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Induction Week

This week saw the start of the School of English induction week at the university, and we’re half-way through with minimal amount of hardship or stress (huzzah!), with what seem quite contented and motivated students. This is especially noteworthy because this year’s induction week was organised by yours truly, and generally, my organisational skills are nothing to write home about (at least if I could find the address). But I managed to put together a good programme of events for them, yesterday a few of our current 2nd and 3rd year students gave the new 1st years their own perspective on being a student in the department, and today we had a reasonably well attended ‘social event’ with fantastic crisps, pretzels and o.j. (of the juice variety, not the Simpson variety).

What I’ve been struck by, though, is the amount of stuff that we have to get through in induction week just to get new students up to speed with all the technical demands of being a student; CICT training, moodle, printing, logging in to the computers, finding out where things are, learning about referencing, academic writing, where the cash points are, how to use the library, JSTOR, LION, where lectures are, how the seminars work, assessments, etc etc etc. It seems almost never-ending and today when I was talking about academic writing, I couldn’t help but think that their poor brains must be on melt-down trying to take in this over-load of information…

And it’s not as though we don’t have a choice in not going over this stuff since it’s so important for students just being able to function effectively. Of course, a lot of them will learn as they go, but we still have to at least flag up the kinds of things that I mention above. Since 1st year students tend not to be particularly inquisitive, if we don’t make them aware that resources like the library exist, I’m sure it would take them the better part of their 1st year to figure out where the library is, and another six months to figure out how to use it.

But just how realistic is it to expect that all of what we cover in induction week will actually stick? What kinds of things to other people cover at their inductions? Are they compulsory or optional? How much detail do you go in about academic writing (I nearly wrote ‘anemic writing’ there… Freudian slip or getting tired?), for example? Are the kinds of things we (i.e. academic staff) think are useful actually useful? What do students think is useful and what would they like to see (we do try and make our induction weeks iterative and build on feedback from previous years)?

Anyway, it would be good to hear people’s thoughts on induction week, either ones you’ve been involved in, ones you’ve attended, or ones that you’re in the middle of. Only 3 days left of mine to go…

The Social Linguist

  1. adph
    September 21, 2011 at 10:37 am

    When I started at Birmingham, I didn’t attend a library tour, so you’re right about not using the library for the first six months (or longer….)

    The most important thing at BCU, for me, was the social aspect. While it was daunting and often uncomfortable to be sat next a stranger and “have” to work with/talk to them, it’s undoubtably important. At the university like BCU it’s arguably even more imporant, given that most students live at home and travel in, missing out on those campus-based social activities you get at other unis.

    I think it’s worth spreading out some of the induction material over the year (which happens anyway). I don’t remember using Jstor, Swetswise or LION in the first term very often, if at all. It might be worth holding off going into those resources until later. It’s definately worth reminding people of the intricacies of those resources in each semester; I get the impression that some people still weren’t sure of how to use them into the third year. Maybe one off induction sessions throughout the year(s)?

    Related to that, the other thing I did was set up a RSS reader (e.g. Google Reader) with the update feeds from any journals that were relevant. For people who want to study further that’s really useful for keeping up-to-date with the field. But it’s also useful if you want an initial idea of what do for undergraduate coursework. Maybe this sort of thing is best left for later in the year as well, though.

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