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Expectations of learning and teaching at university

##How is learning different at university and how might you reflect on previous experiences to help you maximise your success as a student?
a barefoot man sits on a chair on a dirt track holding a book over his head whilst pages from the book fall over him.
© photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

How is learning different at university?

Whether you are contemplating university, or are already half way through your university course, reflecting on your past educational experiences and understanding yourself as a learner can be a really insightful exercise.

If your last learning experience was a long time ago, teaching in school was very different back then and not everybody had a positive experience. University is a very different – and much more supportive – environment for learning but, the more you understand and know yourself as a learner, the better chance you have of understanding what you need to do to maximise the way you learn.

Perhaps you are about to join us at the University of York, or maybe you are already studying for a degree. Do you know yourself as a learner? What are your preferences for learning? How do you take notes? Do you prefer quiet, or perhaps you like studying with other people or in a studious and busy environment. This section is an exercise aimed at getting you to think about yourself as a learner.


Using the questions below, reflect on your experience of education so far. For some of you this might be a while ago, and not necessarily the best memory. That’s okay, there are many tools available to help plan towards a more positive educational experience.

  • Think back to when were you last a student? This may have been at school or college, or perhaps you took a short or distance learning course.
  • What was your general experience of learning? What was your experience of the teachers you encountered?
  • What could have improved your experience?

If you are already engaged in a programme of study at a college or university, have a think about the following questions:

  • How does university differ from your earlier experiences?
  • Were there any surprises when you started your course?

Over to you

Let’s chat about how you see yourself as a learner! Share with us below any insights from your reflection in the exercise above. Alternatively, talk about what makes the ideal study environment for you!

© University of York
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