Within Beckett along with all the Academic Librarians, who are helpful and brilliant if you need a hand or don’t know where to start, there is a service known as Skills for Learning. It is based within the University’s Library Academic Support team and exists to help students grow, support and develop skills around all elements of academia, from referencing, to essay structuring, time management tactics, even developing your ability to think critically.
I got through my first year of university by reading, prior knowledge from college and using ‘Quote, Unquote’ to help me write all my essays and placement portfolio, but as a second year, I felt I needed to more critically analyse my research material. This is where Skills for Learning came in. Within the Library there are workshops, on the Skills for Learning website, covering everything from essay writing to critical thinking, which are completely free to students.
The workshop I attended, was all about critical thinking and how to apply what everyone does already in terms of reading things and agreeing or disagreeing with them, or making a judgment, such as whether you believe a particular newspaper or an advert on the side of a bus, and applying that critical thinking to academic work and readings. Then breaking down what we’re reading in terms of its main point, what evidence is used and if it’s useful or biased and so on.
I’d never been to one of these workshops, and really didn’t know what to think, or if it would be death by PowerPoint, but it certainly engaged in a way I wasn’t expecting. There were a lot of handouts and on-table discussions were encouraged during activities, especially when analysing advertising posters and what messages did we think they were trying to convey. The workshop even touched upon a paragraph structuring technique that is, in simplest terms, lifesaving, called PEAL (Point you’re making, Evidence you have to back up your point, Analysis of your evidence, and the Link between our analysis and your point). This certainly makes the idea of going to more workshops aPEALing (I’ll stop now). There was even reassurance that slides that were used during the workshop would be available after it ended, so that you didn’t have to spend the whole hour furiously making notes, which helped relax the room and let us engage with the activities.
I think these workshops within the Library are an amazing resource offered, to help us students make the most out of our studies and apply skills that we may already have, or learn new skills to apply to academia.