University Teaching Methods
Teaching methods at university will vary from course to course, but on most degree programmes you can expect the following:
These are the most usual form of university teaching. A set of lectures is given for each module you study. Students normally listen and take notes. You can expect the group size to be quite large (between 50 and 300 students). Lectures are designed to present the main ideas and overview of a topic, but you are expected to do extra reading to supplement this. This is especially vital in arts and social science subjects where the number of lectures per week may appear low, but the 'spare' time is actually study time, designed for you to do your own background reading and research. It may also be necessary to do some reading before the lecture. You will be given a reading list to help with this.
These are a form of interactive group work to build on what you have learnt in your lectures. The group size is normally much smaller (between 10 and 20 people). You may, occasionally, be asked to give a presentation to the other students. Preparation will normally involve background reading in order to be able to contribute to the discussion.
These also involve work in small groups, but the size will differ, depending on your course. Tutorials are an opportunity for your tutor to find out how your work is going and for you to raise any problems or difficulties you may have with your studies.
Practicals, lab sessions or fieldwork
If appropriate to your particular course, any practicals, lab sessions or fieldwork will be designed to reinforce what you have learnt through lectures or seminars.
Hints and Tips: How to make the most of lectures
- Go to all of them if possible - in the long run it is much easier and quicker than trying to read and understand other people's notes or getting the information from the library!
- Get there on time and remember to take your notes from the previous lectures with you - the lecturer may refer back to something covered earlier.
- Ideally read through the last set of notes you took so you are 'up to speed' before the next lecture. This may not be possible when things get busy, but could help if you are finding a topic difficult.
- Sit where you can see and hear properly, not where you can quietly go to sleep!
- Use different coloured pens and highlighters to take more interesting notes.
- Don't be afraid to ask the lecturer if you don't understand. Note, some lecturers prefer you to wait until the end of the lecture to ask questions.
- In maths, science and technology, write down everything the lecturer puts on the board, exactly! If you are copying equations or formulae, make sure you get them down correctly.
- Avoid writing down details you can easily get later from a textbook. Sometimes just listening is more use.
- In arts and social science lectures the main aim might be to get you thinking, so don't just copy down every word the lecturer says.
- Good notes are the key to making the most of lectures. Did you know that you forget 50% of what you hear within five minutes of hearing it? After 24 hours you can remember only 20% of it and only 10% after three days. Notes help you to retain information.
- Remember there is no need to use full sentences, as long as your notes are understandable and legible.
- After the lecture DON'T try rewriting all your notes - you won't have time. But reading through and checking you understand the notes soon after the lecture will definitely help in the long run (and when it comes to revision for exams!).
- If there is something in your notes you don't understand, try referring back to notes from previous lectures, and asking a friend for help. Then if that doesn't help - go and see the lecturer.
- When seeing lecturers it's best to call them by their titles to begin with (Dr Smith, Professor Jones) unless they say you can use their first names. You may have to explain who you are and what course you are studying - it's a lot to expect the lecturer to remember you from your group of 300!