Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don’t be the loafer.

When studying either externally or on campus, at some stage you may be required to do a group assignment as part of your assessment.

This can be a frustrating type of assignment especially if you have a loafer in your group. A loafer is one that doesn’t do the work required but expects the credit at the end.

Join an online group as soon as possible as I find those who join first are usually on the ball and ready to work. A wiki is usually where online group work will take place. If there are topics where you are assigned as a leader, ask questions for the others to answer.

Remember the due date is there for a reason but don’t leave your answers and ideas until the last day as the topic leader needs to summarise and most likely post a group response in the forums. Don’t use ‘I work all week’ or ‘it’s not due until tomorrow’ as an excuse not to check the wiki and provide your input. It is better to be up-to-date and involved with the discussion than to whinge that you didn’t get your input posted.

If you are unfortunate enough to have a loafer in your group, you may need to send them a private email along the lines of ‘I hope you are okay, such and such is due tomorrow’. If they do not respond to the group by the deadlines, keep moving along with the topic. The lecturer will read the wiki posts and ascertain who participated actively within the group and who did not respond enough.

You may have the opportunity to do an individual reflective essay on the group assignment where you can talk about participation within the group including the positives and negatives.

Ensuring that you take accountability for your participation in the group will mean an enriched learning experience for you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Study – what is it and how do I do it?

Study involves learning about a particular topic so that you may retain that information and use it at a later date.

There are many different ways to study. Some people prefer background music, others must have complete silence. Work out the environment that works best for you so that you may get the most out of your study.

Ways of studying include;

- Study notes – a collation of ideas, summaries and general notes made throughout the unit of work.

-Discussion – talk about your topic in person or online with friends, family and fellow students. It doesn’t matter if you go off on a tangent as long as you are talking about and making connections.

-Reading – this could be text books, relevant articles, newspaper reports, online forum posts and anything related to your topic.

-Note taking – take notes of your lectures, text book chapters, interesting articles and any ideas that will be of use

-Self testing – use your study notes to make up your own questions and self test. Give your study notes to a friend or family member to ask you questions. If available, do past exams for practice.

-Ask questions – if you are unsure on a sub – topic, ask your lecturer, fellow students or others knowledgeable in the area of question.

-Investigating – explore further areas of the topic that you find of particular interest or need further explanation.

-Experimenting – especially helpful in the area of science, doing hands on activities may help you make connections.

-Researching – extend your study through wider reading. Find other relevant text books or use the internet for further information on sub-topics.

- Mind mapping - there are many concept maps that can help you show how sub-topics connect

- Brain storming – particularly helpful when preparing for an essay

- Jotting down ideas – anytime ideas may come into your head for that next assignment or exam– make note of these so you can come back to it later.

Ensure you have a tidy desk to do study and to keep your notes. You may choose to be in different environments when you are studying for an exam. For example, you may take your study notes down to the beach for the afternoon or you may take them on the bus to work with you. Wherever you are, make sure you are relaxed and have the concentration you need to make the most of your study.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Exam Blues

An examination (exam) is looming and your stress levels are rising. How can you stay calm, study well and blitz the exam?
Preparing for an exam and getting over the exam jitters is one that takes practice. You need a strategy that works best for you.

Staying calm is the first thing to do. So, you have an exam – find the things you have to learn and know how to do well. Don’t dwell on the fact that an exam is next week. Remind yourself that if you do the preparation work then you will be okay.
Some people prefer the ‘night before cram’ method. Whilst this may work in the short term, the knowledge won’t be there in the long term. It also means that the knowledge you acquire in the cram, you will most likely have to learn again in the future and it won’t be so easy to scaffold for future learning.

A ‘less stress’ method is one that I prefer. Here, you take your learning that you have done throughout the term or semester and compile your study notes. These notes consist of quotes, formulas, models, phrases, ideas, really anything to do with your exam topic. It is best to start compiling notes as the term or semester progresses. For example, if you are required to read chapters two, three, five, seven and eight of your allocated text book then summarise each chapter and include a heading for easy reference.

Most teachers will let provide you with tips on what you will need to know and understand to be successful in your exam. Remember, the exam will only have what you have been learning about during the unit or semester. It is amazing to realise that examination writers (most likely the subject coordinator) that set the exam do not include random topics or questions that you will not have learned about. The examination will cover what you have been learning throughout the term or semester. It is your time to show your teacher what you know!

Know your exam structure. Check whether it is an essay, short answer, multiple choice or a mixture. This should be provided by your teacher prior to your exam and help with your preparation. If it is an essay, know your quotes and who said them. Be able to back up your ideas. Write a sample essay structure including what ideas you will cover in which paragraph. If it is a multiple choice, know your facts. You are usually provided with four possible answers. It will include; one ridiculous answer, one that could be correct, another very close to the true answer and the correct answer. Cross out the definite incorrect answers if you are unsure of the true answer. Just because it is a multiple choice exam does not mean you do not have to know your stuff! With short answer, you will also need to ensure you have plenty of study notes and facts.
Your notes do not have to be full paragraphs. I like to use dot points and expand on anything I am not sure about. Typed notes are easy to read, but written notes are just as good. Make sure you reference where the information came from i.e.: text book, article, lecture. Carry your notes with you wherever you go so that you can glance at them from time to time. The aim is that the information will become familiar, easy to recall, thus ‘stick’ in your mind.

Studying for an exam does not mean you read over your notes day in and day out. You need time to absorb the information and also relax your mind. So make sure you eat well and get enough sleep. You don’t want to be having a brain overload the night before the exam.

