Hillcroft LRC

Posts Tagged ‘Study skills

tulipsBW-800pxSuch phrases that are supposed to encourage hard work sometimes have the opposite effect. For example, being told to ‘put your nose to the grindstone’ could put off anyone for whom self-discipline is elusive, from ever studying again! In the New Scientist this week (Issue 3126, pp. 27-30) is a feature article called ‘Daydream believer’. It looks at what we can do to increase our focus at a long task such as revision, looking particularly at letting the mind wander around a topic.

Several studies suggest that letting yourself daydream intentionally about a topic which you are learning is a more effective strategy than forcing yourself to concentrate over a lengthy period.

So when you’re studying, don’t put your nose to the grindstone – tend to the thought garden. Consider the makeup of the flowers (the interesting parts), appreciate the insects and worms (the causes and unseen elements), imagine the sunshine and rain that will fall in the future (the bigger context and processes). Build up an intentional daydream about your topic of study. Mull things over not only when you’re at a desk or in the library, but when you’re in the shower, walking up from the station or making a cup of tea.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, there are other tried and tested memory techniques that are based on visualisation of the topic matters for instance in rooms of a “house”. Read about that tool in The Memory Book by Buzan and Harrison.

Taking notesA few weeks ago at an Institute of Customer Service Assessor’s Forum I was getting a refresher on note taking which is an essential part of the Professional Qualifications assessment process. If you are new to taking notes then The Palgrave Study Skills Making Notes page outlines the different styles you can try.

It’s worth learning about the Cornell method where you split the paper into areas so you have an area for making notes on, another for summarising the key points/words/questions and another for condensing the main ideas. Wiki How to Take Cornell Notes will help you try this out. It was created at Cornell University.

Another note taking method is the Charting one where you have headed columns so you can log subjects that similar into the same column. This handy document from California Polytechnic State University explains how it works.

The Palgrave Study Skills Making Notes complements the Charting one outlining how to use pattern notes to create two columns, two different colours of notes or notes on two different set of pages to then make connections between the notes. One set of notes is a summary of what you hear and the other is a related analysis of what you think of it. This is a useful for making sure you don’t use someone else’s words or ideas. In other words it helps you avoid plagiarism when you use the notes for an essay.

Pattern notes is another style Palgrave recommend where you have a key idea in the centre then branch out to create notes that relate to the main theme and look at it more in-depth. They suggest you can use particular shapes to make the other ideas stand out and then find an overall image to help you recall what the notes and ideas are. This will be very useful for exams and where you need to turn your notes into an essay. This style of note taking is also known as mind maps, spidergrams or concept maps.

It’s worth getting a copy of Jeanne Godfrey’s Reading and Making Notes which is part of the Pocket Study Skills guide which explains how to make notes in an easy-digestible format.

If you want to get digital savvy then Popplet is a handy app you can use for creating notes in a graphic way. Download it here for Android or iOS devices.

 

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In our last week in the mini library (Phoebe Walters Room) I thought it was a good chance to reflect on the culture and ethos behind the LRC at Hillcroft.

Librarians have high ideals which explains why there are so many rules and strategies:

  • always use the self-checkout machine,
  • return books on time even if there isn’t a fine,
  • don’t make notes in the margin of books,
  • search by surname of author,
  • don’t rely on Google.

Nancy Graham (a librarian from the London School of Economics) brought up the important point back in a summer workshop. It might appear that we are trying to turn students into mini-librarians. Using the LRC shouldn’t be a chore or restrictive. You don’t need to wear a librarian’s hat all the time (except if you’ve a wish to become a librarian). We’re here to provide and help you find good information. Say you want to find a productivity tip or a more informed research method. Bingo! LRC to the rescue!

There are times and places to think more librarian-y. Evaluative, investigative, organised, caring, responsible, imaginative. But don’t take our word for it. What words would you use to describe thinking more critically? Does the LRC help you get in the right mindset and find information?

 

Careers In a Week series by John MurrayWe’ve been adding new material to our careers collection over the past few weeks. We particularly think you’ll like this series of In a Week books by John Murray Learning.

