Student Advocate tips for… in-person and recorded lectures

Seminar room in the Fry Building

Our Bristol Futures Student Advocates come from every faculty in the university, and are here to support you to grow your skills and become an even better student.

We asked them to share their top tips for lectures and seminars, whether online or in-person. Here’s what they said…

Turn up to in-person sessions!

It sounds stupidly obvious, but you really need to turn up. Past online lectures are digestible when watching online because they were designed to be delivered that way. In person lectures are designed to work the best when you turn up and sit through it — the recording isn’t the same! Also try not to miss any lectures, when you miss one it’s so likely for you to carry on the lazy habit and not show up to lectures ever again… Carol, 3rd year Plant/Bio Science

Firstly, go to your seminar even if you have not fully done the reading. Secondly, contribute to the discussions. It does not matter if your answer is wrong. And it is better to make the mistakes now and not later in the timed assessments. Finally, don’t stress about it! You will be just fine. Allison, 2nd year Law

 

Be (a little) prepared

Arrive at the lecture theatre early and use that waiting time to flick through the PowerPoint or whatever lecture material you got given. It usually takes less than 10 minutes, but it gives you a rough idea of the structure, where to pay more attention, and saves you from scribbling down notes when it will turn up on the next slide. Carol, 3rd year Plant/Bio Science

Try to list down all the relevant ILOs (Intended Learning Outcomes) and think of relevant subheadings for your notes prior to the lecture/seminar. This will help you to be more prepared in the in-person lecture/seminar. Very often, in-person lecture is more fast-paced than a recorded lecture. We as a student have to be more prepared so that we will not miss any key content during the lecture. Thinking about the ILOs beforehand can help you to take notes more effectively by screening out the irrelevant materials taught in the lecture. In such a way, we do not need to revisit the recording after the lecture. As a result, we can maximise the efficiency of our study. Emma, 3rd year Veterinary Science

 

Don’t copy everything

Most times lecturers provide the downloadable PowerPoint for each lecture. Use this to write any additional points that were said by the lecturer in the recording but not written on the slides. By doing this, you will save time and you reduce repetition. Anaya, 3rd year Law

If you just copy what the lecturer wrote down, you are not going to absorb and digest what the lecturer’s main point is. Even worse, you wouldn’t know if the lecturer makes a mistake. Instead, pay full attention to listening to what the lecturer is saying first. After a few sentences, think about what is the main point conveyed in what is written down on the board (or presented on the slide). And then, use your own words to jot down any key points. If you can’t catch them, need not to worry! Simply watch the recorded lecture later and pause as you go. If the lecture is not recorded, it would be nice if you can email the lecturer asking for clarification on such topics. They would be happy to help!

You will be panicked by the fact that while everyone in the hall is ferociously writing, while you are sitting there, only listening. But remember, you are also paying your full attention to the lecture, and you have done nothing less than your classmates did! Ryan, 2nd year Mathematics

 

Use questions for learning

As you watch the lecture clearly flag any concepts/areas that you don’t fully understand and formulate (and write down) specific questions that you think could get you the answers you need. This habit helps provide structure and direction to your reflection/revision process after the lecture, as you know exactly what you need to follow up on talking to the lecturer or extra research/reading. I have found this makes my learning more efficient (by saving you from repeatedly covering content you know/understand in order to locate what you are less clear on) and more effective (as your learning becomes targeted to any weak points).  Emily, 3rd year Biomedical Sciences

 

Watching a recorded lecture? Pretend it’s in-person

It’s very tempting to stop every 10s to make detailed notes just because you can do that — but that’s not most effective way: it takes forever to finish watching one recording and you are not really processing the information before writing it down (you’re more like… manually typing up the captions).

Pretend it’s an in person lecture and don’t give yourself the option to stop, at least not that often. That way, it forces you to do some preparation work and to think about the material before deciding if it’s worth writing down. The recordings are always going to be there so it’s not the end of the world if your notes is missing some fine details — you can always go back and have a look as long as you know where to look! Carol, 3rd year Plant/Bio Science

What are your own top tips for making the most of lectures? Do you prefer being there in person or watching a recording? Let us know in the comments below. 

