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What else do I need to know about different learning methods?

In this article, we address independent study and group work as learning methods that complement lectures and seminars.
Looking down on a desk with a laptop, books, a calculator and some pens
© University of York

We have already said that learning at university is likely to be different from what you have been used to. You will be required to do more independent learning, and depending on which subject you are doing, you may not have as many ‘contact hours’ as you have had before. A lot of the learning is self-directed, which means that it is really important to get into a new study routine that fits with the type of learning you will be doing on your course.

Independent study

At university, you will be expected to do a lot of self-directed and independent learning. This will include preparing for lectures, seminars, problem classes and tutorials but will also include independent reading and research and preparation for assessments. You will need to develop strategies to plan your study time as self-directed means just that; it is up to you to ensure that you have done the work you need to do.

You will usually be given a reading list with books and articles to read as part of your independent study. The reading list may be categorised into essential or recommended reading and suggested reading. The reading list can be a bit overwhelming at first, as you may feel like you have to read everything on the list. The reading list is there to guide you, and to provide a range of books and articles that you can read in preparation for your assessments.

As Amy said in the video earlier, studying at university is partly about learning about the areas that interest you. Often a reading list will include a lot of books and articles to allow for students to focus on different things and to take their learning in different directions. If you don’t know how much reading you need to or are expected to do, you could ask your tutor.

Guided learning to practice skills and apply knowledge

In some courses you may take part in practical classes where you can apply and practice skills and concepts. In some science subjects, for example, you will spend a considerable amount of your time in practical or laboratory work. You may be working individually or in groups in the lab, and may have a tutor available for support and guidance. Practical and laboratory work is designed alongside the lecturers to ensure you can apply skills and concepts and to provide opportunities for practice.

Practical and laboratory work can help you to:

  • Apply and investigate theoretical concepts
  • Practice and develop experimental techniques
  • Work safely and effectively in a laboratory environment
  • Develop analytical and research skills

Group work

There will be many times at university where you will be asked to work in groups with other students. This can include group work tasks that take place within lectures, seminars and practical classes, as well as more formal group projects that are assessed as part of your course. As part of a group project, you may be asked to research, investigate or analyse something related to your course. You will then work together with other group members to produce an output from your group work, such as a report, presentation or poster.

Group work projects will enable you to develop different skills and experiences such as teamwork, negotiation, leadership and planning skills. Formal group projects may feel different from the way you are used to learning and being assessed. Remember that they have been designed to test a different set of skills alongside your knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Over to you

Have you had any experience of these learning methods? What tips do you have for managing self-directed and independent learning? What about group work? Please share in the usual way.

© University of York
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