Programme: BSc Psychology
Mode: On campus and distance learning
Context: As we move towards the New Academic Framework, the emphasis is increasingly on progression and retention and the utilisation of methods to reach out to under-performing students. An important part of this process is to provide accessible and effective skills support for students who are struggling with the demands of degree level study.
What we did & why:
Students are often reluctant to engage with traditional study skills materials, claiming that such material often compounds an already heavy reading load and that it can be problematical to apply generic skills advice to specific subject matter. Some students also find approaching tutors about skills issues intimidating or find that different tutors give inconsistent advice that is hard to implement. In response to this, the school of Psychology has its own dedicated Psychology Student Skills Repository site on Moodle. The repository is an on-line resource available to students 24/7 that contains student guides to topics such as essay writing, academic integrity, revision, time management and other study skills topics. The majority of the material is video based, so students who are already struggling with the volume of reading are not inhibited from engaging with the contents. Materials in the repository, such as the essay guides, are also based specifically on the school of Psychology’s marking criteria, so the relationship between the advice given and attainment at assessment is obvious and the advice is consistent and easier to implement.
Benefits: There are a number of benefits to this system. Firstly, students have access to skills support anytime day or night. Secondly, the skills repository content is not labour intensive in terms of reading load and contains interactive activities in a video format to promote engagement in students who are struggling with the volume of reading at degree level. Thirdly, where appropriate, the advice in the repository is given with respect to examples from literature in Psychology and is based around the marking criteria that students are assessed against within the school, thus enhancing the materials perceived relevance and applicability and also promoting application of the lessons learned.
Recommendations: As with much skills material, the challenge can be getting the students who would benefit the most from the provisions to engage with them. Struggling students often exhibit a lack of awareness of their own skills shortcomings. This lack of awareness means that skills resources are often overlooked. This can be overcome via the use of strategic linking to skills resources at points at which students are likely to be most receptive to skills advice e.g. links to skills resources can be placed next to assessments on-line. The school has also integrated active links within student essay Quick Mark feedback that automatically refers the students to the relevant section of the skills repository. For example, if a tutor inserts a Quick Mark comment critiquing the student’s use of evidence, that comment contains a link that refers the student to the “using evidence” section of the essay writing guide section of the repository.