Category Archives: SSK12

Discussion Week 13

Oh oh, Exam time!

I have been looking through all the notes I have made the past 13 weeks and hope to heaven I remember everything. I have experienced poor memory since the birth of my kids and am praying that because I have been using my brain I will retain the information.

My exam is tomorrow at 1.30 and it goes on for two hours, add 40 to 60 minutes travel time and I’m potentially away from my baby for 4 hours. This will be the first time I have left her this long. I will try my best not to worry about her as I fear this might also hinder me during the exam.

Well, best get cramming some more. And praying… I can do this. I know I can.


Posted by on 02/24/2013 in SSK12


Discussion Week 12

Nightingale, Penny, et al. 1996. Assessing Learning in Universities. Sydney: The University of New South Wales Press.

As we get closer to the exam date, this reading introduces some of the reasons behind the need for formal assessment of your learning. Have a look at the ‘Nightingale’ reading and then try answering the following questions:

• Why do we have examinations and other formal assessments?
• What is it that universities want you to demonstrate in an exam?

We’ll keep discussion in this thread restricted to the concepts behind exams. If you have any specific questions about the exam, post them in the exam discussion thread. I will be posting a few exam tips in that thread over the next week or so.


I like how Nightingale broke down the various needs as to WHY assessments are crucial to learning.

For students it’s about making sure they are doing well and are understanding what they are learning and engaging with course content.

For the teachers it’s about making sure they are getting the information across and are able to grade students on an equal basis.

For the university or other institution it’s about making sure the course interesting and manageable and the teachers engaging and supportive.

For the community it’s about whether the graduate is ready and able to put their new skills into practice.

Assessments of any kind can be intimidating, and for myself, essays and exams terrify me, however, I believe a balance of summative and formative assessments will enhance my learning and potentially make me the best student I can be.

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Posted by on 02/24/2013 in SSK12



Discussion: Week 11

Discussion – critical thinking and agonism Week 11


What is the difference between critical thinking (Warren 1995) and agonism (Tannen 2000)?

I think this is an area that frequently causes confusion for students, especially when they are asked to write a critical review.


Warren’s take on critical thinking is a process which involves utilising skills such as problem solving and attitudes such as open mindedness, sensitivity, persistence to name a few to decide “what to or believe” (1995, 206). This process involves critical thinking and creative thinking merging with background knowledge to help create an informed decision. Warren purports that students who think critically do well in their studies because they “realize one’s full human potential as a learner” (1995, 208).


On the other hand, Tannen explains that agonism “refers to ritualised opposition” (2000, 213) where people debate over a topic and the stronger (or louder) person wins. The author further observes that university culture is agonistic and an example is the argument essay where students must take a stance and prove their work is correct while other research is wrong. Another example is when students have debates rather than discussions of a topic, here some students may do well, but others will not due to the aggressive nature of the discourse.


I believe that I have become a critical thinker in that I no longer take things at face value in my personal life as well as in the media and I like asking questions of my world view, however, I am a quiet person by nature and would never take part in a debate. I think that I would not do well if I had to be more aggressive because that’s just not me.


Discussion: Brookfield reading


Can you identify Brookfield’s thesis?

What verbs does the writer use to introduce his references? For instance, in line 2 he says: ‘The New York Times reports that…’ Take notice of these verbs so you can use them in your own writing (‘he argues’, ‘she asserts’, ‘contends’, etc).

There is a nice new word to find in this piece that denotes a questioning, doubting attitude which is necessary to critical thinking but not negative unless in excess?


The thesis was difficult to identify in this reading, but I thought this may have been it: “But critical thinking is an activity that can be observed in settings and domains very far removed from school or college classroom” (Brookfield 1989, 4).  My reasoning is that the book chapter refers to the critical thinking students will do after they leave university, such as in relationships, within a work environment, or when they question politicians or the media.


The author explains that the critical thinking being taught in school or college is vastly different to the critical thinking they do after studying. Brookfield then explains the concepts and how people can learn to think critically to solve their problems outside academia.


Brookfield uses great verbs, such as “… points out”, “…observes”, “specifies”, and “calls for”. The author also used “echoes” and “defines”.


I’m going out on a limb here, but I think the word Kersti is referring to skepticism. Brookfield discusses reflective skepticism in page nine of this reading and how critical thinkers do not take anything at face value. In questioning the motive of others, critical thinkers are aware of their world views and are able to find alternative solutions to their problems.


