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The keys to success in this class

Learning means doing something new, so everyone in this class will be doing something that they have never done before. It’s OK to ask for help and advice along the way; it’s not a sign of failure to ask for help.

Our best advice for students is that whenever you have any concerns about what you are doing, or your progress in the unit, you should immediately get in touch with your tutor or the lecturers and ask to discuss the class. Consultation times (also known as “office hours”) are open for students to drop in and talk about anything that interests them (see Staff page on the class Canvas site). You can also write an email to the lecturers or your tutor to make an appointment. Send three blocks of time when you are available, so they can pick a good time when you can both meet.

Help is most useful when you seek it early, so don’t wait till the last minute. This also applies to all the different resources the University and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences offers for staying on top of your work. For full information on the many different kinds of support and advising services that the university and the Faculty of Arts provide, see the details in the unit outline for this class, or the Faculty web site.

Every student has to make a number of adjustments in how they approach learning when they come to university. We believe that we have set this class up in a way that helps each of you to do this easily. In general, we have set up some clear guidelines and procedures for your weekly work in this class, but they are not meant to be busywork or things you do simply to score points. Rather, we want you to feel comfortable taking a risk, doing something new, and reflecting on your own ideas and the reasoning behind them. If you want to succeed, you do have to do something for this class every week. This is especially important in 2020. One of the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic for students is that they can’t rely on the routines of coming to campus, and they have to do a lot more on their own. Embrace this. This is, in a certain perspective, a huge opportunity to grow and to become someone who is fully responsible for one’s own learning. We have designed this class to help you take charge of your education.

This semester, we have conceived of this class as a weekly cycle, a checklist of tasks that you work through more or less on your own. Make it a habit, set a schedule, get into a routine, and then just “do the work.” One of the running gags in the Netflix sitcom Incredible Kimmy Schmidt is that the main character spent years of her life in an underground bunker turning a crank over and over (McFarland 2017). When she was liberated, she didn’t have to turn the crank anymore, but she would sometimes remark on other characters’ lack of perseverance (and her crank training made her surprisingly strong). Fortunately, the weekly cycle in this class is not that boring. The things we discuss are, I believe, intrinsically interesting. But there’s always times in the semester when things seem to pile up and you feel overwhelmed. That’s when the weekly pattern in this class will help. Just stick to the routine and do the work.

When you take charge of your own education, a good strategy is to form a habit of asking yourself how things are going. If you are spending a lot of time working on the class and it is frustrating, ask yourself what you could be doing differently. Study groups outside of class can be very helpful in this regard; when you work with other people, you get more insight into how you do things and what you could change. The Faculty of Arts also has an excellent “student mentoring” program that puts first-year students in touch with senior students who can act as guides to the university and university life. They have real-world, practical knowledge and insight into how the university actually works, and they always have the latest information about new events in the Faculty. If you make a habit of seeking information about studying, then when you run into an unexpected problem, you will be prepared to deal with it and it doesn’t have to become a crisis.

A standard piece of advice I give to students is that they “just show up” but I have to qualify that this year. Being present on campus does not have to be part of your weekly routine. However, another important strategy when you are in charge of your own learning is to make connections and create supportive relationships. So be “present” in the minds of your fellow students, your tutor, and the lecturers. Let us know that you are there, and let us know how things are going throughout the semester. We, the tutors and the lecturers, always want to hear from each of you. We want to be part of your weekly routine. Many first-year students find the university campus to be cold, austere, and formal. It is really common for students to feel like they aren’t allowed to talk to teachers. In a large organization, there is always going to be a degree of anonymity and lack of personal connection. But teachers, tutors, and academics actually hate that about universities. We got into this line of work because we like school and we like students. So another good strategy for taking charge of your learning is to make yourself known to your teachers. Knock on doors. Send emails. Go to office hours. It can be just to say hi. For instance, whenever you get an assignment back with comments, ask for a meeting to talk over the comments. You will be making the university better for us as well as for yourself.


McFarland, Melanie. 2017. “We All Have a Mystery Crank: “Kimmy Schmidt” Season 3 and Feminism.” Salon. May 27. https://www.salon.com/2017/05/27/unbreakble-kimmy-schmidt-season-3-mystery-crank/.

1002/2020/advice.txt · Last modified: 2020/08/18 20:36 by Ryan Schram (admin)