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outcomes, and turn these into lists of very short, sharp questions, so that students get the message that if they can answer lots of straightforward questions, they can in fact answer much more complex questions, as these just amount to a collection of the shorter ones in practice.
It can be particularly useful to get students to make question banks in small groups, so that the range of questions is better, and to help them to learn from each other’s questions. Tutors can give valuable responses regarding which questions are the really important ones, to help to steer students to the main agendas of their learning.
• Help students to become better readers. Not all students come from backgrounds where walls are lined with bookshelves and where accessing data goes beyond Wikipedia and Google. Not all students devour books, articles or materials on the internet, or know how to search effectively. Indeed, for many students, mere reading can degenerate into rather desultory scanning and skimming, and is not a particularly pleasurable activity, unless they are reading about something about which they are already passionate.
Tutors can help students to realise that they don’t have to
devour materials, but that all that may be needed is to use
them successfully to  nd information from them. In other words, information sourcing, retrieval and management (whether from text- based or electronic sources) does not necessarily mean reading everything available, but homing in on what’s important. This goes back to starting reading with questions in mind. If students read a page or screenful, of text pre-armed with  ve questions, they are much more likely to get what is intended out of the page than if they just ‘read’ it.
Help students to make good use of headings, sub-headings, contents pages, and the indexes of books and articles, and the ‘search’ options on web-based materials. Help them to read in ‘search and retrieve’ mode, so they are looking for particular things, and noting them down or highlighting them as they  nd them, rather than simply going through page after page vainly hoping that some of the information there will ‘stick’. A key source of support is likely to be Liaison Librarians and Learning Advisers here at Heriot-Watt University.
• Help students get organised about their revision. Most students regard revision for tests or exams as a bore! This is all too often because they have previously tackled the job in boring ways. They have tried to ‘learn’ their subject materials in repetitive non- productive ways, and become disillusioned.
A good start is for tutors to reinforce that revision is simply about systematically using knowledge well to be able to use it effectively and become better able to answer questions - that’s what exams and tests actually measure. As with anything else, the best way to become better at something is to do it - and do it again - until it becomes second nature. Students who have practised answering a question seven times in a fortnight are very likely indeed to get similar questions right the eighth time - in the test.
Another way tutors can help students regarding revision is alerting them to what not to revise. There’s no point spending a lot of
time and energy on learning something that won’t or can’t be the basis of a sensible exam or test question. Similarly, anything that isn’t directly related to an intended learning outcome is not on
the revision agenda - if it were important it would have been there among those intended outcomes.
Tutors can remind students that what is measured by tests and exams isn’t what’s in their heads - it’s usually what comes out
of their pens or pencils. In other words, it’s their evidence of achievement of the intended learning outcomes that is the basis for assessment, and the best revision processes involve purposeful practice at evidencing that achievement.
28 IN AT THE DEEP END | LEARNING + TEACHING academy
FURTHER READING
Chapter 6 of Brown, S. (2015) Learning, teaching and assessment in higher education: global perspectives, London: Palgrave-MacMillan.
Stella Cottrell, S. (2003) The Study Skills Handbook, London, Palgrave.


































































































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