Posted by on 02/05/2013 in SSK12



Exercise 27: Editing the final draft

1. Evaluate essay writing skills

Discuss your essay writing strengths and weaknesses.

According to my marked essay one, I believe my strengths are correctly formatting my essay and good understanding of referencing. I take particular care in having an aesthetically pleasing essay, because this helps my work stand out. I have learned that good referencing is vital to essay writing, so I make sure I have all my information correct.

My weaknesses continue to be topic sentences and paragraph structure. I worked hard in my essay one, but I still failed to put my plan into action. I have so many ideas that I wish to use, but feel restrained by the word limit. I fear this is something I need to keep a close eye on for my next assessment because I know I need to practice my essay writing skills.

Explain any problems you have with essay writing. Explain if you would benefit from additional assistance.

I really want to work on my paragraph structure and have gone back to previous week’s activities to analyse where I have gone wrong. I am also using the feedback I received for my essay one to help me rectify my mistakes. I would certainly benefit from assistance, I may ask for help from my tutor or fellow students and I will also read out loud my work to my husband for his input.

Compile a list of questions to ask your tutor.

  • Can I confirm I do not need full stops after my in-text referencing and before the brackets? I am little confused about this.
  • Can I also confirm it is best to leave out comments in parentheses?
  • Can I ask for hints and tips on writing effective topic sentences?
  • Am I right in thinking I can only go over 10% of allotted word count for my essays?
  • Can I use two paragraphs to convey one argument?

Reflective Comment

This week’s activity helped me take stock of where I went wrong in my first essay and where I could improve on my style. Together with the feedback I received I hope I can develop a better understanding of essay writing. I understand I really need to work on my topic sentences, which have let me down previously. I think I need to practice because I want to do well as I know I will need to write an essay in my exam at the end of the unit. Having good essay writing skills will also go a long way to boost my confidence in the future.

This week I sat down and really noticed not just where I went wrong, but also what I did right and I was glad to be on the right track. I have learned that I need to give my self a break and be glad that I did well. I stay up until late most nights reading and I have made some adjustments in my life in order to study, such as sending my eldest two children to day care sooner than I planned, but receiving such good marks makes the sacrifices worthwhile. I think that studying and keeping my brain active while I care for my baby is good for me too, because I can remember more now than when I was caring for my eldest two. This to me is good news and I hope I can absorb more as I continue along this path for the rest of my studies.

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Posted by on 01/29/2013 in SSK12



Discussion – Week 10

Discussion – Craig Reading week 10


What are your thoughts about this reading?


I had to enroll in Critical thinking as part of my course, it was in fact one of the first units I attempted in my first SP. I found it incredibly hard to adjust to this way of thinking and just managed a pass.

For this reason I went ahead and read all the critical thinking reading materials from Craig to Brookfield to see if I could get a better understanding of the subject.

I wish I had access to these back then because they are just what I needed. With the concept dictionary entry on Criticism, I’m aware now that by using the word ‘critical’ I had inadvertently put my world view on this way of thinking and I immediately shut down my mind to learning how to do it. Indeed, I thought “I’m not a negative person” nor do I enjoy arguing.

However, Craig underlined the fact that critical thinking is a “questioning spirit of examining a problem or task in order to form and then give judgement” (1994, 201).

This is how I plan to learn in the future – by asking questions, examining everything and not taking things at face value.


Discussion – Warren Reading


What is the relationship between critical thinking and university culture?


This was a great reading in that it was straight forwards and easy to understand.

I believe that in order to be a successful student I need to be able to think critically, but according to Warren I also need to employ creative thinking and be open to gathering background information (1995, 206).

The very skills that Warren describes of a critical thinker are the skills I need to be a better student, such as problem solving or metacognition (thinking about thinking), as well as dispositions such as open mindedness, contextual sensitivity, persistence, and decisiveness.

I agree with Warren that “to engage the critical self is to realize one’s full human potential as a learner (1995, 208) and I can do that by questioning the absolute truth about everything, which I believe is a valuable trait in university culture.

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Posted by on 01/29/2013 in SSK12



Discussion – Week 9

Discussion – Priest Reading Week 9


Remember, we are still on the theme of university culture and a big part of that is writing essays.

