Reflective reports 101

By Gordon Rugg

 

There’s a widespread belief in education that getting students to reflect on their learning is a Good Thing. Whether this is actually true or not is another question, for another time. The key point is that if you’re a student, you might well end up having to write a reflective report.

This experience can be challenging, especially if you’re in a discipline like computing, where you might not have expected anything quite so introspective. It’s particularly challenging if the reflection is about a piece of groupwork, as numerous memes about “What I learned from groupwork” will testify.

Many students under-perform when doing a reflective report. However, if you follow a couple of simple principles, then writing the reflective report becomes a lot easier. As an added bonus, there’s a good chance that you’ll get better marks, and even learn something genuinely useful from the experience.

So, what are these principles, and how do you apply them? They involve systematically describing choices. Here, by way of moral support, is a picture of someone making a choice. You may be reassured to know that the choices you’ll be working with are a lot more encouraging…

By Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov – The knight at the crossroads

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=800287

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Academic writing versus magazine writing

By Gordon Rugg

Academic writing is very different from most other types of writing. There are sensible reasons for this.

Unfortunately, not many students have been taught about those reasons. The result, predictably and understandably, is that most students, and most members of the general public, think that academic writing is dull and heavy because academics either don’t know how to write in an interesting, accessible way, or because they don’t care.

So, why is academic writing deliberately dull and heavy, and what are the implications, and how can you use academic writing style to your advantage? That’s what this article is about.

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Life at Uni: Some tips on exam technique

By Gordon Rugg

Standard disclaimer: This article is as usual written in my personal capacity, not in my Keele University capacity.

Sometimes, the acronyms that fit best are not the ones that produce the most encouraging words. That’s what happened when I tried to create an acronym to help with exam technique. It ended up as “FEAR FEAR”. This was not the most encouraging start. So, I’ll move swiftly on from the acronym itself to what it stands for, which is more encouraging, and should be more helpful.

A lot of people find exams mentally overwhelming. This often leads to answers that aren’t as good as they could be. When you’re in that situation, it’s useful to have a short, simple mental checklist that helps you focus on the key points that you want to get across. That’s where the acronym comes in.

F is for Facts, and F is for Frameworks

E is for Examples, and E is for Excellence

A is for Advanced, and A is for Application

R is for Reading, and R is for Relevance

In the rest of this article, I’ll work through each of the items, unpacking what they’re about, and how to handle them efficiently.

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Teacher Humour: Why spelling matters

By Gordon Rugg

If one of your students ever complains that you’re making too much fuss about correct spelling…

accidentally-satan

https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/573223858803590270/

(Image used under fair use terms, as a humorous low-resolution copy of an image already widely circulated)

If you want a more detailed explanation, this previous article goes into more depth (but is less artistically striking…)

 

Some myths about PhDs

By Gordon Rugg

This article covers three myths about PhDs that seem to be popular at the moment.

  • First myth: You have to find a PhD topic by looking for advertised PhD studentships
  • Second myth: You have to have a 2:1 or a distinction to get onto a PhD
  • Third myth: You have to start in September, or you’ve missed your chance till the next year

All three beliefs contain enough truth to look discouraging to many people who might be thinking of doing a PhD, but who don’t fit the criteria set out in the myths. However, that doesn’t mean that those myths tell the full story. The full story is longer and more complex (which may be why it isn’t as widely known as it should be) and is also more hopeful for anyone who isn’t able to follow the usual PhD route.

Before we get into the details, here’s an encouraging pair of classical pictures to put you in an appropriate mood, showing the transformation from solitary uncertainty in the wilderness to public adulation and success…

bannerv1

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Why are we being examined on this?

By Gordon Rugg

It’s a fair question, if it’s being asked as a question, rather than as a complaint about the cosmic unfairness of having to study a topic that you don’t see the point of. Sometimes, it’s easy to answer. For instance, if someone wants to be a doctor, then checking their knowledge of medicine is a pretty good idea.

Other times, though, the answer takes you into deep waters that you’d really rather not get into, especially if there’s a chance of some student recording your answer and posting it onto social media…

Why do some answers take you into deep waters? That’s the topic of this article. It takes us into history, politics, proxies, and the glass bead game.

bannerv3

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New Hyde and Rugg website

By Gordon Rugg

The new version of the Hyde & Rugg website is now live, here:

http://www.hydeandrugg.com/

Among other things, it contains a resource section which pulls together our articles on a range of topics, including academic craft skills for students, elicitation methods, requirements, design, and education theory.

