Skip main navigation

The lecturer’s perspective

The lecturer's perspective
Structure in writing is very important. And I think students that do well are those that have some idea, some plan of what it is that they want to do. I think the kind of structure that is required of an A level essay is very, very different to the structure that’s required of an university essay. In particular, I think that A level what the reader wants to see is what the student knows. Whereas at university, we want to see what the student thinks. Structure in the writing can be problematic for some students particularly if they’ve come from an A level background, for example, where there is only short answer questions to deal with.
Some students find it quite odd that there are essays to write in biology subjects. Quite often before they come to university, they are working to a preset formula about how to structure the essay. Without the scaffolding support that teachers have given them in writing at school they sometimes struggle. Part of the skills that we need to try and teach is how to diversify their structure, and sort of apply different structures to different situations. When you’re writing an essay, if you think an idea is a little bit quirky or a little bit strange, but actually you do a bit of reading, and you realise it’s got something to it, have the confidence to go with it.
Because every essay, in many respects, is the student’s opinion, it’s the student’s appreciation and judgement on the problem they’ve tackled. It’s a really common for me to have a student to come in and talk over an essay where they maybe haven’t done as well as they’ve hoped. And I say to them, you know it’s interesting about your essay is that you’ve spent most of it talking about what other people have to say on this topic. And then here in this paragraph you’ve got a sentence that says perhaps, it says something very interesting but then moves on. And what it tells me is that that student does not have the confidence to recognise when they’ve got a good idea.
The principal change at university from their experience beforehand is there were lots of different ways of approaching tasks like that.

Here is a video of lecturers talking about problems they encounter with students and structure.

This article is from the free online

Preparing for University

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education