Bristol Futures Student Advocates run peer support sessions for students in their faculty. Check out the Study Skills Blackboard page to see what’s coming up.

 

 

Student perspective: Using active recall

Shraddha, the author of the blog postby Shraddha Sriraman, English and History student and Bristol Futures Advocate

In this post, I’ll share my experience of using active recall. See my previous post for “How to add active recall to your revision toolkit”

A Students Perspective

Pros

  • This method of learning has been hugely beneficial in spreading out my workload so I can work on topics bit by bit, instead of being faced with having to read an entire chapter all in one go (trust me – that is NOT fun)
  • I’ve been able to remember information for longer, so it hasn’t just been cramming for the exam and forgetting information as soon as its done!
  • It feels like an efficient way of learning, and I learn exactly what I need to know
  • I’ve found that I get less distracted, and hence procrastinate less, when I employ active recall techniques. Perhaps this is because I’m actively thinking about the task at hand, instead of passively learning information ( which can be boring!)

Cons

  • It does take quite a long time to make flashcards / questions for yourself! But I guess… no pain, no gain!
  • Sometimes when you repeat flashcards often, you can pre-empt the question and answer, leading to the same issues as passive learning

Making active recall work for you

  1. Basing your questions on the learning objectives

By basing your flashcards / test questions on your learning objectives, you know that the information you are retrieving is relevant and going to be beneficial come exam day!

  1. Knowing when you need to take a break

The annoying part of active recall learning is that it feels like hard work. Though the research shows the wracking your brain to retrieve information leads to stronger memory connections further down the line (Butler, A. C., 2010), making those connections in the first place is quite draining. Hence, its really important to ensure you space out your revision schedule to avoid burn out!

  1. Don’t get disheartened when you don’t know the answers

This one took me a while to figure out. When I used passive learning methods in the past, I’d learn all the information before tackling the question, so I’d vaguely know how I’d approach giving an answer. When I switched to active recall, I often had no idea how to go about answering the question in front of me which – though it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and apply my learning – was slightly disheartening. The key point to remember is that all of this is still revision and for your own learning. It really is okay to make mistakes at this stage- its just a new learning point!

References

Butler, A. C. (2010). Repeated testing produces superior transfer of learning relative to repeated studying. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36(5), 1118.

Have you tried active recall? What are the pros and cons for you? Add your comments to the discussion below.

 

Student perspective: How to read academic articles without getting overwhelmed

Helen, the author of the blog postby Helen March, English and History student and Bristol Futures Advocate

When I first started my degree as an English and history student, I found the prospect of reading academic articles incredibly daunting. I struggled for a long time to get to grips with the language used, and learning what parts of an article were important to note down, wasting time writing every point the academic made. However, after two years of study, I have picked up some habits which will hopefully help you avoid the same pitfalls and allow you to take the most important information from an article.

So here are my top five tips to avoid getting lost in academic articles:

1. Read the conclusion after the introduction and before the rest of the article

This will help you to navigate your way through the writer’s argument. Although sometimes mentioned in the introduction, the general argument may not be clear throughout the whole article. However, reading the end means you can better understand the direction of an author’s argument before knowing exactly how they get there. If you understand the point an academic is trying to make, you can interrogate it more effectively in your work. Understanding the main argument is key when reading academic work!

Bonus tip! – The academic will sometimes note their key points in their conclusion, helpful for making subtitles to categorise your notes.

2. Read the first and last sentence of a paragraph before diving into the body of it

More often than not, this will give you a good idea of the point being made and whether it is relevant to the research you are doing. Sometimes only a small part of an article will be useful to your research, so sifting through irrelevant information will save you time in the long run.

3. Don’t get bogged down by jargon

Academic language can be complex and the sophistication of language within an article can be overwhelming. For key words you don’t understand, look them up, the oxford english dictionary is your friend! The university has a subscription (oed.com). However, don’t let yourself be entirely consumed by understanding every word within an article, generally only a few will be important. So long as you understand the general gist of a sentence, you will probably be ok! If you are too concerned with understanding every word, it becomes easy to forget the article’s main argument.

