On Tuesday 26th September 2017, as part of our induction for sport and fitness students studying at the Open University, we held a live induction event through our Student Hub Live platform. If you missed the session you can watch the full video here on the link below or you can watch the individual videos of each session below.
Session 1: Sport and Fitness Qualification Overview (Caroline Heaney and Ben Oakley)
Session 2: Sport and Fitness Blog and Social Media (Helen Owton and Karen Howells)
Session 3: The Role of the Tutor (Helen Owton and Ola Fadoju)
Session 4: E117 App Demonstration (Ben Langdown and Caroline Heaney)
Session 5: The Student Journey (Jess Pinchbeck and Caroline Heaney)
The summer is here and for those who want to use it to your advantage here are some top tips on how you could get a First in Sport and help you get ahead for your next academic year!
One of the top tips for students wanting to gain a first in their subject is to have a passion for their subject (Tefula, 2012). The vast majority of sport and health science students share some sort of sporting experiences given that the majority of students partake in sport themselves. Indeed, I argue that these sports science students tend to be ‘active learners’ (Owton, 2016) which means that the best students make notes in learning sessions which can help if you have a short concentration span. Get the most from your lectures by doing pre-reading, take notes and record the sessions and listening to podcasts of lectures that relate to your topic area.
Reflect on personal experience
As sports students, you are in an ideal position to reflect upon your own experiences. Indeed, previous sporting experiences have been sources of confidence for sport psychology graduates and this experiential knowledge can have a major impact on a student’s development (Brown, Gould and Foster, 2005). Martens (1987) has highlighted the importance of experiential knowledge which is vital in areas such as sport psychology and sociology to forming relationships, understanding the human experience, and introspection of self. This is something sports students can use to their advantage and making the most of activities that give you the opportunities to think with personal experience and blend this with academic literature to support your claims will help gain you first in your final degree.
Prior knowledge is another tip for getting a first. Again, sports students have an advantage here with their shared experiences in sport. Also, you have lots of opportunities at the Open University to engage in free OU learning courses at different levels and participate in the Skills Check on the library website (https://www2.open.ac.uk/students/skillsforstudy/assignments.php). You could use the summer holidays before and during your studies to participate in the free OU learning courses to give you a head start. It means you keep a foot in the door of studying as well so you build on your knowledge from year to year.
Reference, reference, reference! Whilst prior knowledge and experience bodes well for students wanting to get a first for their degree, it goes without saying that referencing your points with supporting literature helps strengthen your arguments. This demonstrates that you have read widely and the more widely you read the more you will understand the wider arguments embedded in the topic areas.
When we think of someone with a good work ethic, we might think of someone who is self-disciplined, professional, responsible, positive, organised, dedicated, accountable and humble. These are all qualities that help towards gaining a first in your degree, but being disciplined by making the most of the time and space you have is key to giving yourself the right environment to process what you are reading and digesting. Just remember to submit mitigating circumstances and seek support if you need to.
It much more challenging when you are juggling family, part-time or full time work, multiple modules, relationships and other personal responsibilities which is why this is one of the key aspects. If you cannot study at home or at work, there are plenty of other places which might suit you better – cafes, libraries, hotel receptions. Try different locations for different tasks to see what suits you.
An Open Mind
Your degree lasts 3years and longer which is a commitment to learning, but once you recognise that learning is something that happens through life and your career and doesn’t stop once you complete your degree then this opens up a new way of thinking outside the box. I’m sure some of you are familiar with Carol Dweck’s concept of the growth mindset given that this theory is covered in some of the Sport & Fitness modules. A growth mindset is the idea that talents and abilities can be learned and developed through constant effort, determination and persistence. In other words, with hard work, you could get a first. Working hard and putting in lots of effort isn’t just enough if you are not working hard on the right aspects. Imagine a hamster running round and round in a wheel; the hamster is working really hard but isn’t getting anywhere. If you are not working hard on the right things then whilst you might feel like you worked really hard you haven’t achieved the grade you want because you haven’t worked smart.
Take exam preparation as an example. You can read and re-read notes over and over again until you are blue in the face, but there are strategies for revising which help you to master memory. Testing your memory with Cue cards will be more effective than reading your notes over and over again. Being strategic about how you revise and work will help you achieve the grade you want which is the same about how you work and prepare for your assignments. Reading widely around a topic is a good start, but don’t just include everything you have read and think that a long reference list will get you high marks. Remember, you need to be selective about the things you have read and form a coherent and convincing argument which answers the question.
Writing is a craft
Preparing your assignments in advance of the deadline is a useful strategy. This gives you the opportunity to proofread your work, let others proofread it, give yourself space from the assignment and then craft your assignment with fresher eyes. Writing is a craft which needs work and not even the best writers share their first draft.
