Coursework

Fight Your Feedback! TUB-Thump 030

tub-thump-logo-small

 

Are you ready to fight with feedback?

Do you shudder at the thought of reading what your tutor has said about your essay? Or do you read the advice and think, “Challenge accepted”?

Episode 030 of TUB-Thump urges you to choose the latter. Get back in the ring and defeat the beast of feedback.

Using Colin Neville’s book, How To Improve Your Assignment Results, I take at look at what it means when you act (or not) in Flight, Fright and Fight modes.

The upshot is not to put your head in the sand. You may shrug off a bad result and hope to do better next time. But your grades will thank you if you take a stand and tackle the beast.

Ding ding! The next round starts now.


Here are the show notes for the 8-min episode:

  • 00:30 – What’s your first reaction when you get a piece of coursework back? Do you engage with the feedback, or do you want to get away from it?
  • 01:20 – How to improve your assignment results (Open Up Study Skills) – Colin Neville
  • 01:35 – Flight, Fright, or Fight?
  • 02:20 – The main options are Fright or Fight. Fright is doing nothing. Fight is taking action.
  • 03:10 – Not tackling the issues = Less chance of the grade you deserve in the next piece of work. And the next. And so on.
  • 04:00 – Working with the feedback could allow you to work a bit easier in your subsequent assignments. A bit of attention now may go a long way.
  • 04:15 – “A poor coursework result is not a damning verdict on you as a human being. It’s a transient comment on your past work.”
  • 05:10 – A finished essay isn’t entirely finished with. Use it to improve in your next piece of work.
  • 06:35 – Do this even when you get a great result. Emulate the effective methods and examples too.

Also, here’s a PDF guide by Colin Neville with more information: Your Assignment Results and How To Improve Them


Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

What’s the Best Way to Write Your Essay? That Depends on You. – TUB-Thump 027

tub-thump-logo-small

Do you like to plan ahead before you work, or do you like to crack on with a clean canvas?

I hadn’t really considered this so much until I’d seen a presentation by Tristram Hooley with various writing tips.

A couple of Hooley’s slides look at two different types of working that resonate with me, because they have a similar outlook to one of the ways I look at learning new things.

For learning, I like to look at the bigger picture and drill down to the details from there. But some people start with some choice details and work outward to uncover that big picture.

In many ways, how you choose to write may have similarities in that learning choice too. And that’s what I talk about in Episode 027 of TUB-Thump.

I wonder if you’ve read this plan of the episode first, or if you’ve jumped straight into listening. I guess that depends on how you like to do things!

What’s your choice?


Here are the show notes for the 5-min episode:

  • 01:00 – Tristram Hooley’s presentation: Writing. How, why, when and what?
  • 01:20 – Planning writers versus generative writers.
  • 01:55 – Make a plan and then write a first draft or write a first draft and make a plan off the back of it?
  • 02:30 – One of these ways of working is likely to work better for you than the other. But it’s always worth trying the other way of working to see what you can learn about your process.
    I’ve talked about that before. Hear more on Episode 023 of TUB-Thump, How to Change Your Perspective and Why That Change is Good.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

What’s Better than the Assignment Deadline? Making Your Own Deadline.

How do you make your own deadlines? Why are your own deadlines important in the first place?

Whoa there! Let’s back track a bit first.

When you have coursework, what is your relationship with the set deadline?

If it’s like most people, you see a date a long way in the future (it’s at least a week, a month, a term away…) and you put the work to the back of your mind.

That date in the future creeps up much quicker than you realise…mostly because you weren’t thinking about it.

And BAM! You’ve got to play catch-up.

Then you have those wonderful (read: terrible) all-nighters to endure.

The easy advice would be to tell you to start working on your projects the moment they’re assigned.

But you may not want to follow the advice to start working on those projects straight away. You may have other commitments at the moment anyway.

The good news is that you can still prepare without the need for a desperate last minute attempt. It’s the happy medium between insta-work and much too late.

Make your own deadlines.

The Muse has helpfully published a piece on “4 Better Ways to Create Deadlines That You’ll Actually Stick To“. It’s worth reading of its own accord if you’ve got time.

And I’ll put my own take on those tips too:

  1. Make Them Urgent

You know you’re going to have to do that work. It won’t disappear if you ignore it. So set a deadline that works better for you. If you’ve got a quieter week next week, use it. Don’t wait for the official deadline when you’ve got another six pieces to submit…

You have to believe in your deadline, otherwise you’ll just ignore it. That’s why it’s easy for the advice to say “Make them urgent” and it’s harder to convince yourself of that.

My take: If you don’t take your own deadline seriously, you’re not taking the work seriously. Nobody is immune from procrastination, but some handle it better than others. If you slip at this hurdle, it’s time to admit that you need to have words with the little procrastination monster in your head.

