Get to know the Study Skills team!

We had a chat with two of our Study Skills Tutors Alison and Alejandra, to get an insight into what they do for students, their top study tips and what exciting things the team have coming up!

What do the Study Skills team get up to?

Study Skills are a team of eight which started in 2017, and has been growing ever since! They run the Study Skills Hub on the second floor of Senate House for drop-ins, which is staffed Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm.

Alejandra: Our big picture as a team is enhancing students skills to improve their studies. We do this by seeing the type of students that they are and recognizing existing strengths, then building from there.  We are aware of the big, diverse student community that we work with, and always aim to work with students to understand their current and fluctuating needs.

Alison: We support students while they are here in a variety of ways; either in 1-2-1 tutorials, answering enquiries, staffing drop-ins, and in workshops. Being in the team also involves working closely with other people at the university, such as academics and Subject Librarians, who both reach out to us in relation to which skills their students might be struggling with. We work with our Student Advocates, helping them put together workshops to offer peer-to-peer support. This team gets to help lots of people and make a meaningful difference, not just purely with skills for university but also for later life, like critical thinking and time management.

What kind of things can students get from a drop-in (tutorials) with you compared to attending a workshop?

Alejandra: Our workshops are 1 to 2 hour sessions and vary from general topics for all students at any level, to school specific sessions. These are requested by either academics or student reps. Workshops aim to cover general elements of a certain type of skill. Workshops have an emphasis on students discussing problems and learning together in a supportive group environment

Alison: Whereas a tutorial is half an hour dedicated to an in depth conversation about what a particular student wants to talk about, or is struggling with, for example, structuring a specific essay or struggling to get their reading done. It is booked in with a Study Skills tutor to allow dedicated time to talk through a more specific concern, and we usually discuss differing methods.

What are your top studying tips for students?

Ali: Personally, I am a huge procrastinator, and it did make my time at university hard, so my top tip is on how to avoid procrastination. The key things I wish I had known is to break down an assignment into much more manageable chunks and to then make a concrete plan for when to do each chunk.

In terms of academic writing, know that first drafts can be completely rubbish, as it is always better to have something down on the page so don’t try and perfect your writing from the very beginning. There is a huge amount of reading for arts students, my advice is to not just try to soak up information as you go, but be a bit more analytical, even if it means reading less. Try to think about what you’re reading in more depth and develop opinions on it as you go.

Alejandra: Mine is about critical writing, what’s the main thing that makes an approach to writing critical? Having a purpose. Know what you want to say and why you want to say it, as it helps to structure a path for your writing and then also helps you to think about what is needed to write around it. It is the process that I apply to my PhD.

My top tip for international students is to read in English! From personal experience I know it can cause frustration and is hard work, but the improvement it makes in your writing and understanding makes it so worth doing!

What exciting things are on the horizon for you and your team? 

Alison: This week we have been recruiting Student Advocates for the next academic year, which is very exciting. We love working with our Advocates – they are so full of ways to help their fellow students, and also get to run their own drop-ins and workshops. We have also started gearing up to help masters students with their dissertation, by creating specific workshops tailored to them.

Alejandra: We will have the new academic year structure, and it is exciting to see how we will reaccommodate to the new structure. It is also interesting working with the schools as they restructure as it gives an opportunity to rethink how we are doing things.

How should students contact the Study Skills team if they need to?

Alison: There are lots of ways, and it depends on the nature of what the student needs. First port of call is to look at the website, which outlines all the ways to reach us –  and has links to book into tutorials and workshops. On our Padlet there is an area for questions, but also students can just drop in and see us in the hub! The Study Skills hub is on the second floor of Senate House.

Alejandra: Students can email us individually as needed, we give out our contact emails at workshops for specific requests which is particularly usual with subject specific needs. You can always go to your student reps or any academic in your department who can contact us to get a workshop set up.

Photo of Study Skills tutors Alison and Alejandra

Left: Alejandra Casas Munoz, Study Skills Tutor for the Faculty of Sciences

Right: Alison Marshall, Study Skills Tutor for the Faculty of Arts

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