From my last year of study I feel that I have begun to learn the foundations of being an independent learner and developing the ability to study more effectively. In this blog I will explain how I felt about tutorial tasks, fellow students, and my difficulties with time management. I will then reflect on the positive aspects of my experience so far at Ruskin with a conclusion centred around my thoughts on the topics of Sociology, politics and economics.
My presumptions about academia were that you learnt facts, and then regurgitated them. I didn’t feel confident about drawing on my life experiences to debate or consider alternative perspectives. I felt that it would be arrogant to voice my views or opinion on any topic as I felt that my knowledge in general was limited and ‘unrefined’. I was advised at an early stage not to be afraid to have an opinion and urged to “find my voice”. This was one of the first components that quickly became an apparent necessity for me to succeed at Ruskin.
I found the help gained from the tutorial sessions invaluable, although initially I felt overwhelmed with everything I needed to read, remember and get through. When I got to the summative tasks and exam I discovered another of the key components required to become a successful learner. The penny finally dropped on the importance of the weekly formative tasks. A lot of the subjects and key actors covered in the tasks remained ingrained and I found that the information could be remembered and referenced effortlessly. It would seem that I remember more of the information about topics which I investigate and research for myself, than what is deliberated in class.
The importance of others in student life is also a significant element to being successful. Not only the camaraderie that develops amongst the groups but the skills and knowledge that are shared is priceless. A reassurance and inner peace comes from knowing that you are not alone in your insecurities and anxieties. Sharing and hearing others speak of the positive and negative aspects of the student/parent role duality is comforting and reassuring. However different each student at Ruskin is, the common denominator that binds us together is the desire to succeed. By challenging the cards that we have been dealt, makes every student that I come across a unique and inspiring individual that I genuinely feel quite privileged to have met.
An entity that I found hardest to master was time management. Until I was introduced to task management within that context, I really couldn’t see how I was going to master the art of getting everything done on time. It’s all very well having a timetable to plan and quantify the fundamentals of home life and study, but it is still impossible to do 26 hours of tasks in 24 hours… or so I thought. Social conditioning teaches us to finish one thing before you start another. Which is valid, rational and makes perfect sense. However, the hardest thing to do is to ‘unlearn’ the habits that you have done most of your life. As a single parent I found it incredibly hard to learn to adapt and incorporate a modified study plan. In order to maximise time efficiency I have had to adjust to ‘working with my brain’ and adopt a study schedule that best suits my concentration span. For me this means ‘little and often’, which involves leaving the household tasks until study break or a suitable time driven by priority and not routine.
I feel that I have made massive progress in nurturing academic skills as well as forming a social, political and economic awareness which will hopefully facilitate my learning journey through to the BA. I need to continue to work on study skill technique in particular developing my reading skills. My concentration is still so variable and sporadic that reading takes forever. This is something that I feel is imperative to successful study as it is the key to researching and understanding. I can read (obviously) and have an insatiable desire to learn and understand so I get quite frustrated with myself as I can’t get the information in my head fast enough.
In conclusion, I have learned so much about myself this year. I have identified my strengths, my weaknesses and I’m quite proud of the fears and anxieties that I have overcome to make it this far. I’m driven by my desire to know and understand all of the external factors that influence society, institutions, governments and cultures. I am enthusiastic about my learning experience because of what it means to me. Not just in the context of being successful but also to be given access to the tools that will facilitate research and study into things that I thought were only important to me. I aspire to continue to develop an inquisitiveness to look behind an argument or text in order to gain enough information to form a valid opinion. Due to the completion of my first year at Ruskin I continue to remain positive and encouraged by the memories of those who were close to me and have been lost to addiction, dysfunction or systematic neglect. It is because of those and in conjunction with what I have learned so far, I am no longer afraid to have an opinion and pursue what I feel is important.
Written by Feleena Mason, Social & Political Studies Graduate