4. Just because something sounds sophisticated doesn’t mean it is

Although a quote might look appealing, it may lack actual substance. It’s better to quote and analyse something worded simply but effectively, allowing you to interrogate it in closer detail in your writing.

4. Most importantly, practice!

You won’t learn how to read an article overnight. Although the advice I have given here has hopefully made the prospect of reading academic writing less daunting, it won’t solve all your issues! Academic writing is difficult to understand and the more of it you read the more you learn how to systematically work your way through complex pieces of writing.

Have you got any useful tips for reading articles? Let us know in the comments below!

Student perspective: How to add active recall to your revision toolkit

Shraddha, the author of the blog postby Shraddha Sriraman, English and History student and Bristol Futures Advocate

We all have a favourite method of learning information for an exam , be it reading through a textbook, making aesthetically pleasing notes, spider-diagrams, lists, mindmaps, or even desperately cramming last-minute for an exam (please don’t let this last one be your go-to!). However, moving to university, or getting adjusted with new exam formats trigger us to think about if we’re learning new content in the most effective manner.

Now, figuring out methods that work for each one of us is highly personal, and really depend on your needs as a learner. That being said, decades of research on valuable and diverse learning techniques could help us discover new methods of recalling information! The one discussed in this blog post is all about active recall as a useful method to add to your revision toolkit!

What is Active Recall?

Traditional methods of note taking, such as highlighting notes or watching videos, are based on the idea of placing information from the page into your brain. Active recall spins this on its head, and allows you to learn by retrieving information from your brain and applying it to the question. This is often done by testing yourself, be that via past papers, flashcards, or making your own questions to ‘force’ yourself to actively use information learnt, instead of learning passively.

Methods using Active Recall

  1. Flashcards

Flashcards are a helpful way of summarising notes, whilst testing yourself at the same time. I often have a question on one side, and the answer on the other to employ those helpful active recall skills! Sometimes, I also copy and paste lecture slides with key words blanked out, so I test my recall of key terms. These can be made by hand, or through the use of online applications : such as Anki, Quizlet and more (future blog post coming soon on these!)

  1. Closed Book -‘Blurting’

This is a traditional method of active recall where you shut a book and try and write down what you’ve learnt. Then, go back to the chapter in the book, or your lecture notes and fill in key points you’ve missed out in a different colour to see what you’ve forgotten. Over time, repeating this method leads to higher memory retention of key concepts! I loved this method when studying anatomy and found it easier to draw out a system and then check back at my notes to see what I had missed, instead of passively reading through.

  1. Past Paper Questions

Past paper questions are a fantastic method of actively applying what you’ve learnt!

  1. Make your own questions (based on learning objectives!)

Some courses don’t offer past paper questions, but its just as effective to make your own! This way, you’re pre-empting potential questions that could be asked in the future, as well as allowing to practice active recall.

  1. Teach someone else!

Teaching someone else about a new topic is a fantastic way of processing information and describing it in simple terms. This is a very useful technique and incorporates several levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (a schematic used to describe levels of understanding knowledge, see Figure 1) such as create, analyse and apply. You also don’t have to have another person to teach, a stuffed teddy bear, a plant pot or an imaginary person will do just fine!

 

Triangle diagram with words in ascending order: remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, create
Figure 1. Blooms taxonomy. Armstrong, P. (2010)

 

References and Helpful Articles on Active Recall

Armstrong, P. (2010). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [18.10.2022] from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

Brainscape “What is Active Recall? How to use it to ace your exams”

Osmosis Blog “Active Recall: The Most Effective High-Yield Learning Technique”

November update for undergraduates – Reading & writing at university

Reading and writing are a big part of university life. Whether you’re reading textbooks, research papers or lecture handouts, and writing essays, reports or lecture notes, Study Skills is here to boost your skills.

