This is the process of taking control of your learning. It may take some time and you will gradually develop this skill over the course of your degree.
There are key elements associated with self-directed learning that you will find helpful as you manage more of your studies.
This last point is really important: ask for help if you are unsure about what you have been asked to do. Supervisions are a great opportunity to ask for more information about something you didn't understand when working on the set task.
A large part of self-directed learning is managing your workload, knowing what you need to do and learning efficient ways of managing all the tasks you have to complete. Academic staff know that it will be a process of trial and error as you get the balance right. Don't worry if it seems as though you have a lot to do in a short time; others will be experiencing the same sort of challenges. Here, some of our undergraduates explain how quickly their concerns about the workload at Cambridge were allayed.
With thanks to:
Dhruv (Human, Social, and Political Sciences)
Anna (Human, Social, and Political Sciences)
For many students, there will be an element of choice in the papers that you study at Cambridge. This may be in your first term or later in your course. Either way, this is the exciting part of studying at university as opposed to school or college: following your interests to develop expertise in a particular area. If you don't get the chance to specialise straight away, think about what really excites you in your subject area so that you can be strategic with your choices when the time comes.
For those with reading lists, you will have to choose what to read. Many academic staff do not expect you to read everything on the list. Some may prioritise items for you, breaking them down into essential, recommended and background reading. With other lists it may be up to you to identify general texts as opposed to those which are more specialist and relate to a specific topic.
You may be able choose an essay question or have the chance to formulate questions yourself. You will certainly have to make choices about what to revise and which questions to answer in exams.
Depending how much you have to do in a week, you may also have to make choices about how much effort you put into something and what will be the quality of the finished product, given the constraints on your time.
With thanks to:
Sean (Computer Science)
Jessica (Human, Social, and Political Sciences)
These skills will, over time, become second nature. However, to begin with it might be helpful to do a bit of planning before launching into a piece of work. Ultimately, it will save you time by giving a clear sense of direction. This is a three-stage process:
You're likely to have a deadline for the finished product:
Ultimately, you will need to develop good time management skills to help you achieve your learning objectives and produce the final product, and that is the focus of the next page in this section.
Think of a goal; something you want to achieve in the near future. Write this across the top of a piece of paper. Then list tasks underneath, each one at the top of a column. Under each task, list the sub-tasks.
There is a link to a template below if you wish to use this.
For example, in preparation for starting university you may have several tasks: complete introductory exercises/readings, read information from your college, tidy up your desktop on your laptop, and pack your suitcase. Each of those can be subdivided. For example: 'pack suitcase' could include four further tasks: deciding on which clothes, books, posters and equipment to take. Allocate time and resource to this. For example, do you need to ask friends, buy something, email the college?
This process will give you a much better sense of the task that lies ahead. Read our section on time management to help you put this plan into action.
With thanks to:
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