There’s also a section about our research, plus a section on the codes we’ve worked on. Again, these pull together our previous blog articles into a structured framework.

Over the next few months, we’ll be adding more material, particularly in the sections on academic craft skills and on our research.

We hope that you’ll find the site a useful complement to this blog.

 

How does marking work?

By Gordon Rugg

Humour alert and disclaimer: This article is humorous, with the occasional flash of sensible content. It is not intended to be a guide to exam or coursework technique, so if you try appealing your mark by blaming this article for leading you astray, then you have even less chance of succeeding than with the excuse of only having burnt down the cathedral because you thought the archibishop was inside at the time

I’ll start with a marking criterion that everybody knows, namely that markers don’t like Wikipedia very much. Here’s one example of why we feel that way.

dikdik humourhttps://www.pinterest.com/pin/509751251548026285/

(Used under fair use terms, as a humorous academic article.)

In case you’re wondering whether that’s just a neat bit of Photoshop, I’ve seen equally interesting claims on Wikipedia, such as an article stating that an ancient Roman politician was married to Marilyn Manson.

So, markers have reasons for mistrusting Wikipedia. What else is going through their minds, and why?

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Why do people treat spelling and punctuation as such a big deal?

By Gordon Rugg

This one has a nice, easy answer: Legal implications. Spelling and punctuation can have huge legal implications that in turn can have huge financial implications.

That, however, raises the question of just what those legal implications are. Again, there’s a nice, clear answer, but unpacking it will involve a couple of examples; one for spelling, and one for punctuation. Here are those examples.

bannerAttributions for images are given at the end of this article

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Life at uni, revisited

By Gordon Rugg

If you’re about to start your first year at university, and you’re feeling unsure and nervous, then you’ve got plenty of company. Most new students feel that way, though not all of them show it. This is a re-post of the first in a short series of articles for people in your situation, about key information that should make your life easier.

This article is about roles at university. The American cartoon below summarises them pretty accurately.

academic muppets

Image from Twitter

So what are the roles other than “Elmo the undergrad” and how are they likely to affect you?

Grad students: In Britain, these are usually “PhD students” or “teaching assistants” or “demonstrators” in practical classes. They’re usually cynical and stressed because of their PhDs. They usually know the university system well, and they’re very, very useful people to have as friends. (Really bad idea: Complaining to the university that they’re not real, proper teachers.)

Post-docs are next up the food chain. They already have their PhD, and they’re working on a research project until they can land a job further up the food chain. You might see post-docs around the department, but you probably won’t have much direct contact with them.

Assistant professor: In Britain, these are lecturers and Senior Lecturers and Readers and (in some universities) Principal Lecturers. These are the people who will deliver most of your lectures. Lecturing is just one of the things they do; they also do research, and income generation, and university admin, and a pile of other things. (Classic embarrassing newbie mistake: Calling them “teachers”.)

Tenured professor: The image says it all; lofty, often scary figures who give the strong impression of wisdom beyond mortal imagining. That impression is often true.

Professor emeritus: Again, the image is all too accurate. Emeritus professors often have ideas so strange that ordinary humans wonder whether they’re brilliant or completely divorced from reality. I make no comment on this.

The other articles in this series cover the main sources of confusion for students, including useful information that would be easy to miss otherwise, but that can make your life much better. I hope you find them useful.

Other articles in this series that you might find useful:

https://hydeandrugg.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/life-at-uni-lectures-versus-lessons/

https://hydeandrugg.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/life-at-uni-why-is-my-timetable-a-mess/

https://hydeandrugg.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/life-at-uni-cookery-concepts-101/

https://hydeandrugg.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/life-at-uni-exams/

https://hydeandrugg.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/life-at-uni-after-uni/

https://hydeandrugg.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/life-at-uni-will-the-world-end-if-i-fail-my-exams/

A couple of other articles on this blog that you might find useful as starting points:

https://hydeandrugg.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/from-boilerplate-to-pixy-dust-useful-writing-tips-for-stressed-students/

https://hydeandrugg.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/critically-reviewing-the-literature-the-quick-and-dirty-way/