Here is a selection of online resources, blog posts and workshops to get you started. You can find the full collection on the Study Skills Blackboard page. And you can book upcoming workshops here.

For Arts, Social Sciences & Law students

Online resourcesBlog postsWorkshops
Academic WritingHow I make notes: the 5 RsWriting skills: planning and structuring
Planning and structuringTips for time managementNote-taking skills
Critical writingLetter to my undergraduate self: Ali MarshallPlanning and managing your undergraduate dissertation

 

For Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) students

Online resourcesBlog postsWorkshops
Academic readingHow I make notes: From a textbookHow to write like a scientist
Academic writingHow I make notes: From recorded lecturesEssay skills in STEM - how to make sure you're answering the question
Stepwise guide to essaysHow I make notes: On paperBetter Reports, Less Stress

November update for postgraduates – Critical reading and writing: part 1

Reading and writing are a big part of university life. As a postgraduate, you’re expected to read and write critically, whether that’s essays, reports or presentations. But what does “being critical” even mean? Study Skills is here to help!

Here is a selection of online resources, blog posts and workshops to get you started. You can find the full collection on the Study Skills Blackboard page. And you can book upcoming workshops here.

For Arts, Social Sciences & Law students

Online resourcesBlog postsWorkshops
Critical writingMaking the most of lecturesWriting skills: planning and structuring
Academic reading skillsLetter to my undergraduate self: Ali MarshallIntroduction to critical writing
Planning and structuringManaging word counts for essays, dissertations, and assessments

 

For Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) students

Online resourcesBlog postsWorkshops
Academic readingHow I make notes: For essay planning“Being critical”: an introduction to critical reading & writing
Critical writingHow I make notes: From recorded lecturesThesis Writing Circle

Letter to my undergraduate self: Souwoon Cho – ‘Enjoy learning and don’t be afraid to explore your interests!’

Inspired by the Big Issue’s regular feature Letter to My Younger Self, we’re asking staff to think back to their own experiences as a student and tell us what advice they would give to their undergraduate selves.

This month we’re hearing from Souwoon Cho, Digital Education Developer in the Digital Education Office.

 

Souwoon Cho, the author of the blog

What and where did you study? 

I studied International Management and French at the University of Bath. This was a four-year course where I spent the third year on a work placement in the South of France. Needless to say – coming back to the UK for my final year was a shock to the system!

Did you experience culture shock when you started university? 

Yes and no. Although my elder siblings went to University, I was the only one to move into university accommodation and move “away” from home. So, I didn’t really know what to expect. I also grew up in the Welsh valleys in a Hong Kong Chinese household, so to some extent I knew it would be different. The biggest culture shock for me, was when I saw my flatmates cook rice in a saucepan then drain the rice from the water when it was cooked. I had never seen this before! And vice versa, it was the first time my housemates had seen a rice cooker, which is how I had always been taught how to cook rice!

What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it? 

My biggest failure particularly early on in my degree was not taking enough breaks from studying. I would block off long periods of time to get my head down and revise or write an essay. Then when my housemates would invite me to go for a short walk, I would often decline. I got better at this in my final year, partially because I knew it was the last year of being a student with some of my closest friends. We got in a routine of heading to campus together and scheduling coffee and lunch breaks throughout the day. This made me much more productive and more positive about my studies in general.

What are you most proud of about your time at university? 

Although I loved learning French, I was terrified of speaking it. I always overthought what I said and was too afraid to make mistakes. The focus on second year was to find a work placement for the third year, which included writing the CV and cover letter in French and *gulp* having an interview in French too. I managed to secure an interview for one of the most sought-after work placements in my cohort, a meetings and marketing events coordinator role in a travel technology company in the South of France. It was my first interview over the phone, and I was home for the winter break. I remember having pieces of paper with French vocabulary stuck all over my walls as prompts – thank goodness video calls were not a thing back then!

The interview itself is still a blur to this day – but I was so pleased to receive a call from them 2 hours later offering me the placement. Although very challenging, I learnt so much and met some amazing people during that year.

What was the best bit of feedback you received? 

