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3.10 Thinking about the exam

It is worth noting the difference between exam answers and assignments. Inevitably, a much lengthier and more polished answer can be produced in an untimed assignment. In the short time available in the exam, you need to move quickly through your main points, without paying too much attention to your style. Examiners are fully aware of the constraints exams place on the writer. Focus on the question you have chosen, and underline or highlight the process words or instructions in the question.
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9.2 What is reflection?

Is reflection different to just thinking about your study? And how do we do it? Can someone teach you how to reflect or is it a matter of practice? Can everyone be reflective or are some students - and some people - more reflective than others?

There is no clear definition of reflection or precise way of describing what we mean by a reflective learner. But we can discuss some characteristics of the process, and encourage you to develop your own preferred ways of developing it.

Ref
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9.1 Reflection and the four main phases of learning how to learn

If your course encourages this approach to learning, or if you have read other material on learning how to learn, you may have come across the term 'reflection'. Maybe you have been encouraged to reflect on your learning or on your assignments. In this unit, we have deliberately not used the term until now. This is not because we think the term - or the process - is unimportant, but because it can seem vague and not particularly helpful to you as a learner. In fact, all the activities in this
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6.2 Monitoring your performance

As you move into actually doing the assignment, the emphasis on consciously trying to monitor how you are performing continues to be important. This involves checking your work while you are working on the task rather than waiting until you have almost completed it before you look back at what you have done. You may wonder why we place so much emphasis on monitoring what you are doing. The reason is that if you check regularly what and how you are doing and are aware of your progress a
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1.2 What do we mean by learning how to learn?

Activity 1

This activity will help you to explore what we mean by learning how to learn.

Think back to an example of study you have done in the past, or any fairly structured learning opportunity you remember. Focus on a particular ac
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1.1 Examples

Each activity is followed by a discussion and examples of the responses of two students. Both students are studying Open University courses that will eventually count towards a degree. These are nine month distance learning courses.

Course material is delivered to students by post, email or online. Their assignments are submitted by post or email, marked either by a computer or a tutor, and returned. Open University students are provided with a tutor, regular tutorials and guidance on c
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Learning outcomes

The broad aim of this unit is to provide a framework for learning-based activities and reflective exercises. More specifically, it is designed to offer you the opportunity to:

  • think about and understand how you learn;

  • apply the ideas and activities in this unit to your own learning experiences;

  • learn how to become a reflective learner.


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6.2 Specific difficulties

Some students contend with physical difficulties in reading. Here is one:

And here is another being offered advice by a friend:


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6.1 What is a ‘good’ reader?

If you ever worry about:

  • your rate of progress as you read

  • how much you understand

  • how much you will remember later

then join the club. Here is one student offering support to another who expressed self-doubt in an online chat room:


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5.1.4 What evidence is offered?

Layard frequently offers evidence for his main points. I had the impression that this was just a sample from a wide range of relevant evidence that he had reviewed. Because of the prestigious context, I tended to assume that the evidence would be reliable and that Layard's interpretations would be pretty watertight. Nothing in the evidence seemed to conflict with my existing knowledge. However, if I were studying the subject more thoroughly, I would go back to the lectures from which his arti
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5.1.1 How much trust can I put in this text?

You would generally assume that any set texts for a are trustworthy. But when you find a text through your own research you need to run a few checks to assess the soundness of its content.

Who is the publisher?

If an article is from an academic journal, you can assume that its quality has been vetted by the journal's editors. Also if a book is published by a major academic publishing house, you would expect it to be ‘respectable’. And if it's a book from an academic ser
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2.1 Unfamiliar words

Salim, Erin, Lewis and Kate all mentioned various difficulties encountered as they read the Layard article. Perhaps your experience was similar. If so, how did you respond? Was your progress held up, or did you manage to keep going? With lots of reading to do, it is important to have ways of finding your way round the obstacles you encounter.

Kate was put off by the word ‘paradox’ and Erin did not know what ‘marginal tax’ meant. I, too, noted down ‘real income’, ‘norm’,
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1 The experience of reading

The best way to develop your understanding of the reading process is to follow the principles of the Kolb learning cycle, by doing some reading and then reflecting on your experience. To this end, Activity 1 asks you to read an extract from an article by Richard Layard (2003) titled ‘The secrets of happiness’ which appeared in the New Statesman. To keep the task manageable I have reduced the article to half its original length and, for ease of reference, paragraph num
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8.3 Academic arguments

You have looked at some examples of everyday arguments, now look at a short example of an academic argument.

Activity 25

Read the argument below. Compare and contrast it to the previous examples of arguments you have looked at ('W
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4.4.1 Developing a vision

Some of you may find talk of visions daunting; others may find it liberating and exciting. Whatever your feelings, a vision can provide you with the guiding principles for putting your short-term goals into perspective.

It reminds you to ask yourself, on a regular basis: ‘Will what I am doing now help me achieve my ideal life in the future?’ This does not mean you cannot change your mind about where you really want to be in the longer term, but as the old saying goes: ‘If you don
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2.1 Introduction

This unit is about using learning to bring about personal change. This assumes that learning can help achieve such change. Section 2 aims to be the first step in showing you how this is possible. This section has three separate but related aspects:

  1. Section 2 looks at what the word ‘learning’ includes. This turns out to be a very wide ranging idea that suggests that human beings learn all the time. What we learn has impo
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1.3 Learning through activities

The unit has been designed to actively involve you in your own learning. One of the most important aspects of this are the activities that you are asked to do.

For each activity, there is a suggested time, for example, ‘Allow about 10 minutes for this activity’. These estimates are intended to give you a sense of the amount of effort required. However, you may find that you spend longer on each activity. That is fine, so long as you feel you are learning. If you come across ideas th
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1.2.2 Learning new tasks

We are about to turn our attention to the approach we take when learning about computers.

Over the coming days think about how you learn to do new tasks, and in particular computing tasks. Think about the barriers you have to learning a new task. Do you fear failure? Breaking the computer? Feeling exposed?


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1.2.1 Your learning style

Imagine you are going to learn a new task. It could be laying a laminate floor, following a new recipe or learning to use a new TV remote control. How do you approach the task?

  • Approach 1 Do you sit down with the instructions and read them through before trying?

  • Approach 2 Do you get stuck in to the task straight away? Do you ask others for help and then move on to a new task as soon as this one is complete?

  • <
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9 Letting go

This is the point where you have to make the decision that the assignment is complete and ready to be sent off. It is not always an easy decision to make. Perhaps you feel that there is always room for further improvement or there is something more that you could have done.

At a certain stage, the potential gain from further refinement is not sufficient to warrant delaying submission or to risk impeding progress with your course. Remember, you should be aiming for what is ‘good enough
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