Showing posts with label development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label development. Show all posts

Thursday, 28 September 2017

How to ensure that First Year @ University is a success


Logic of Failure - Metaphysics of Success

Many universities are concerned about failure rates. It is not uncommon for 25% of students to fail to complete their first year successfully. 

Academics are mildy irritated that they are constantly under pressure from the management to improve success rates. Rather cruel responses might run like this:

" I'm sorry, it is really beyond my control if you break up with your girlfriend in week 3 and stop attending classes."

[But depression is a REAL problem for some students. Check out this article: Yes, you can crawl out of your first-year depression at university  | Nell Frizzell ]

"Am I responsible if you lose the power of motion because you've been living on nothing but porridge oats for the last term before the exams, having spent your parents' money on beer."

"I can recommend counselling services. Remember ... you are now deemed to be an adult; you will be expected to take responsibility for your life. Time for a reality check?"

"Is it my problem if your only relationship effort went into your Xbox/ Nintendo / ipad/ SKY-tv ?"

On a more serious note, the most common reasons for dropping out or failing your first year are

- inability to adjust to life away from the safety, ease and security of homelife

- lack of independent revision skills

- acquisition of a drink or drug habit
- homesickness

- a disastrous and traumatic first year relationship

- pregnancy or serious illness

- lack of motivated study, planning and work skills

- failure to adapt to the new level of work expected in academia

- lethargy, indolence, incompetence

- doing a job full time rather than working on your degree

- having made the wrong choice of location, or university

- loneliness, depression, mental breakdown

- starvation or malnutrition; inability to cook

- failure to attend classes and exams

- poverty, poor financial planning and bankruptcy

- family bereavement or other crisis

- not understanding the requirements of the degree syllabus

- over-indulgence in leisure activities, especially solo

Play is a reward - not a replacement - for academic work achieved


Clearly there are both academic and socio-psychological-personal reasons for failure.

Students seldom drop out or fail because they are judged not to be brainy enough! Most hard-working students will have a very successful and enjoyable first year. So keep a sense of balance and maintain a sense of proportion. If you start to feel excessively pressured or anxious seek help early from tutors or from student services.

Generally the bar is set quite low in all but the most elite universities and in all but the most competitive subjects. In fact, you would be surprised how poor some of the academic work is that gains a pass. In my opinion some of it is GCSE standard. Having said that, will you be employable with a third class degree (=40%) ? By taking your first year seriously you establish strong skills that will be a firm foundation for your future progress.


The answer is probably yes if you have excelled in your extra-curricular activities and in your networking. I'm told that sport, volunteering and drama are recommended for character-building, confidence and leadership.

The good news, however, is that the pass rates for second and third year are typically 95%.

But there are also some other issues that require further explanation. 

For instance, across the US, the drop-out rate averages 25%, but you are twice as like to drop out if you are Hispanic, Black, or American Indian, compared to being a White student, research suggests. Why does this happen? 

 

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) and 
11+ English  (2015). Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Finding your authentic academic voice


Are you still sharpening your use of academic language, or are you loosening the reins?

The title of this blog points to the tensions involved in professional educational writing. In one sense the purely personal, original, pre-academic voice is a fiction. By joining the ranks of academe your voice has already begun to switch from a personal to a public voice. Taking the micky becomes parody or satire, for instance. Academic writing loses colloquial speech-like qualities and takes on the jargon of professional authenticity. And speech also tends to lose the accent and dialect of your class roots. Sadly, standard academic English is a rather middle-class business proposition. There is a gain but there is also a loss.

But academic voice in the arts and the social sciences need not be the bleak accent of dry neutrality and emotionless abstraction. Surely there's an error in losing the individual idiosyncrasy of the human pulse in this domain of work?

While it is true that the lexis of academic disputation is often overused it is clearly helpful if you want to signal degrees or shades of difference in your interpretation. In that regard arts and social sciences judgements are not derived from logical positivism, and evidence and interpretation have shades of gray. All writers also deploy a variety and range of connectives to link ideas and signpost the flow of thoughts. The trick is not to use them too much, or too little, because you will end up sounding like a robot, rather than a sentient and sensitive human creature! In summary ...

Language is your tool, not your master.

Is it worth pointing our that grammarians are divided between those who describe actual living usage, and those who try to enforce, regulate and prescribe based on tradtion? Our greatest writers, such as Shakespeare, were often ungrammatical by modern standards.

Have we become too prescriptive and normative in our deployment of academic writing skills? Academic composition has certainly spawned an academic sub-industry of poorly and well-paid tutors who will offer you the keys to success. They will help you to pay lip-service to the discourse of acdemia.

Academic discourse is a specialist use of English which is still evolving. I suspect that it’s becoming less stiff and stylised nowadays. An example of the current informaility is the tendency to use the first person pronoun “I” instead of the neutral objectivity of the third person. Even abbreviations and speech like contractions are now common, as I’VE noticed in recently published academic books. By claiming to be a common language of transparency academic discourse pretends to show us the ideas, rather than the person speaking them. Eventually by playing them game you lose your consciousness of the rules by which it operates.

At its worst academic discourse serves as a defensive armour or shield; at its best it supports the elegant deployment of necessary subtleties.

Any thoughts? Have you been sharpening or loosening your academic style?

Useful Sites

Academic Phrasebank. Created by the University of Manchester.

Using English for Academic Purposes. A Guide for Students in Higher Education

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)