Supporting learning: Study Skills

As part of my work in the education team at The Bodleian Libraries we have recently overhauled our resources to support the development of study skills.

In part this has been in response to feedback about our OxLibris programme which supports students researching for their Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). We support local schools in developing their students’ research skills and they visit us to access books, journal articles, and other texts not generally accessible outside of an academic library.

We also needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because we were no longer open visitors (or anyone else), we needed to move the programme online so it was accessible to schools. This also allowed us to extend the reach of the resources beyond Oxfordshire.

In the first stage of this move, we have produced a set of five study skills guides. Although designed to meet the requirements of the EPQ these also provide useful guidance on researching for any project or essay.

The guides can be accessed on the OxLibris Study Skills page, in the ‘Online Resources’ section.

Effective online searches covers how to use advanced search engine tools effectively to refine your online research.

Evaluating online resources provides advice of assessing the quality of online sources of information, how to verify such information and how to spot fake news.

Effective note taking gives guidance on making concise research notes that focus on making connections between ideas using the Cornell notes system developed by Walter Pauk.

Avoiding plagiarism explains what plagiarism is and why it is taken so seriously. Drawing on guidance from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), this guide also explains how to avoid plagiarism in assessed work.

The guide to referencing explains how to cite sources of information used in work. There are two versions, one explaining referencing using the Harvard name-date style and the other using the recurrent number style.

Feel free to have a look at these guides and download them for use with your students. They are not for commercial use and copyright remains with The Bodleian Libraries.

I am currently working on a set of presentations on these topics designed for use either by teachers in class or for students working independently.

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to David Gimson and Lorna Robinson at Cheney School, Sophie Roach at Gosford Hill School, and Jackie Watson at Oxford Spires Academy for providing feedback on earlier drafts of these guides.

Adventures in Whole Class Feedback: Planning for Feedback

I have been interested in the claims made for whole class feedback for some while, but have had some reservations. I have always seen formative assessment as a central element of teaching and learning, and providing written (as well as verbal) feedback as crucial to helping children understand what they have done well and what they need to do to improve further. I also quite like marking and enjoy both the immediate reaction of children to seeing their hard work appreciated, and their longer term journey of progress over time.

Nevertheless, while I may like marking, I don’t always like the time it takes. As I write the same comment on the fourteenth piece of work from a class, I find myself thinking that this probably wasn’t the best use of my time. As Anthony Radice wrote in this post Whole Class Feedback: A Winner All Round, it’s important for teachers to consider what else we could be doing with the time we spend in close marking like this, and whether other activities, such as planning or creating resources, might be more useful in helping pupils make progress.

With all this in mind, I agreed with my line manager that development of whole class feedback would be an objective for my performance review this year. I’ll be developing my practice in class and feeding back to the departmental team.

When and what to mark

I have decided to focus on year 8 as I have three mixed ability computing classes in this year group.

There are several types of task that these classes do:

  1. Work in class which will be directed to an element of a unit, for example editing sound files in a unit on podcasts, or the use of subroutines in a unit on algorithms.
  2. Half-termly Homework. In computing pupils choose a task for each half of each term. This is an individual project they work on for several weeks. Examples include designing a website on a theme, or designing a revision resource for a topic. Pupils work on different tasks.
  3. Discrete homework. These are shorter homework tasks, taking a few minutes, for example reinforcing key vocabulary, or a quiz on PEGI game ratings. They are set one lesson for completion by the next. The tasks may be differentiated, but everyone is doing the same thing.

I think some of this work lends itself more to whole class feedback. In class we are usually all working towards the same goals. It’s easy for me to pick up on good examples and also to spot errors or misconceptions. In class it makes sense to give verbal feedback to the class (as well as taking opportunities to talk to individuals. The written feedback is for myself: picking up on what happens in the lesson to better inform my teaching.

Pupils put a lot of work into the half-termly homework and I think they deserve some individual feedback from me. What I’m aiming to work on is making that feedback truly individual. Rather than repeating comments on common themes, though, I intend to note these and address them as feedback to the class.

The discrete homework tasks are usually self-marking tasks such as quizzes, so my focus is usually in picking up on what the scores mean, such as a misunderstanding of a particular concept. Often I will revisit this on teaching, rather than give specific feedback on the homework, but I’ll see if doing so is more effective.

So, that sets the scene for what I plan to do:

  • Continue to use verbal in-lesson feedback as I do already, but keep better track myself of how it informs my teaching.
  • Restrict individual feedback for the truly individual elements of homework projects and add whole class feedback of common learning points.
  • Give whole class feedback a try for discrete tasks, where previously I might have just revisited the learning in the course of a lesson.

I’ll make sure to feedback how We get on!

Image: publicdomainpictures.net