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  • Upgrade Academic Skills Development

    Information for staff

    Thank you for taking the time to find out a little bit more about Upgrade and how we work with colleagues across the University to enhance the student experience.

    Upgrade supports students through a combination of one-to-one tutorials, online resources offered through our A-Z, and group teaching sessions embedded in academic programme content. Click on the headings below to find out more about our services.

  • If you would like us to run a session on study skills, maths or statistics in one of your modules, then do let us know. In addition to the ‘flag waves’ we do in induction, we are happy to help with study skills, maths or statistics sessions, provided we can work with you to ensure that what we do is properly embedded in programme content. Generic study skills sessions that are tagged on to modules are not very effective but subject-specific ones work well. We are a limited resource but will be happy to help if we possibly can.

    Embedded Upgrade sessions have been praised by staff and students alike and have the added benefit of establishing a working relationship with students, many of whom go on to further their skills through one-to-one Upgrade tutorials.

    It may interest colleagues to know that whilst Upgrade appointments are confidential, we can offer feedback on the numbers of students using the service by Faculty, Department, and module. From 2016-17, we also plan to collect data that will allow us to offer (upon request) data on what kind of issues students had on particular modules. 

    The Upgrade pen infograph now appears on Moodle pages and links directly to Upgrade’s homepage from where students can book appointments or explore online resources. 

    Upgrade pen logo

    When referring students to Upgrade, it is important to emphasise that this is a service that is for everyone, not just those who self-identify as struggling. Of course we are very keen to work with students who are having real difficulty, but equally we work with those achieving high 2.1 grades and are exploring how to push themselves that bit further. We are also happy to work with postgraduate students, whether they are on taught masters courses and going through the process of finding their academic voice or navigating the difficult terrain of getting through a PhD.

    At Upgrade, we try to make it clear what we are not about. We are not a proofreading service, though we can help students to develop skills in proofreading their own work more effectively. Similarly in maths and statistics, we are careful not to do students’ work for them; rather our role is to help students understand how to resolve their own issues often with reference to parallel examples. The term ‘study skills’ sounds rather basic but there is a complexity to what we do, which is reflected in the following guiding principles.

    1. Start where the student is: Upgrade starts from where the student is, so our locations are in public open spaces, accessible to all. We avoid generic advice and instead start with the issue the student brings - a particular essay, assignment, piece of feedback or query.

      Additionally, we start where the student is pastorally too - for example, they may be overconfident, underconfident, motivated, demotivated, lacking focus or distracted by whatever is happening to them at the moment. What we offer is an academic service, but it works partly because we recognise that what the student may or may not have written on their latest assignment is only part of the story of why they are where they are.

    2. How to study effectively is not obvious to everyone: Many students are embarrassed about talking through their study habits because they feel their being at university carries the assumption that they know what they are doing. We start from the assumption that nothing is obvious, that basic questions like how to read, plan or use basic maths are worth revisiting because old habits often need revising or reforming for success at HE level.

    3. Show not tell: Ideally in an Upgrade session, a student will have an experience of working differently rather than just hearing about what might work in theory.

    4. Academic socialisation is not just about ways of doing, but ways of being: Very often, problems in research and writing are exacerbated by identity issues. For example, we have worked with students who argued that they felt they were nurses and not academics, but have ultimately been persuaded that the two roles are not mutually exclusive but complementary. Upgrade frequently plays an important role in developing student confidence and student voices away from the sometimes complicated power constructs of the tutor-student relationship.

    The Upgrade A-Z of study skills is a regularly updated collection of recommended online resources for students.