The night before the exam, you may have trouble sleeping but if you know you have done the work i.e.: read all chapters, completed assignments, made great notes, spoken with the teacher about any problems, then you have nothing to worry about. You most likely know more than you realise! Get your family members or friends to ask you questions about your topic – just talking about will make you feel better.
One the day of your exam, have one last read over your notes. If you don’t know it now, you won’t know it in time for your exam. But because you have done consistent study over the semester or term you won’t need to stress! Take a bottle of water, pens and sharpened pencils and positive affirmations with you to your exam.

If once you get into your exam, the page in front of you is a blur, take a few deep breaths before starting. Remind yourself that you know your stuff! Take a sip of water and write your name on the exam paper. You will most likely have fifteen minutes reading time and you will be able to make notes. Write all your thoughts and ideas down on paper so that if you do have a mind block – it will be easy for you to refer to your notes. Take note of how much time you have to complete the exam and divide your time between questions so that you pace yourself well.

Once you get writing, it should flow. If you get stuck on a question this is okay. Stop; take a breather and a sip of water. Reread the question or move on to the next question. Don’t forget to mark the unanswered question so you remember to come back to it.

Once you have completed your exam stop, take a sip of water and a few breaths. Reread through your answers checking for punctuation, grammar and that you have answered the question properly.

After your exam – reward yourself. Take the afternoon off study, do something you enjoy. Rest your brain – you deserve it!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I’m behind in my study – what do I do?

First of all, don’t stress and don't give up! Stress will only make you procrastinate and unlikely to complete any work to your best ability. Remind yourself, that you can do this. Take a breath and focus on one subject today. Take this subject and look at what needs to be completed. Are there articles to read? Do you need to start an assignment? Do you need to contribute to online discussion? Are there five chapters to read in your text book? Work out what you need to do next. Write the list which may look like this;

1. Read chapter 2, 4 and 8 of Skamp text
2. Read articles by Keys, Novak and Gunstone
3. Contribute to online discussion on the past 3 weeks topics (approximately three contributing posts)’

Set time aside to complete this work. This may be two hours this afternoon and one hour tonight. You will need to make study your priority in the next two to three days to catch up.
Write notes for the articles you read in your notebook or type in a word document or online blog. This will help the information you read, stick in your mind. It will also be there for future reference in your study notes – particularly helpful if you have an examination at the end of semester.
Tick off your list as you complete your study. Once you have done these, it is time to move onto another subject you are behind in. Make another list of things and tick off as you complete them. Once again, you will need to immediately put aside three to four hours of time where you can do solid work.
To avoid getting behind in your study again, use your diary effectively. Write in important events outside of study, assignment due dates and weekly tasks. Tick off each day what you complete. If you do not complete a task on a set day, transfer it to your next study day. By keeping on top of your study, you will reduce the stress caused from a heavy work load. Study will be easier and you will be more productive in your work.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

'Keep It Simple'

Everyday should be a learning experience. Each day brings something or some one new into your world.
Today, I met Jeremy Britton and I had the chance to chat with him about education, public speaking, business, wealth and his book Who's Taking Your Money.

So, what did I learn? To 'Keep it simple'. Yes, this is the key to many things and you can use this concept for webpages, study, growing your wealth, business, finance, just about anything!

'Keep it simple' may seem like a very basic idea but often people over complicate and over analyse the simplest things (me!). These can include and are not limited to; making choices, writing a book, designing a business plan, developing a website, planning a wedding. Take the stress out of life and 'keep it simple'.

How to 'keep it simple'? Talking about my concepts with Jeremy Britton uncluttered my mind and opened it up to new possibilities. Through discourse I was able to map out my ideas and view them from a different perspective.

The first thing to 'keep it simple' is to talk about it! Discuss your idea or questions with another person whether it is a professional person or a friend.Make a visual - write a list, draw a mind map or type your ideas on the computer. Another good way to 'keep it simple' is to be true to yourself in everything you do.

Keep it simple and destress your life.

Jeremy Britton is a Financial Planner, Investment Educator, Public Speaker and author with 15 years experience. He provides free investment advice for professionals and beginners at

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Aargh, I have an assignment due!

First thing, don't stress! It might seem like a blur at the moment but if you break the assessment instructions down, you will have your assignment done in no time.

Here is a system that works for me when I'm writing an assignment.

1. What sort of assignment task are you being asked to do? Is it an essay, a project, a sequence, a critical inquiry? Find out exactly what type of assignment you have to complete.

2. Highlight key words on your assessment information sheet. So if you haven't printed it off, do that now.

2. Either write or type the key words vertically down the page. If the lecture has provided you with assignment guidelines, use these too.

3. Where are your reference sources? Which chapters related to the subject matter from your textbook, articles or other sources?

4. Start with writing 100 words - it doesn't need to have proper referencing, spelling or punctuation. Simply write your ideas down that relate to the topic. You will find once you get going, the words will flow.

5. If you hit a writer's block, go back to your original structure. Chat to fellow students on forums or even take a break! You won't be able to write an assignment on an empty stomach.

6. Once you have your first draft, leave it for 24 hours.

7. Check off you critera sheet against your assignment to ensure you haven't left any important information out.

8. Reread your assignment and have a friend or family member to proofread it.

9. Leave your assignment another 24 hours before rereading. You may end up with a few drafts.

10. Ensure your bibliography is correct before submitting online or via post.

Assignments do not have to be a daunting experience. Note any interesting articles that you read during the semester that may be beneficial to your assignment and mark pages in the textbook that will need to be referenced. Then it won't be so hard to go back and find the bits of information when you do sit down to write your assignment. Leave enough time so that you can have a 24 hour gap before reading your assignment again. Eat well, sleep well, study hard and enjoy your breaks!