Jun 18, 2016 Teacher Training 551 Views
As a teacher I am well aware that many students do not hear what is said but what they want or expect to hear, and many times they hear nothing at all. This is particularly true when it comes to graded assignments. Students have expectations about what assignments will be given and how they will be graded; they continue to hold these expectations regardless of what is actually assigned.
To improve your results, you need to be clear about what is expected. This clarity is needed for several aspects of the assignment. If it is missing, your chances of doing well are severely limited, if not entirely gone.
Getting the Assignment
The first place clarity is needed is when the assignment is given. You need to understand three different aspects of the assignment: content, format, and timing. Content clarity is when you make sure that you understand what the assignment is about. The instructor expects you to ask questions, either when the assignment is given or afterwards, to make sure you understand what is expected, so go ahead and ask. Format clarity is understanding what has to be submitted. How is this work to be submitted? What must it look like? Finally, timing clarity is about the due date and any late work policies that are involved.
The number one tool for getting assignment clarity is questions. If you are at all confused, ask and ask often. Another way to verify your comprehension is to reword the assignment. Restate the content, the format, and the deadline to the instructor, who can then clear up any confusions. Finally, write the assignment out on a separate piece of paper, even if the instructor gives you a handout. Writing is an excellent tool for clarity.
Understanding the Work
After you have the assignment and before you start to work on it, write out what has to be done. What do you have to learn, what needs to be included? What do you have to create, and how is this done? What are your resources, including time and energy? How important is this particular assignment compared to other work that has to be done?
When you have written down the answers to these questions, you can check your understanding by visiting your instructor either in office hours or before/after class. Again, as an instructor myself I welcome a student who comes to me with this preliminary work. Such a student is much more likely to succeed both in this particular assignment and in the course.
Making a Plan
After you know what has to be done you can create a plan. When are you going to start working? When are you going to do the research, the writing, the editing? How long is each going to take? Planning can really help you by eliminating surprises.
Once you create a plan, work it. A plan is no good if it only lives on paper; the effectiveness of the plan is measured by the actions you take. As the saying goes, "Plan your work and work your plan."
Nothing will guarantee success. But clarity is an effective tool to increase your odds of success in everything you do, including academic work.