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Study Smart: tutors' guide

A guide for tutors

Introduction

While the Study Smart course is primarily designed to be undertaken as a self-access learning resource by students, it also offers opportunities for tutors to open a dialogue about expectations and academic principles when they meet with students in person. This page offers some suggestions for ways in which tutors can use the (necessarily) non-subject-specific ideas discussed in the course to build their students' understanding of study in individual disciplines.

A prompt for academic tutor meetings

The Study Smart course provides Academic Tutors with an ideal way of starting conversations with students about fundamental aspects of university study such as taking responsibility for academic integrity and independent learning. The course will provide an engaging and concrete way in to discussing these more abstract concepts. Here are some suggested ways to use the course in Academic Tutor meetings.

First Academic Tutor meeting in Welcome Week (individual or group)
  1. Ask your student(s) whether they have started Study Smart, and if they have had a chance to complete it.
  1. The course will conclude with three reflective questions (below) that students should have had a chance to think about before coming to their tutorial. You can use these questions (or adaptations of them) to prompt a discussion about learning at university, and what may be similar or different to what your new tutees are used to. Even if some of the students haven’t completed the course they will still be able to contribute to a discussion on what is surprising about university learning and what they want to build on or develop.  
  1. What did I find most useful from the course?
  2. What did I find most surprising about studying at university as discussed on the course? 
  3. What is my main study strength coming into university?
  1. If students haven’t started, or completed, Study Smart you can remind them of the benefits of doing it and encourage them to engage with the course.  The expectation is that they will have completed the course by the end of the Autumn term.
Next Academic Tutor meeting in Autumn term

This next meeting provides an ideal opportunity to reflect back on Study Smart as a way of contextualising how transition to university is going for your students:   

1. Those students who have completed Study Smart could be asked to reflect back, using questions such as:

  1. How have you found settling into university study – was it what you expected from doing Study Smart?
  2. Are there any things you have used or adapted from Study Smart to suit our subject?   
  3. Are you changing or adapting anything in your own study practices to suit new ways of learning here at Reading?

2. Those students who haven’t yet engaged with Study Smart can be strongly encouraged to start the course, and the benefits of doing so can be emphasised.

While we hope that information about completion will be available via RISIS, Academic Tutors will not be required to monitor this. However, completion of the course could provide a useful indicator of student engagement with self-development and independent study, enabling early light-touch intervention to avoid the need for more time-consuming support later.

Future Academic Tutorials in Part One

Students will have access to Study Smart throughout their first year at Reading, so you will be able to refer them back to the course during Part One, for example as a refresher on topics such as Academic Integrity. 

Welcome Week activities

Welcome talks

While students will be encouraged to complete the Study Smart course before they arrive at Reading, there are likely to be a substantial number who have not. It would be helpful if tutors could convey the message that the times between activities in Welcome Week offer a perfect opportunity for students to complete the course and make sure they are properly prepared before their subject teaching begins.

Induction sessions

These sessions aim to induct students, not only into their departments, but also into studying in their disciplines at university level. A useful activity might be to get students to consider ways in which they think the topics covered in the three sections of the Study Smart course might work in practice in their disciplines. Students could be asked to discuss this in small groups, then put examples onto post-its to be collected and displayed. Sample questions could include:

  • What kind of assignments do you expect to write for this discipline?
  • Do you know which referencing style is preferred for this discipline?
  • When do you think it'll be important to practise good listening skills in this discipline?
  • Can you give an example of when you might demonstrate respect for your fellow students when studying in this discipline?
  • What do you think is likely to cause most difficulties in managing your time in this discipline?
  • Do you think critical thinking is going to be an important concept in this discipline?
Team-building sessions

This is a good opportunity to integrate diverse groups and introduce networking between students by getting them to recognise their common starting points and future aspirations. At this stage, students all have in common the fact that that they are new to university study in the UK. In small mixed groups, they could be encouraged to start thinking back from this common starting point to their previous educational experiences, and then forwards to what they think study success would look like for them in the future, and how they might work towards achieving it. Students who have undertaken the course could be asked to draw on what they learnt about how university study is similar or different to what they had expected, and then see how this compares with the expectations of those who have not yet undertaken the course.

An alternative activity could be to run a team quiz, drawing on the topics in the Study Smart course, with answers that can be found in the Course Handbook or website (accessible via mobile phones). Going through the answers offers an opportunity to discuss these in more depth. Sample questions might include:

  • What referencing style is preferred in this School/Dept?
  • 'At university, you should always address your tutor as Professor.' True or false?
  • Do you know what building the Student Wellbeing service is based in?
  • Is it possible to self-plagiarise?
  • How many books can you borrow from the Library?
  • 'Being an independent learner just means making your own work schedule.' True or false?

Skills modules and Study Smart

Study Smart is not intended to replace existing or new skills modules taught within Part 1 programmes. Rather we hope that the course will provide an understanding of the principles that underwrite university study in all disciplines, creating a foundation on which students can build more subject-specific skills for learning in their discipline.

Study Smart is designed to look at the meta-principles of successful university study, by focussing on what distinguishes university learning from the types of learning students have done before. It takes a non-subject-specific approach to the transition to university, and explores students’ shared concerns around studying at HE level. This enables students to encounter these meta-principles before they begin to grapple with their subject knowledge. 

Skills modules are perfectly positioned to take off from where Study Smart ends by contextualising these principles within a subject. The skills introduced in Part 1 modules are naturally more technical and tailored to the needs of the subject in question. Students will have benefited from becoming familiar with some of the principles in a broader context through Study Smart, and the intention is they will then be in a stronger position to begin to apply these to the demands of their discipline.

Using Study Smart in skills modules

The individual videos and resources in the Study Smart course can also be used separately within a skills module. For example, the short videos cover topics such as critical thinking, academic integrity, and students’ experiences of university learning. They can be used during a session to prompt a discussion about the topic, and then contextualised by asking how this might apply in your subject.

Students can be reminded that they can refer back to the Study Smart course when necessary as they progress in their studies. If you see particular resources or articles from Study Smart that you think would be especially beneficial for your students, do refer them to that section or step within the course. Part 1 students will have ongoing access to the course throughout their first year.

As we know, students value the recommendations of the staff who will be setting and marking their work. Therefore, any encouragement you can give to your students to complete the course early on in their first term will be much appreciated and have a significant impact.

You will be able to access individual learning objects from Study Smart in the Course Content section of this Tutors Guide. If you would like to see the whole course as it appears to students (although not participate) you can sign up to be a guest reviewer – email studyadvice@reading.ac.uk to be added as a reviewer.     

Building on Study Smart in Week 6

Week 6 offers an ideal opportunity to remind students about Study Smart. Enrolment will close around this time, so this is the last chance students have to join the course. Those concerned about not having time to complete it could be reminded that they can complete it at any time over the first year, though the earlier they do so, the more benefit they are likely to get.

1. Students who have not yet completed the course could use some time this week to engage with it, and the benefits in doing so could be promoted. The course will remain open and students should be able to complete the course in approximately 9 hours.

2. Students who have completed Study Smart could individually:

  • Reflect on how they have found the transition to university.
  • Re-visit some of the sections to re-familiarise themselves with some of the content in which they are less confident.
  • Review their current study practices and consider if these need adapting in any way.

3. Workshops could be run for students which contextualize the content into your discipline, for example:

  • Watch the video tutorial on critical thinking and consider what this means within your discipline.
  • Review the material on academic integrity and discuss how this is reflected within the discipline.
  • Discuss how the principles of good structure are reflected within the assignments students are working on. What does appropriate academic language mean within your subject?