One of the comments I continually make on student papers is, “please read the task instructions and ensure all components of your assignment are on the topic”.
The most frustrating part of this though, is that I often have to say this again on the next assignment, and in some cases, on the one after that, too. I know there are many reasons students fail to act on or even read, feedback, but please try really hard not to be one of these students. We aim to help you improve – celebrating when you do well, and patiently steering you along a more correct path when you trip up. Acting on this feedback will help you improve your writing and academic success.
I am sure that like me, many academic staff toil over task instructions and anxiously wait for the first few days of the semester (and the weekend before an assignment is due!), to see how students interpret them and begin to ask questions of clarification. This is good, so always ensure you understand each aspect of the assignment. Better to ask, than start second guessing yourself, as the clock ticks closer to the due date.
I know, from experience, that it is sometimes difficult to pluck up the courage to ask a question, even when a grade is being dangled at the end. If you really can’t bring yourself to ask a question just yet, make sure you are one of the first into the classroom and one of the last to leave. This way you can listen to all of the other questions being asked because it is likely someone else will have similar concerns to you.
If you have online discussion boards, the same rule applies. Read every single post to ensure you are exposed to everyone’s questions and your lecturer’s response. Although some lecturers can get a bit frustrated replying to endless questions, as long as you haven’t missed her/him answering the same question above (in the discussion board posts), you need to be clear in your head what is required, so you need to ask.
Group discussions, whether online or in the classroom, are also a valuable learning opportunity. Again, if you are not confident speaking up, or not ready to while you sieve through the topic content, make sure you listen carefully to what the lecturer/tutor has to say. There will be pearls of wisdom in every conversation, it is your job to find them, note them and follow them.
Keep going back to the task instructions. Have you addressed the question, individual criteria, word counts?
I will talk more about writing your assignment in the next couple of posts, but for now, concentrate on ensuring you understand the task and have a clear picture of what you need to do. I know it is really hard sometimes, but the best thing you can do to set yourself up to be successful is to start your preparation early. However, I wouldn’t submit your assignment too early. Sometimes the best questions are asked nearer the due date as everyone starts to get their head around the topic.
You want every advantage you can, so even if you have finished, keep an eye out for those late posts or discussions. You never know what will turn up, and take your ‘I should do ok’, to ‘I think I’ve nailed it’. Yes, well, maybe you are not quite that confident, but that late adjustment might make a positive difference. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not advocating changing your mind/focus/direction, just ensure you make a considered decision before submitting a polished assignment, preferably the day before it is due just in case you have issues uploading/submitting.
Happy researching for your next assignment and please read those instructions.