In my second year I had to write an essay exploring the cultural differences between three countries. I had to decide on a medium or topic to compare, for example news coverage or even coffee drinking culture. After looking at the topics students had covered before, none of them took my interest. I suddenly had a thought of comparing horoscopes in the UK, France, and Spain. As I went through, I found the topic really challenging as it became apparent that there was very little academic research on horoscopes. I had many periods of scrapping the idea altogether and starting again with the well-known topics. But after speaking to the unit director, I persevered and I’m so glad I did. I received one of the highest essay marks I had received throughout my degree. Most of these marks were because I explored a unique topic which the unit director had never read before. So, the risk was worth it!

What advice would you give to your undergraduate self?

My advice would be don’t just focus on the final assessment or exam. There were many times that instead of enjoying what I was learning, I would focus on a few topics so I could “strategically” revise for the exams. Enjoy learning and don’t be afraid to explore your interests!

 

If you’re a staff member or postgraduate student and would like to write own letter to your undergraduate self, please get in touch: study-skills@bristol.ac.uk

 

 

October update for undergraduates – Welcome (back) to study

Whether you’re here for the first time or a returning student, now is an excellent time to set some new (academic) year’s resolutions, and the Study Skills service is here to help you do just that.

Here is a selection of online resources, blog posts and workshops to get you started. You can find the full collection on the Study Skills Blackboard page. And you can book upcoming workshops here.

For Arts, Social Sciences & Law students

Online resourcesBlog postsWorkshops
Welcome to StudyStudent Advocate tips for… starting uniUpgrade your study skills
Upgrade to UniversityLetter to my undergraduate self: Therese Kelly – ‘It is okay to ask for help and to say you don’t understand something’Introduction to academic reading
Making & using notesHow I make notes: For essay planningIntroduction to academic writing

 

For Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) students

Online resourcesBlog postsWorkshops
Welcome to StudyStudent Advocate tips for… starting uniStudy Skills for Uni
Upgrade to UniversityLetter to my undergraduate self: Beckie Arden – ‘failure will help you recognise what to do to succeed’New year, new study skills
Making & using notesHow I make notes: From recorded lecturesNotetaking - when, why and how

October update for postgraduates – Welcome (back) to study

Whether you’re here for the first time or a returning student, now is an excellent time to set some new (academic) year’s resolutions, and the Study Skills service is here to help you do just that.

Here is a selection of online resources, blog posts and workshops to get you started. You can find the full collection on the Study Skills Blackboard page. And you can book upcoming workshops here.

For Arts, Social Sciences & Law students

Online resourcesBlog postsWorkshops
Time managementStudent perspective: Obliterating procrastinationManaging your academic workload
Making & using notesLetter to my undergraduate self: Alison Marshall – ‘Freewriting is liberating for people with perfectionist tendencies like me’Academic reading

 

For Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) students

Online resourcesBlog postsWorkshops
Time managementStudent perspective: Obliterating procrastinationNew year, new study skills
Making & using notesLetter to my undergraduate self: Simon Gamble – ‘Don’t waste brain power on fears, spend the time studying’Notetaking - when, why and how
“Being critical”: an introduction to critical reading & writing

Student Advocate tips for… revision and exams

 

Desks and chairs in a large exam hall
Photo by Akshay Chauhan on Unsplash

Our Bristol Futures Student Advocates come from every faculty in the university, and are here to support you to grow your skills and become an even better student.

In this post, Martina and Joanne share their top tips for revising well and acing your exams …

Use your ILOs

Martina, 2nd year Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry student

Look at the intended learning outcomes (ILOs) both for the whole module and also for each lecture to make sure you’ve covered everything. If you like to rewrite your notes when revising you could try to break them down by learning outcome and if the ILOs aren’t provided you can try coming up with them yourself!

Make a plan

Joanne, 2nd year History student

When going into essay exams, make a time/word count plan beforehand and make sure you stick to it. Although you won’t know the topic beforehand, having a general plan of attack and overall structure can help a lot to stay on track!

 

Check out the Study Skills Blackboard page for more tips on Revision techniques.