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Transkills: supporting transition to University

 

Exemplar essay

Read this first year supervision essay (pdf) and consider how effectively the writer makes use of primary and secondary sources to support their argument. What feedback for improvement would you offer this student? You might note:

  1. where you see the 'voice' of this student emerging most strongly
  2. whether there are areas in the text that lack authority

Supervisors during the workshop had the opportunity to share their feedback on this essay and their comments are summarised in this document (pdf).

Teaching strategies

Supervisors, both new and experienced, were given the opportunity to share strategies for addressing the issues raised:

  • Encourage students to experiment with starting points for essays. E.g. taking a specific quotation to set the agenda
  • Start first years off with shorter essays with a clear focus, moving to broader topics later on
  • Give students the opportunity to re-work essays, perhaps with a focus on a specific area, such as engaging with critical theory or writing with authority
  • Students could include a self-critique at the end of their essay
  • Clarify for students the difference between using quotation to support rather than advance their argument. (Students may need encouragement to move beyond the 'Point, Evidence, Explanation' approach they were introduced to at GCSE level.)
  • Encourage students to read their essays aloud as part of their editing process
  • Students could keep a running account of their personal reflections on texts as they read. These could then be revisited when the students write the essay and later to help them make connections between different views and texts
  • Suggest to students that they identify critics whose style of writing they admire and whose views they relate to. Ask them to pinpoint what aspects of this writing they admire and suggest that students could begin to adopt these approaches as they develop their own personal style
  • Provide a good chapter or article for discussion in supervision
  • Create an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable revealing their uncertainties about the essay-writing process
  • Close reading of important passages is one way of establishing whether a student has grasped core themes and ideas. Modelling reading techniques such as skimming and scanning could also be incorporated here if a studentis feeling overwhelmed by the volume of sources at their disposal
  • Encourage students to write about what they find interesting, even if this is at the expense of clarity and structure at times. The first year is an opportunity for students to develop their own style and ideas
  • Move to essays with broader scope gradually
  • Short supervision tasks. E.g. Provide a copy of a good chapter or article for discussion in supervision; close reading of important passages
  • Allow re-writing/development in second week. Ask students if they are finding anything particularly difficult to adjust to. High achievers are often reluctant to admit uncertainty
  • Encourage students to keep a private ongoing account of their reflections on reading as they read

Supervision activities

In addition to the strategies shared within the workshop, these ideas can also be adapted to suit tasks within and outside of supervision time:

Supervision activity 1: Comparing traditional print with internet sources
Supervision activity 2: Evaluating critical sources
Critical analysis prompt questions: A useful reminder for students of the kinds of questions they might ask as part of the critical evaluation process