Case Study 1
The Learning Development Service (LDS) at the University of Casterbridgedeveloped a non-credit bearing skills development module for its first yearhistory students, of whom there are approximately a hundred. The module, whichconsisted of 10 weekly taught workshop sessions, ran during the autumn term of 2008/09. It was designed to address general study skills as well as more specificsubject-related skills such as historiography and historical research skills. Themodule was content was designed in close collaboration with academic staff from the History department who were keen to support the development of theirstudents’ research, critical analysis, writing, and presentation skills.It was agreed the module should take an active learning approach to skillsdevelopment and that materials and exercises should relate directly to themainstream curriculum. It was also agreed that sessions would be co-deliveredby members of staff from the LDS and the School of History.
The taught sessions on the module were built around activities, co-facilitated byacademic and LDS staff. These activities included:
essay question analysis and essay planning exercises based on titles fromfirst year modules;
secondary-source analysis exercises in which students discussed themerits and limitations of a particular argument;
debates in which students argued the case for competing interpretationsof historical phenomena;
paraphrasing and quoting exercises – again based on secondary sourcematerials - in which students compared their interpretations of texts andchoices of illustrative quotes.However, despite these efforts, and the consistent attention to subjectspecificity, student feedback, in certain cases, appeared sceptical of themodule’s value and relevance. The following comments appeared on thefeedback for the module:“I learned this stuff at A-level. If I didn’t know how to write an essay, I wouldn’tbe here would I?” (Gabriel Oak)“I felt a little patronised during some sessions – as if the assumption was Icouldn’t cope with studying a degree.” (Eustacia Vye)“I came to University to study history, not to learn how to do essay plans.” (JudeFawley)