I’ve got 10 ways to bypass procrastination. But if you want to understand loads more about the topic (and procrastinate even more!), Wait But Why has a great series of posts:

I said a procrastination monster. But yes, you may call it an instant gratification monkey. Each to their own. 😉

  1. Make Them Personal

“…consider whether focusing on the task in its entirety, piece-by-piece, or in relation to the rest of your projects will make you more likely to sit down and work on it.” – https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-better-ways-to-create-deadlines-that-youll-actually-stick-to

How you schedule your work is important.

Maybe it’s the task that feels scary. If so, break it down and work on little bits as you go along.

Maybe it’s the way you feel overwhelmed with juggling many deadlines at once. If so, work to your own deadlines rather than those imposed on you by others (see point 1).

Work out what’s stopping you from getting the work done and take action on that.

When it doesn’t feel personal, it can feel like an uncontrollable blob.

When you make it personal, you shape that blob into something cute and fluffy.

Something like that, anyway…

  1. Make Them Actionable

“If ‘finish report,’ will take all afternoon, ask yourself what you could do in 10-minutes: outline the first portion, design two or three slides, or edit what you’ve written so far?” https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-better-ways-to-create-deadlines-that-youll-actually-stick-to

In other words, get specific. Have quantifiable goals and explicit targets.

You can set a number of personal deadlines. A date for having made an outline, a date for a rough draft, a date for references, a date for editing, and so on.

If you start missing your own deadlines all over the place, that official deadline will feel even scarier. This may be enough to knock you into action, even if it’s mostly down to psychological unrest.

  1. Make Them Meaningful

The advice given is to make your goals known. Find a way to be accountable.

I have mixed feelings on this, although the tip to find meaning definitely stands. Without meaning, you’re nowhere.

But while some people thrive off having accountability buddies and promising the world that you’ll do something (or else!), other people become demotivated.

I recommend that you take Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz, to find out if you prefer to follow outer expectations or inner expectations.

Unless you’re a Rebel, you’ll probably find the best way to make meaning through your deadlines and promises.

And if you’re a Rebel (who resists outer AND inner expectations), Rubin says you may prefer to focus on the reasons why you want to hit that deadline, and even find ways of working that set you apart from what people usually do.

Deadlines can feel icky. Hopefully these tips from The Muse and my take on them will help them feel a bit more manageable from now on.

You may never manage to be deadline-free, but at least you can do it on your own terms now.

Next time, when you’ve finished an essay to your own deadlines, you can sit back and watch as others around you scramble around at the last minute.

But don’t be too harsh. Share this advice with them!

Avoid the Trap of Consuming Everything Before You Start Creating

consume-create-tub

How much research do you do for your coursework?

Do you power through and consume as much stuff as possible before getting on with the creation bit?

The more you can create out of what you consume, the more validation you give to consuming content. You won’t use all of it, but there comes a time when you stop looking.

But what if the search doesn’t seem to end?

The more you consume without creating anything from it, the more worrying the situation gets. Snacking on information without an end in sight.

Munch, munch, munch. One book here, another paper there, and a final web search just for luck. Maybe I’ll check the library one more time.

And maybe another time after that…

And it goes on.

When you consume far more than you create, you face a bottleneck at best. The reality is likely worse.

Words like “perfectionism” and “procrastination” start to rear their ugly heads.

Consuming without getting anything valuable out of the process is wasteful. It happens to all of us on occasion, but it shouldn’t be a standard part of your research process.

And you can easily fall into that consumption trap. So watch out.

It feels productive to find lots to read in the library and online, but it merely gets in the way when you’re not using that content for your work.

Keep an eye on why you’re still researching. There are times when you need to look at far more than you’ll refer to, because you’re looking for inspiration or perspective. Or perhaps you’re considering several arguments before you put your own stamp on proceedings.

But make sure you’re not still consuming ALL THE THINGS simply because:

  • You’re scared to start creating;
  • You think you need to cover every possible angle that exists (hint: you don’t);
  • You’re putting off the next stage of your work;
  • You need to find a better research process to work with.

Reasons like those above aren’t good enough to keep you looking for more. Work with what you’ve got, or improve your process so it’s not so time-consuming.

You may have to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s not easy to admit, especially when you are afraid to start.

But when the pressure gets too much, remember that you can always start off without doing any in-depth research at all.

Work with what you’ve got. So long as you’ve had some input from lectures, seminars, set texts, and so on, you should have enough to get started.

And writing your own thoughts and ideas on the page is much better than staring at a blank screen. Or, worse, not even reaching the blank screen stage because you’re busy feeling overwhelmed by how much information is already out there.

When you do your research, go in with the aim of creating something soon. No need to get hold of all the research materials and quotations before you start your own creation.

Banish those bottlenecks. Find a flow that doesn’t involve all the writing at the very end of the process.

A drip-feed of research helps a lot of the information stay at the top of your mind. That, in turn, will get you engaging (and referring) to more of that research.

The more you practice this flow, the more you will create out of what you have consumed.