Teaching, learning and assessment
How we teach
It is useful to understand that there are differences in teaching styles at University, compared to other educational environments. The teaching environment will vary in different degree programmes and may include lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical sessions, clinical work and/or electronic learning.
It is important to use your time efficiently during study, so that material can be easily consolidated and learnt when it comes to revision. Below are some tips to get the most out of the different types of study activities.
Lectures are designed to convey ideas or information to a large group; some lectures can have several hundred students, while others can be much smaller. Lectures offer you an introduction to a topic, covering the key ideas and areas of importance from which you may be expected to conduct further reading and research.
Before the lecture
- Look at the lecture title and outline to see the basic content.
- Lecturers may use Blackboard to post their lecture series, including PowerPoint presentations, lecture notes and handouts as well as audio or video downloads of the lecture.
- If available, it can be useful to review the presentation slides and handouts before the lecture as they will help structure your lecture notes.
- Think about the topic in advance. If the lecture is one of a series, make sure you read what was covered in the previous sessions.
- Think about how this lecture fits into the whole unit and with previous lectures.
During the lecture
- Make sure you get to the lecture in plenty of time and pick up a handout if there is one provided.
- Although many lectures are recorded (see 'After the lecture' below), make sure you engage in active listening and careful note taking. It is more important that you listen clearly and understand what is being said than copy it down. This way you are more likely to understand what is being said and will only copy down the key parts.
After the lecture
- Make sure you review your lecture notes as soon as possible after the lecture (ideally within 24 hours) while the material is still fresh in your mind. This will allow you to identify and address any significant gaps in your notes and any areas you do not fully understand.
- Rather than copying your notes out neatly afterwards try something more active and effective, like turning your notes into a spider diagram, a series of flash cards, or bullet points ready for revision.
- Many lectures are recorded using Mediasite and made available via Blackboard. You can use the recordings to make fuller notes or clarify points you may have missed. Find out how to get the most from Mediasite lecture recordings.
- Reviewing any audio or video lectures around revision and assignment time can be helpful to consolidate your learning.
Seminars tend to be smaller than lectures, typically with groups of 5 to 30 students. They are usually less formal than lectures, providing you with an opportunity to ask detailed questions and debate themes and ideas. In seminars, you have the chance to develop a wide range of personal and key skills such as how best to communicate and present your views and to build up your confidence in speaking in front of others.
Before the seminar
- Ensure you have completed the required tasks and reading.
- Write down a number of questions you want answered.
During the seminar
- Be open to hearing something new.
- Note down any useful information.
- If you don't understand something, ask.
- Make a contribution, test your ideas, or raise points which interest you.
After the seminar
- Read through your notes to ensure they make sense.
- Make sure you know what preparation you have to do before your next seminar.
Tutorials will also be a small group, and in some programmes may be an alternative term for a seminar, but will usually be a very small group or meeting with a unit tutor or personal tutor. Tutorials are often more informal than seminars and offer the opportunity for you to ask tutors about the lecture or unit content.
In addition to the tutorials, remember that tutors are able to respond to queries and provide additional support and advice via email or consultation hours.
- Make sure you have prepared any required work for the session.
- Identify any areas you don't understand so you can ask your tutor for help if necessary.
- Be ready to actively participate in discussions, asking questions and offering your opinions.
Practical work may be lab-based, computer based, artistic performances or may involve clinical practice or fieldwork; the format will vary depending on the programme of study. Practicals provide an opportunity for you to apply and investigate theoretical knowledge and develop programme specific skills, from performance and production, to collecting, analysing, interpreting and presenting findings and data. Practical sessions can also help you to develop a wide range of personal and transferable skills such as problem solving and team working.
Different degree programmes may use different technology to enhance learning, for example:
- Blackboard's online discussion group for collaborative work;
- Multimedia Centre for modern language students;
- eBiolabs for science students;
- Digital Slidebox for medicine and veterinary students.
To get the most out of practical sessions, ask yourself the following questions:
Before a practical session
- What is the purpose of this session?
- What lectures/unit does this session relate to?
- What do I want to learn from the session?
- Have I completed any required pre-lab work?
During the practical session
- What do I want to find out?
- What skills am I expected to develop?
- What else do I need in order to review/write up the session?
After the practical session
- What did I learn from the session?
- What is the best format to use for reviewing/writing up?
- What can I conclude from the session?
- What can I do to improve upon for next time?
Many programmes promote peer learning through the use of group or partnered tasks, as they provide you with an opportunity to work with other students. As well as being a very effective way to learn, these activities enable you to develop transferable skills such as teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving and decision making. Around revision time working with other students can be a great way to keep motivated.
Creating a group either on Blackboard or on social media sites such as Facebook can be useful for avoiding high levels of email correspondence between group members. Forums such as Blackboard and Facebook also enable groups to upload and share documents and files allowing for remote collaboration.
- Make sure you arrive to the sessions prepared, ready to contribute your findings or opinions.
- Be ready to listen to others, ensuring all ideas are welcomed and considered.
- Encourage peers to speak up.
Open door/consultation hours
Many personal tutors, unit tutors and lecturers offer times when you can stop by, or book a slot, and speak to them informally. These are referred to as open door, consultation times, or office hours.
- It is good practice to email your tutor in advance to let them know what time you wish to stop by.
- Many tutors/lecturers are happy to meet to discuss assignment plans and progress, or any issues that you are having with the unit/programme content.
- Make sure you read through any unit guides and school handbooks before attending an open door session as many common queries are answered there.
Make sure you check your University of Bristol email account on a daily basis, as this is the main form of communication between tutors/lecturers and students. In addition to the open door times offered, many tutors/lecturers are happy to receive queries or assignment plans via email.
Emails are accessed via the MyBristol portal and you are now able to access your University of Bristol webmail via your mobile and tablet computer. For help and guidance about setting this up, visit the mobile technology support page.
- When you email staff, it might be helpful to add the purpose of the email in the subject line e.g. 'Query regarding our last lecture in CLAS200XX', whilst adding your full name and unit/year group in the body of the email.
- Allow for a reasonable response time from staff, especially at busy assessment and exam times.
- Make sure you read through any unit guides and Student Handbooks before emailing as many common queries are answered in these.
Assessment and feedback
How to plan and prioritise your workload; develop good study habits; and personal development planning.
Find out how to ensure your work has integrity and how to avoid plagiarism.