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Lecturer's advice

In this section, one of your lecturers - Tanya Kantanis - answers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about researching and writing of reports in first-year Education.

FAQs: Click on those topic areas that are of interest to you, or that you need to know more about.

  1. What are the common problems students have with writing assignments in education?
  2. What are the objectives of the perspectives on learning assignment?
  3. What do students handle well/poorly?
  4. How should I read for the assignment?
  5. How do the writing requirements differ from those in VCE?
  6. What are the important points to keep in mind when writing the assignment?
  7. How is it assessed?

1. What are the common problems students have with writing assignments in education?


  • misinterpreting the demands and focus of the task
  • paying insufficient attention to presentation
  • expecting the university learning experience to be not much different from school

Students can misinterpret the demands and focus of the task or take insufficient care to ensure the points they make are relevant, pay attention to clarity, or use correct grammar and spelling.

Some of these difficulties arise from the more independent learning style expected at university and can include the following:

  • Students were provided with more detailed explanation and "interpretation" of tasks at school.
  • At school, students had the benefit of producing one (or more) drafts of a task for teacher feedback prior to submission; whereas at university, submitted work is the final draft.
  • Students may be confused by the different models of language they get from the media (printed and electronic), academics, teachers, family, and friends.

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2. What are the objectives of the perspectives on learning assignment?

Summary: Students are assesed on

  • understanding theory
  • translation of theory into practice
  • skilled observation and data collection
  1. This particular assignment is aimed at the translation of theory into practice. Through practical classroom observation and reflection, students are able to come to a better understanding of the key theoretical concepts of this first-year Education subject.
  2. Through the experience of researching and writing this assignment it is hoped students will:

    • develop the skills of astute observation, accurate data collection, data interpretation, and analysis
    • learn how to ground the theory they have learned through observation of classroom practice
    • become more skilled at talking about the teaching and learning they have observed, developing an awareness of how they use their own language
  3. In the preparation for - and writing of - their assignments, students are expected to:
    • draw on course content covered up to the point of the practicum placement
    • make use of what they have been taught about careful observation, accurate recording of data, interpretation of data, and data analysis
    • meet, to the best of their abilities, the criteria for assessment (content, presentation, and submission)
    • engage with the content of the subject, and demonstrate this understanding in the way they utilise the data gathered
    • have basic information technology skills, as the completed assignment must be submitted electronically

This assignment is representative of other Education assignments, as one such assignment is set per semester to relate the practicum experience to the content of the subject. However, it should be noted that other types of assignment are also set.

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3. What do students handle well/poorly?


  • understanding how the assignment fits together
  • distinguishing the different criteria
  • analysing
  • determining relevance

A number of difficulties typically arise for first-year Education students as they write their assignments. Some students experience difficulty in:

  • understanding how the discrete components of an assignment fit together
  • distinguishing the relative importance attached to the specified criteria (i.e. in terms of weighting).
  • producing analysis (there is a tendency to lapse into description)

A particular difficulty lies in analysing the data in light of theoretical issues. Students need to recognise how, why, and in light of what purposes their observations are significant. They also need to be able to discriminate, to recognise that not everything observed is significant. It is the theory that provides us with the means of deciding which observations are significant and which are not. It is through analysis that the significance of data is clarified.

In general, students handle well a number of aspects:

  • Given time to adjust to the different types of written work expected of them, as well as clarification (explicit or implicit) of lecturer expectations, most students generally manage well. Most students develop increased engagement with, and understanding of, the subject. Of great help are the oral presentations and assignment-related class discussions that serve as "drafts" for the written assignments through the process of a feedback loop.
  • Students' knowledge that this is the first subject of a two-part sequence taught by the same staff and with the same peers encourages active participation in tutorials. This comfort level is as important in terms of the affective domain as the subject content is important in the cognitive domain.

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4. How should I read for the assignment?


  • Read additional references
  • Think consciously about your own learning
  • Most of the readings for Education are provided for students in the subject handbook. Students are, however, encouraged to undertake reading beyond that which is immediately available to them. Often they will be provided with additional references.
  • As this first-year subject focuses on "learning", it is important that students develop the capacity to discuss learning from various theoretical perspectives. Reading and understanding the relevant literature and being metacognitive (i.e. thinking about your own learning) are both important elements of developing this capacity.
  • As with many other subjects (especially at first-year), many students adopt the "minimalist" approach, i.e. completing only the bare minimum of reading. Those students who are prepared to extend themselves usually see their efforts rewarded with better grades.

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5. How do the writing requirements differ from those in VCE?

Summary: At uni, the emphasis is more on

  • demonstrating understanding
  • the important relationship between theory and practice

The writing requirements of VCE differ from those of this course in several ways.

Writing at VCE is more prescriptive than in this first-year Education subject. The agenda for assessment in the two sectors is different. At school, teachers assist students to produce work to the best of the students' ability, and the assessment emphasis is on ascertaining the amount of knowledge acquired by students. It is sometimes assumed that if students write well in VCE, they will automatically write well at university. It is misleading, however, to assume that a simple and direct correlation exists between success at secondary school and success at university.

At university, although the purpose of most assessable work is also summative, the emphasis is placed more on students demonstrating their level of understanding of the subject matter, rather than on students demonstrating how much knowledge they have acquired. That is, the emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. Students need to appreciate the purpose of assessment. Stringing together acquired knowledge is not as powerful as demonstrating what new meanings have been constructed - i.e. what new understandings have resulted from the learning.

It is true to say that the earlier assignments also serve a formative function in that they provide guidance to the student and the university teacher as to which aspects of the course have been understood and which others still require further attention and work.

Writing in Education enables school-leaver students particularly to ease into academic writing because the theory is consolidated with practice. This assignment enables students to benefit from the discussion of their observations with the practising teachers they have observed as well as through reflective discussion with their peers. The strong and immediate nexus between theory and practice makes Education subjects distinctive - especially in first year.

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6. What are the important points to keep in mind when writing the assignment?

As you prepare to do an Education assignment in general, and the Perspectives on Learning assignment in particular, it is important to keep several things in mind. Make sure you:

  • understand the demands of the assigned task
  • appreciate the significance of the discrete components of a task and the manner in which these are linked
  • distinguish what is relevant from what is irrelevant
  • move beyond description to analysis in assignments
  • recognise the importance of providing supporting evidence for claims made (whether from the literature or from data collected)

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7. How is it assessed?

The main considerations when assessing the Perspectives on Learning assignment are the student's demonstrated level of:

  • understanding of the concepts
  • engagement with the concepts
  • understanding of the specific task
  • ability to express him-/herself clearly and concisely

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