Every Class Is a Master Class

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Each and every session you have with your lecturer is a master class in your subject. Every session is being delivered by a recognised expert in that subject to you, the future experts in the subject. You will be the people who take the expertise forward and teach it to others, so it is important to understand what an amazing position you are in and why you should prepare to make the most of it.

This Skill is about helping you recognise the different types of traditional class, such as lectures, workshops, and seminars. Topics addressed in this Skill include how to prepare for class, what may be expected of you during class, and how to reflect effectively after class. This Skill also includes suggestions on how to participate in class successfully and on using the appropriate etiquette while in class.

A picture shows a person picking clothes from a rack of clothes on the hangers.

Source: Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash.

Preparing for class is half the battle of getting the most out of the learning opportunity. The first part of this is recognising the type of class you are preparing for and physically preparing for it. Another part is dressing appropriately. Making sure you are comfortable is vital and is likely high on your list of priorities, but following on from this, it’s really important for your health and safety to have the proper attire for your specific situation. If you are working in a laboratory environment, then you may need a laboratory coat; it’s possible to check to find out if you do, and if so, clarify who buys it. If you are engaging in fieldwork, think about planning for weather variations, especially if you might be working in an actual field! If you are having your sessions in a usual classroom, then clothing is all about what is going to keep you comfortable in that situation for a long period of time. You may be required to sit and make notes, so warmth and comfort are the two key driving points here.

A picture shows a notepad, a pencil, a pen, a cup, a ruler, and a laptop neatly placed on a white surface.

Source: Photo by Oli Dale on Unsplash.

Once you have your wardrobe sorted, think through the rest of the items you will need to have with you. Consider if you need to take something to make notes with, whether that’s a pen, pencil, paper, laptop, or whatever you prefer. If you might be working outdoors, perhaps take a plastic wallet with you to protect your notes from being weather damaged. Think about if you will be expected to have made notes on your subject prior to the class. If the class is online, then check that you know how to use the software you will be using during the class and what might be expected of you during the session. Do you need a camera, microphone, and do these items work? Also consider your background: Might you need to change it to a more suitable image or to protect your privacy?

A picture shows the close view behind a large tower clock.

Source: Photo by Murray Campbell on Unsplash.

Once you have your pre-class kit ready to go, the next part of preparing is planning to arrive early and thinking about how early is too early to arrive at your class. Some students have reported that they arrive 30–45 minutes early for in-person sessions and 10 minutes early for online sessions. This is so they can catch up with colleagues before the class, build their community and network, and find out what is happening around the university. It also means they are getting the full amount of quality time with their lecturer as possible and making the most of their time at university.

A picture shows a laptop, a pair of glasses and pen placed on an open notebook.

Source: Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash.

During the session, consider what you actually need to make notes on. Perhaps you might be able to record the session. Many lecturers are okay with this and it can help later if you wish to check you have heard something correctly. However, if you do record the session, please be courteous and adhere to any rules at your university relating to recordings. Take time to create a note-taking system that works for you because you will need to be able to understand your notes later on if they are to be of any help to you.

After the session is when you start to reflect on what was done, said, happened and what it all means. Working through your preferred reflection cycle might help to support you here, but the best support will be in the form of colleagues who attend the same session, your notes, and of course your lecturer. If there is anything you are unsure of, then you can often contact your lecturer and ask them to clarify their points. One of the most important things that might help you is checking through your notes and filling in the gaps as soon as you can, so you forget as little as possible.

Suggested Readings
Coleman, H. (2020). Your super quick guide to university. SAGE Publishing Ltd.
Coleman, H. (2019). Polish your academic writing. SAGE Publishing Ltd.
Palmer, S., & Puri, A. (2006). Coping with stress at university: A survival guide. SAGE Publishing Ltd.
McIlroy, D. (2003). Studying at university how to be a successful student. SAGE Publishing Ltd.