Looking for sessions and tutorials on this topic? Find out more about our session types and how to register to book for sessions. You can view our full timetable on our website, or view up-to-date availability in UniHub Appointments and Events.
Not sure where to start developing your academic skills? Take the SkillsCheck for personalised recommendations on how to build your academic writing and study skills alongside your course.
Develop your academic skills
The Skills Centre offers academic skills development to all students at SHU. We offer interactive workshops, small group forums and drop-ins for all students to help you to develop your academic skills throughout your studies. For students based off-campus, we run online webinars and phone-call tutorials, as well as evening sessions (5-7pm) for students with work and placement commitments.
We cover a wide range of academic skills topics, such as:
• Assignment planning
• Critical writing
• Presentation skills
• Research planning
• Literature reviews
• Time management
Reflecting on your strengths
Whether you're starting university straight from school or college, returning to study after a period of employment, or studying in the UK for the first time, your past experiences, qualities and skills will be invaluable in helping you to make the best start. Even if it's your first time writing an essay in 20 years, the self-organisation, open-mindedness and curiosity involved in academic writing are skills that you will no doubt have developed outside of education. This process is called metacognition - it's all about recognising how you learn and what approaches and strategies suit you best.
Reflecting on your skills, qualities and knowledge
If you only have 5 minutes on the train into Sheffield, or as you walk onto campus, here's a quick reflection tool that can help you to plan ahead and build confidence around a specific task:
Choose an upcoming task that you need to complete. It could be related to your course, like writing an assignment or going on placement, or something more personal, like getting fit or feeling more organised. Think of this as your mission statement.
Then, reflect on the skills, qualities and knowledge you think you will need to complete the task successfully. Think outside of the box, particularly when considering your qualities - what is it about you, and how you've dealt with challenges in the past, that lets you know that this task is something you can complete. Here's an example:
Think of these three key aspects separately - it can help you to break down the task and identify your next step. While some people will plan out a task from start to finish, others work shorter-term - the most important thing is that you recognise where you are now and identify your next step(s).
Managing your time
Here are a few of our top tips and resources for organising your time and balancing work with study:
Specific - Identify a clear goal or objective
Measurable - Find a way to track and review your progress
Achievable - What skills, qualities and knowledge can you draw on to feel motivated to complete your goal?
Relevant - Find what makes the task worth doing
Timely - Set deadlines and stick to them. If you miss one, review you timescales and aim for the next deadline you set.
You may hear lecturers talk about summative and formative assessment - but what do these terms mean?
Summative assessment is what you might think of as a 'traditional' or formal mode of assessment. It is designed to assess your learning against set outcomes, which will be outlined in either your module guide or assessment criteria. The outcomes of these assessments are recorded and will be used to decide your overall module mark.
Some examples of summative assessment include:
Formative assessments are designed to give a picture of your progress, offering feedback on how you might improve or build your knowledge and skills. While some formative assessments may have an indicative grade or mark attached to them, this is not formally recorded and is used to help you to identify your strength and weaknesses. Formative assessments also help lecturers to identify areas that are new or challenging to a large number of students so that they can update their teaching practice.
Some examples of formative assessment include:
Making the most of feedback
Whatever form your assessment takes, the most important takeaway is the feedback you receive, whether this is in the form of a numerical mark, written feedback or conversations with tutors. One of the hardest skills to master at university is the ability to respond to and build on feedback. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of the feedback you receive:
1. Take a step back. Receiving feedback is a personal process and whether it's good for not what you were hoping for, it can be good to wait a few days until you read your comments in depth and develop an action plan.
2. Create time for reflecting on feedback. Add some time to your diary to read through your feedback and work through some reflective questions. A good place to start is with a series of questions to help identify your strengths as well as key areas for development - try this short guide.
3. Seek extra feedback. Clarify any points you're not sure on with your tutor, and check your comments against the assessment criteria. This can be helpful way of grounding tutor comments in the criteria, and reminding yourself that these aren't comments on you or your abilities.
4. Create an action plan using SMART goals. When implementing any changes to your writing, make sure you follow the SMART criteria and set yourself Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely goals. Record these so that you can review and reflect on your progress - download our goal-setting template to get started.
5. Seek advice and further feedback as you develop your skills. The Skills Centre offers a range of workshops, forums and 1-1 tutorials to build your academic skills and discuss your work with an expert tutor - view a full list of sessions on the Skills Centre website. For feedback on your draft essays, you can also submit your work to Studiosity and receive feedback comments within 24 hours.
6. Share your feedback with others. Feedback can often feel quite personal, but comparing your feedback comments with other students on your course can help to place them in context, and to find consistencies in how your work is being marked. It is not always easy to fully understand what the tutor may have meant by their comments. By talking it over with other students on your course, you may gain further insight into how you could interpret the assessment criteria and different approaches to academic writing.
Ten top tips for starting at university