They cover everything from writing a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and covering letter to attending an interview and doing (or even running) psychometric tests. The books break down the tasks you would need to follow to achieve your goal on a daily basis. Here are the ones we’ve just added to our shelves:

 

Planning Your Career in a Week by  Wendy Hirsh

CVs in a Week: How to Write a CV or Resume in Seven Simple Steps by David McWhir

Career Change in a Week by Patricia Scudamore and Hilton Catt

Cover Letters in a Week by David McWhir

Psychometric Testing in a Week by Garteth Lewis and Gene Crozier

They also produce a very good study skills one on speed reading called Speed Reading in a Week: How to Speed Read in Seven Simple Steps by Tina Konstant. If you would like to find out more about books published under the John Murray Learning umbrella take a look at their catalogue.

 

The new academic year is fast approaching. One of the key items of stationary for students and teachers alike is the diary. Why is it that writing things down helps so much? For organisational purposes for sure, but also it is very satisfying. Diaries are personal tools to regularly reflect which can boost motivation.

Keeping a diary may include ticking items off the list, fitting fun things into a routine and seeing the big picture of the week or year. Keeping a diary is an effective old-fashioned way to develop good study skills. However, if writing a diary sounds like work perhaps as Tefula (2014) consider how to make it more interesting: whether with mindmaps, stickers, technology (audio notes and reminders), or tie it in with another goal or guilty pleasure.

For more handy tips on cultivating motivation, reflection and getting work done you can borrow our new books:

Student procrastination by Michael Tefula.

Studying as a parent by Helen Owton.

iPod in handOur colleague Andrew Checkley E-Learning Manger at Croydon College has been developing a Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) course with his Learning Resources (LRC) team which he talked about at the March 16 London FE Moodle Roundtable event. The course is on academic writing. Find out more about it on their E-Learning blog post.

As well as using material from the LRC on the course Andrew found some useful research material on the State Library of Victoria’s website. The resource covers:

 

  • working out what question you are trying to answer
  • finding the information
  • choosing the resources you use
  • making and organising notes
  • presenting your material
  • reflecting on your work.

There’s also some handy material on writing essays too which covers:

  • identifying the essay question
  • using quotations
  • writing
  • editing.

Plus there are tips on study skills:

  • stress management
  • dealing with exams.

Last but not least at this time of the year many of our students are doing GCSE examinations in English and maths so this BBC Bitesize app available on Android and iOS will help you. The app has flashcards which will help you revise and covers numerous GCSE subjects.

Critical thinking booksStella Cottrell’s book Critical Thinking Skills: Developing Effective Analysis and Arguments is a guide that can take you from college to university. It helps you look at what you read in a different light by demonstrating and explaining how academic authors build up their arguments in their writing.

How does that help you? It will help you understand arguments and guides you into weighing up the logic of them. This will not only assist you in evaluating different authors’ opinions and theories but will also benefit you in developing your own writing style to convince your tutors of how you have assessed others’ work and built up your own arguments with persuasive evidence.

The book gets you to identify bias, hidden meanings and follow a line of reasoning to its logical conclusion. It’s not only useful for essay writing, reading and making notes from academic literature but is also invaluable for debating and any piece of writing or presentation where you would need to persuade your audience of your arguments.

Cottrell’s book gives you exercises to do to build up your skills of critique, analysis and argument. It’s one you can dip into time and time again. Having read it myself it’s easy to recognise that had a book like this existed when I was university it would have been a key to getting a top grade!

Palgrave who publish the book also have a free companion website area Critical Thinking which sits under their useful Study Skills website.

If you’re just starting your studies then the Pocket Guide by Kate Williams called Getting Critical is a good starter guide and similarly advises on reading with a critical eye and developing your writing skills so you are analytical too. We also have another Critical Thinking guide by Debra Hills. Hills’s guide gives you a definition and takes you through the steps in the process of reading and writing critically and has a number of tips on using sources, note taking and planning your answers.