Teaching basic study skills to those who don’t want to learn

I know, a longwinded post title, right?

My intention in this post is not to ‘call anyone out’ or to diss those who lecture me if they happen to somehow read this. My lecturers know how much I love the course I’m doing and that my feedback is overwhelmingly positive. With that said, here we go.

As I settle into the second semester of my undergrad degree at the ancient age (compared to my classmates) of twenty eight there are some things that are bothering me. The hangovers of my colleagues I can just about manage. I can even mostly handle the irritation of people lacking respect for the lecturers by whispering to each other (no matter how quiet you think you are, you’re not) and the constant need to check phones. But one thing stands out.

It’s the lack of ambition.

I had this dream that university would be this place where everyone was there with a common goal. There would be hours lost debating art historical politics and investigating radical, revolutionary artists. On how we should deal with ‘the female problem’ and the canon of dead white guys. Or anything exciting. You know, time spent in the library together pouring over exciting journals and visits to exhibitions.

Apparently not.

I mean, I’d settle for just ‘interested in class’ and ‘does the minimum background reading’ but it seems that people don’t even want to do that.

In the first semester one of our modules had two pieces of coursework. The first was a guided bibliography where we were directed to investigate, in steps, an artwork and basically compile a bibliography for a fantasy essay that we had not written. We had to write about why we selected those sources. The second piece of coursework was a guided essay with a set of questions to think about that led us through the process of constructing an essay. We had a similar one for our architecture course but it didn’t seem as forced. I treated these pieces of work with my usual level of contempt and go the

The issue I have with these pieces of work is this. They should not be taught at undergraduate level.

I appreciate that during A Levels you may not do subjects where you are taught how to approach research or write a bibliography, I certainly wasn’t taught these skills since I did physics, maths and music technology all those years ago. However when I came to do my first essay with the Open University we were simply thrown in at the deep end with nothing more than a ‘study skills’ guide and the phone number of our tutor. We were expected to go away and teach ourselves form the myriad of resources available how to write an essay.

This stuff isn’t rocket science. I would expect anyone who is capable of studying at undergraduate level to have the ability and the drive to go and find this stuff out. It’s not as if writing essays is a surprise on the course, you have to do it on every undergraduate course. To be honest if you can’t even be bothered to look up how to write a correct essay then you’re not going to get very far.

Lets put this in real terms. Each module costs me £1125 which is quite a lot of money to someone who doesn’t have very much. I want to spend that £1125 on learning and being tested to find out where my abilities lie – not being taught how to write an essay. Now obviously not all of the teaching on the module was spent teaching these skills, but a surprisingly large portion of it was. It was just frustrating.

But the frustration is not directed at my lecturers, the course or the university system. My frustration is directed to my colleagues who do not seem to want to open a book and learn something for themselves.