As a Personal Tutor, you are well-placed to discuss the development of study practices relevant to your discipline. Especially during periods of transition (e.g. school to university, first year to second year study) students can be encouraged to reflect on practices such as: managing and organising their time; undertaking research for assignments; academic writing; delivering presentations; preparing for exams etc. The Leicester Learning Institute’s Transitions Toolkit contains a wealth of resources and activities to help you to discuss these themes with your students.
As a scholar and teacher in your discipline you can help advise students about how they might develop their approaches to studying. You can also alert students to the additional support and advice available to them.
When exploring study practices with students, it is important to keep questions as open as possible and to avoid being overly prescriptive when it comes to offering practical advice. What worked well for you when you were a student won’t necessarily work for someone else. Where questions are concerned, it’s often helpful to ask students to describe how they go about certain tasks (e.g. writing an assignment, taking notes from key texts, revising for exams). The resulting narrative can provide you with opportunities to probe further, asking the student to comment on the effectiveness of current approaches and to consider what alternative approaches might be available. By listening to students’ own accounts of their study practices, you can also introduce practical advice and tips about how they might change or adapt these practices.
Some example open questions to help initiate a dialogue
“Can you describe how you go about writing an assignment?”
“When you find a book or a journal article relevant to an assignment you are writing, how do you read and make notes from it?”
“What kinds of revision techniques and methods do you tend to use?”
“I notice you have a presentation coming up. What will you need to think about as you plan and prepare for it.”
“How do you manage your study time and other personal, work and social commitments?”
Demonstration of study practices
Sometimes, you may find that having the student describe the practices does not quite get at the practice itself. The student may know in theory what they are meant to do, but you are advised to get them to demonstrate their knowledge. This might mean asking them to read an article and pick out key elements relevant to a current question on the topic, write an essay plan, talk you through an experiment from their lab book. The aim of these activities is to improve how your tutee goes about the process of studying, rather than commenting on the quality of the resulting outcomes.
Further resources to help facilitate dialogue
These resources, taken from the Transitions Toolkit, are designed to help facilitate more detailed conversations with students about the following areas of study:
- Studying more independently
- Engaging more critically with the discipline
- Reading and note taking
- Academic writing
- Academic presentations