Universities have adopted a teaching technique that means students are required to allocate study time to independent learning, this allows students to develop their existing study skills and learning techniques. Learning and studying is subjective, therefore individual techniques will differ significantly to fit in with students unique learning styles. When considering study skills and learning methods it is critical that certain aspects are taken into consideration; the time that is available and the way in which the information is best retained (Cottrell 2008.) This essay will begin by looking at the different studying techniques. It will then go on to focus on both critical thinking and time management and the different methods that can be followed within each category. Study skills are the strategies that are used to retain the information (Andrea Kosling 2004.) Whereas learning methods are the way in which people process and understand the information, and they are generally centred around reading and writing (Overview of Learning Styles 2013.) Universities encourage each of their students to use these skills and adapt them to benefit that individual. Note taking within secondary schools differs to that in higher education. This is because within a university the lecture is teaching a large class and cannot give individual attention to each student. Therefore, each learner quickly develops their own note taking methods which allows the selective key points to be obtained. Note taking from text books is the same and can be linked in with academic reading as the way information is retained differs with each student. Some students may prefer to read a whole chapter and then summarise their findings, whereas others may prefer to read each chapter in small sections and then summarise the information (Cottrell 2008.) However, students must be careful when writing using their notes to construct their essay as ideas taken from textbooks cannot be passed off as their own, but citing within the text means evidence is being shown as to where is was found and who created that work. A reference page must then be constructed in alphabetical order stating the resources (Williams and Carroll 2009.) Academic writing links with referencing writing as it shows that the student can use a wider range of resources and can then construct an essay too. Within the term academic writing, students must also ensure that the body of the essay is written in the third person so that it is impersonal and no opinion is shown unless stated, as well as ensuring that it is set out coherently and the person reading the information can clearly see what is being stated (Cottrell 2008.) Critical thinking is one of the main study skills needed to produce high standards at university, as it allows the learner to have a more open mind when analysing certain texts. Peelo (1994) states that being able to critically think is the ability to look at a certain piece of text and then be able to assess both the logical reason behind that argument and the motivation for that point being put forward. The first step taken when critically reading work is to analyse the argument that is being put forward by the author. The student would then go on to figure out how and why this conclusion has been drawn up; is it from someone’s view point or has it been reached by carrying out a number of research projects? However, to be able to devise a conclusion the student may need to do background research so that they broaden their knowledge of that topic and other author’s conclusions. As with everything this processes does not come easy to some people and these students may only be able to take the text for its face value. There are however simple steps that can be taken to help develop this skill (Cottrell 2005.) Glaser (1941) highlighted the important steps to look at when being critical. First is the persistence of considering the issue and this may involve the text being read several times. Glaser then encourages learners to looks at the evidence that is put forward to help enforce the argument. The last step is to look at the implications and consider alternative conclusion, and if so what evidence do they have to support that conclusion (Cottrell 2008.) Independent learning can take up a large proportion of a student’s personal time, so time management is key to achieving an equal balance between studying and socialising. This is why time management is an essential study skill to have, as it allows the student to understand what is required of them during their independent study time. Allocating certain parts of the day to studying will help their work load. There are a number of different approaches to time management but ultimately it depends on the factors which make a student’s peak time to learn. Some students may prefer a simple list of activities that must be done within that week (Cottrell 2008.) This method is clear to read and can be designed on either a computer or by just using a pen and paper. Barnes (1985) states that a “To Do” list can feature priorities; work of importance, as well as less urgent tasks. Another time management method that can be used is to create a time table; allocating certain times for study and certain times for socialising. This gives the student a visual view of the upcoming week and when they are expected to study. However, the student must make sure that they take into consideration their personal studying preferences. This can be first thing in the morning, later on in the day, or in the middle of the night. Another factor to be considered is location; does the student best studies within a library or at home? This will once again be unique to each individual. There is no wrong way of managing time, it depends on what suits the individual student. As long as they get the work completed in the time allocated that is all that matters (Williams and Reid 2011.) University is a place that helps develop and broaden the range of study skills and learning methods that each student uses. This is achieved by delivering the basic amount of information and then encouraging the students to go away and expand on this information. By doing this type of learning technique, the student can then go on to discover which learning methods allows them to get the best out of their independent study time.
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References: Cottrell, S. (2005) Critical Thinking Skills. 1st ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Cottrell, S. (2008) Preparing for University. In: Nash, A (eds.) The Study Skills Handbook. 3rd ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. pp1-24 Cottrell, S Cottrell, S. (2008) Writing for University. In: Nash, A (eds.) The Study Skills Handbook. 3rd ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. pp167-200 Cottrell, S Cottrell, S. (2008) Critical analytical thinking. In: Nash, A (eds.) The Study Skills Handbook. 3rd ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. pp275-292 Peelo, M Williams, K. Carroll, J. (2009) Referencing and Understanding Plagiarism. 1st ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan Williams, K Internet resources: Andrea Kosling (2004) Study Skills Overview of Learning Styles (2013) Available from: http://www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/ [accessed on 3 Oct 2013]