Make your final assignment count!
Remember, at the Open University, your final assignment can sometimes determine your overall grade regardless of how well you have done in your overall TMAs. Think about where you expend your energies and how you apply yourselves to make your final grade count.
Run your own race
Remember the best athletes are those who focus on their own race, their own personal best and don’t compare their results with others. Make the most of your degree but remember to look after your body and mind (keep a check on exercise, diet, alcohol and sleep).
Brown, C., Gould, D., and Foster, S. (2005). A Framework for developing contextual intelligence (CI), The Sport Psychologist, 19, 51-62.
Martens, (1987). Science, knowledge, and sport psychology. The Sport Psychologist, 1, 29-55.
Tefula, M. (2012). How to get a first. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Many students find referencing confusing and it seems that confusion comes from not fully understanding what is meant by voicing your own opinion in the context of an academic essay. Indeed, you are asked to write about what others have found and argued yet at the same time, you are told that you need to think for yourselves and come up with your own ideas and interpretations. According to Norton et al. (2009), those who are skilled essay writers respond to the essay by:
Reading the relevant sources
Formulating an argument that represents their personal stance
Ensuring that all the points they make in their essays are supported with evidence from the literature
Knowing when to reference and the specific conventions required can prove difficult, however, particularly for students new to studying at university level. The flowchart below “Is a reference needed?” provides some useful guidance for you:
Adapted from Cardiff University, 2006
As the diagram points out, you cannot make claims about knowledge in your essays without backing up with reference to the appropriate sources. It is the same with concepts and ideas. It might help to think about your own experiences; for example, think about how annoying you might find someone passing off one of your ideas in a meeting as their own without mentioning that the original idea came from you. As Jill, a student (cited in Norton et al., 2009, p. 79) points out “You can’t just make a point and leave it at that, you need to show the evidence is out there. This has been said and it is in this journal or this book” At undergraduate level, most points and ideas should be referenced, therefore, search through relevant journals and find previous research in order to support your points. First and foremost, you should use the module materials in order to show your understanding of what you have studied. As you increase through the levels (e.g. level 3), you might start to use other different sources of information as listed below:
Journals: the quantity and quality of your evidence will increase greatly and so will your topic of the area
Textbooks e.g. the Study Guide or Reader for your module(s).
Other credible documents
In E217 Sport and Conditioning Science into Practice, for example, you are encouraged to explore sources outside the module material to produce a “Personal Investigation”. Not only must you cite where you found ideas or knowledge, you must do this accurately as referencing is essential in higher education. You must do this in 2 ways:
In the text, by putting in brackets the author’s surname (not their initials) and the date when the study/book was published
And in the referencing section at the end of your essay, by alphabetically listing, by author, all journals, books, websites and other sources you referred to in the main text of your essay
Additionally, in sport, the general rule of thumb is to avoid using too many quotes because summarising information helps you understand something better as well as demonstrate your understanding to the person reading your work. Including too many quotes can result in a very superficial response to a question and when you are being marked you are not demonstrating your understanding to the reader/tutor. You should therefore keep direct quotes to a minimum and look to summarise (paraphrase) the information you have read whenever possible. Despite the need for referencing and citing appropriately, you must write about it in your own words. This can help demonstrate your understanding of what you have read and that you can apply this understanding to the question you are attempting to answer. Remember to reference it in the text AND in the reference list at the end of the essay. By doing this you are meeting academic criteria.
It is important to get your head round referencing because a lack of referencing can directly affect the overall quality of your response to a question and consequently affect how tutors mark the essays. Many tutors take the view that when students have been told how to do something in their writing and then do not do it, it is valid to penalise them by lowering their mark (Norton et al., 2009). This happens particularly when a student’s turnitin scores are high (e.g. over 25%) which shows a high level of copying directly from another source or putting things in your own words.
In order to gain further information about referencing on your module take a look at the Assessment Guide, available from the module website. The Open University library provides a range of resources to assist with academic writing and referencing. The Referencing and Plagiarism section here contains further information along with a very useful video about plagiarism. In addition, the Study Skills section on your StudentHome page also contains some very useful resources to help you plan and write assignments. Remember too that your tutor is there to provide support so do get in contact with them if you would like some specific advice about referencing.
In essence, “Every single name that appears in anything you write must be followed by a date in brackets, and the full reference must be presented at the end of your assignment” (Norton et al., 2009, p. 83). These cited references should then be listed at then end of your assignment in a reference list.
Norton, L., and Pitt, E. with Harrington, K., Elander, J. and Reddy, P. (2009). Writing Essays at University: A Guide for Students by Students. London: London Metropolitan University, Write now Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.