Teaching, Learning & Study Skills A Guide for Tutors

Author(s) Burns, Tom & Sinfield, Sandra
Publisher SAGE
Published 2004
Pages 273
ISBN 1412900697
Reviewed by Dr June Mitchell
University of Strathclyde
Review published 2 March 2005

“Teaching, Learning & Study Skills A Guide for Tutors” is a very distinctive adjunct to the literature on study skills for Higher Education students. As well as constituting a companion volume to “Essential Study Skills: The complete guide to success @ university”, also by Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield, this guide directs advice and support to lecturers in Higher Education who have responsibilities for teaching students the requirements of academic study at this level. In the words of the authors the activities in the guide are: ‘designed to make transparent the forms and processes of academic discourse and to introduce a variety of strategies that enable students to become successfully inducted into academic practice’ (page 3). While Burns and Sinfield identify non-traditional university students as their focus in the book, it is clear that all students beginning higher education studies would benefit from the explications and modelling of what is required in university courses at all undergraduate levels.

In the first section of the book, Chapters One to Six, the authors explore the issues relating to widening participation and the needs of students coming to academic studies who lack confidence in their abilities to adapt to the routines of higher education. Many of the activities and reflections in this section ask the tutors and lecturers to reconsider their preconceptions and to adjust their approaches to teaching and organising learning activity within the subject discipline they teach. In the body of the text approaches and activities are suggested to deal with the typical requirements of studying in academic institutions: research and reading, making notes effectively, presentations and seminars, writing essays and reports, group work and group assignments, exam technique. Chapter Fourteen advocates strategies to develop reflective practice in student work and the final chapter proposes ways of embedding the book’s approaches beyond the originating Learning Development departments.

The chapters are short and very focused. Each is structured with ‘coverage’ boxes, a brief general introduction, bulleted lists of issues/advice/tips for tutors and for student activities, a conclusion section summarising the chapter’s points and full and detailed bibliography and further reading lists. Quotes from students and lecturers are used to illuminate the suggestions. The assertions and reflections of the authors are supported by wide and diverse academic research findings and theorising. Appendix A contains bibliographic and skills websites, both UK and US, and Appendix B offers a modular approach to teaching the skills of academic study to beginning students. The Resources section consists of 30 photocopiable sheets to support the activities and many of these are cross referenced to the companion student guide.

Though Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield have produced this guide from a background of Learning Development or Study Support and target non-traditional university entrants, there are few lecturers in higher education who would find no value in using the strategies the authors suggest. In producing this guide they have made it very easy for any lecturer to adapt their current practices to make the orientation and induction sessions more focused and student learning more effective. This book is highly recommended for its reflections on beginner student experiences and for its strategies for meeting learning needs.