may think you’ve got the idea from a quick read over, but you could miss out on some important details or misunderstand the question if you don’t spend a bit of time on task analysis. Comprehensively covering what is asked will usually add more marks onto your grade. Here’s some pointers to get you started: 

  • Think about whether or not you understand all of the terms involved - what might you need to look up?
  • You should highlight or scribble on the task itself for words or phrases that give you direction (what you need to do), content (topic or context) and limits (to set the required scope).

As you complete your assignment, you should always return to the task to make sure you are answering the topic and sticking to what was asked.

  1. Brainstorm and plan

Now that you understand what you need to do, a good next step is to spend a bit of time brainstorming. You might like to try creating a mindmap or just jotting down your thoughts on a page to record your ideas as you go.

  • What do you already know about this topic? What knowledge gaps will you need research?
  • How does this task fit into what you’ve covered in class?
  • What is your initial position towards the task? How will you approach what it is asking you to do?

This brainstorm is a great way to develop a plan. With your task analysis and initial thoughts on the topic, you can plot out how you will complete the assignment. This could be a skeleton structure outline noting down what the main sections or paragraphs should cover, or just some broad headings and subheadings of the areas you want to find out more about. You may want to write your approach or argument at the top of the page to keep you on track in your plan. Remember: this plan is not set in stone and you should adapt it as you do more research and start writing - but always make sure you are answering what the task is asking you to do!

You may also want to plot out a timeline between now and the due date to keep you on track with your research and writing.

  1. Research

Using your thoughts from your brainstorm and initial plan, it should now be pretty clear where you are headed and what you need to research for your assignment. Remember: 

  • Google is not the answer.
  • You should use the enormous amount of materials available to you through the Library. This way you get informed, credible and useful resources to help you in your assignment.
  • Try your faculty Library guide for some starting points on databases or key resources.
  • Your textbook or unit readings might help give you some background knowledge or starting points to expand your research.

From this, you can add in more ideas to your plan and get a better picture of how you will write your assignment. Keep on track by knowing your focus in the assignment and sticking to relevant reading - don’t get too lost in unhelpful tangents that will just use up precious time!

Remember to note down all the details for any sources you use for your referencing. And don’t get caught thinking you have to read more before you can start writing - you can always research as you write if you find there are some gaps to fill or you don’t have a good example for a particular part of your assignment.

By following these steps to get you started, you should have a really strong sense of your assignment. Use your expanded plan to avoid any writing procrastination - you know what you want to say and have the research notes to help you say it! Some students find sitting in front a blank screen and starting with their introduction makes their brain go blank. If this is the case for you, why not try starting at the next paragraph to get you going. You can always return after you have got your main argument paragraphs on the page, and this might help you write a clear and relevant introduction in the end anyway!

Don’t forget the friendly Librarians and Learning Skills Advisers at the Research and Learning Point! Drop-ins are available if you have any questions on how to get started on your assignment writing or research.

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5 July 2016

Working towards an inclusive learning environment

Small steps can be taken towards creating a more inclusive style of teaching, suggests Diana Thompson.

With the Monash student cohort growing in size and diversity are we doing all that we can to grow with our students?

The University's new strategic plan identifies “inclusive” as a key goal.  Being inclusive is a proactive approach involving planning with a wide range of learning styles, abilities and backgrounds in mind and being responsive rather than reactive, that is, only modifying your classes out of necessity. Inclusive teaching is not intended to dilute the standards of a course.  But a “one size fits all” approach actually does not fit most.  Just because a student may have different needs or learn in a different way does not make them any less academically capable than another student.

The first steps towards an inclusive approach do not need to create an abundance of additional work. Being conscious of practices during the planning phase, determining what you include and the design of your lecture slides can begin to foster an inclusive environment and an easy first step.  If this has already been a focus of your planning in the past, then perhaps the next stage could be looking at assessments and marking rubrics to determine if all students have opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge.  Or maybe activities that take into account the rich experiences that student already have and using this as a learning opportunity.

Some guidelines that outline good practices, developed by Monash, are on the Better Teaching Better Learning page for both inclusive teaching for disabilities and inclusive education guidelines for diverse genders and sexualities.  These can help to challenge the thought process of your planning and are a great start for building an inclusive environment.  What they both have in common is that they identify that an inclusive approach will benefit all students in your class regardless of background or educational experience. It also acknowledges that inclusive teaching is more than just making lecture notes accessible for download.  It can be through multiple means of representation and delivery and by focusing on the context of the material rather than just the content.

Small steps in this area are better than no change at all. Remember the Library has Learning Skills Advisers and Subject Librarians who can work with you towards creating an inclusive environment. Alternatively you can contact the Office of the Vice Provost (Learning and Teaching) or Disability Support Services about how to implement their guidelines in more detail or look at the CEED modules that are being run.

Diana Thompson is a subject librarian based in the Berwick Library. She works with other Library staff academics and other teams in the University for social inclusion-related programs being implemented across the campuses. Contact Diana to find out more.

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