So, are essays ‘Expressions of the Interesting’ or, ‘rigid and (even) obsolescent’?

Should you be allowed to express personal opinions on a topic in an essay? Or, is it important to back up your claims and opinions with evidence in the form of quality peer reviewed and scholarly references? If you don’t justify your claims, what would the consequences be? I want you to think not just outside the box here, but why is there a box…?

Are academic essays a way to regurgitate information, or are they a way to think originally and contribute to knowledge in your field? Remember, academic essays are not just written by undergraduates.

What are your thoughts?


I like how Priest is optimistic in this reading, in that students might see essay writing as a joyful activity… To me, it is at times scary and frustrating, other satisfying, but after receiving feedback for my last attempt, I know where to start to improve and hopefully learn from my mistakes.

I think that essay writing is putting your own spin on things, but backing your arguments with references, giving credit where it’s due. I have read some scholarly journals and they cite many other authorities, but I always learn something new.

Who knows? I might one day be cited by a student in the future for research I might conduct as part of my own learning journey!

I think that there are always students who need a little structure and purpose to do well in their studies, so they might welcome the rigidity, and as long as there is learning, essays will be an important aspect of academic life.

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Posted by on 01/29/2013 in SSK12



Discussion – Week 8

Discussion – Ballard & Clanchy Reading

• What is Ballard & Clanchy’s thesis or central argument?

“The need exists for a more encompassing theory, for an explanation that pays due regard to the complexity of the phenomenon and that enables us to account a more systematic way for the apparently infinite variety of student ‘illiteracy’” (Ballard & Clanchy 1988, 7). In other words, students need to learn what is expected of them with regards to using correct language in their field of study or discipline, and of university culture, such language, beliefs and values.
• How is literacy defined by the authors?

Literacy, according to Ballard and Clanchy is the student’s ability to effectively write an essay, for example, using the correct directives such as argue this or critically discuss that, so that a tutor may critique according to their criteria and particular discipline (1988, 8).
• How do the authors define culture in their article?

Culture is defined by rules or understandings at the university. The authors explain that a university culture “shapes the entire process of writing” (1988, 8) by how students form their assessments in relation to the task they are given and how they use their literacy and reasoning skills to do said task.

When students do not acknowledge the culture, they run the risk of poor marks because they have not followed the rules.
• What are sub-cultural rules?

Ballard and Clanchy purport that sub-cultural rules include knowing “the domain of the subject… the mode of analysis… the disciplinary dialect” (1988, 14), but above all students must be aware that every discipline has its own rules and they must use them in the correct context.
• Why do you think students perform well in one discipline and not in another?

I believe, after reading this article that students who do not do well in one discipline may not understand the rules or may be applying another discipline’s rules and not acknowledging the correct culture.

To do well a student may need to learn not just the unit’s content, but also the style of writing, referencing and language used according to that discipline.

Discussion – Collusion and Collaboration

Why is collusion harmful and collaboration beneficial in university study?

Just seconding JB’s motion, collusion occurs when student may be studying together and one takes advantage of the other and hands in work that is not original; in most universities this would be grounds of expulsion for both or all students involved. Collaboration, on the other hand is a meeting and discussion of ideas, but with students handing in unique work with their own references, essay structure, language and ideas. This is sharing ideas and resources and more beneficial because everyone gains a new perspective.

Discussion – Plagiarism

Plagiarism is an issue which is taken very seriously by all universities as academic integrity is highly valued.

What is plagiarism?

“Plagiarism constitutes using the work of another without indicating by referencing (and by quotation marks when exact phrases or passages are borrowed) that the ideas expressed are not one’s own.”
Again JB has nailed it on the head. I just wanted to add that it may not be a students fault; it may simply be that they have not read the Academic Integrity web page provided by the university.

If anyone is interested here is the link
Especially at the undergraduate level, why do students have to support each claim they make in an essay with a scholarly reference? Can you express your personal opinion or assessment in an essay if it is not backed up by a scholarly reference?

Students need to support their opinions or claims with references because it gives their arguments more weight and credibility while acknowledging the work of the original writer.

If you need to back up each claim you make in an essay with a reference, is it still possible to demonstrate original thought?

I believe so, as long as the work being referenced is kept to a minimum and the ideas used are in the students own words. In-text citing and referencing should be done correctly as well.


Posted by on 01/20/2013 in SSK12


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