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Writing Skills

The Writing Skills programme seeks to develop student literacy within the BA (Liberal Arts) in students of all abilities, encouraging them to read and think critically, to meet the demands of formal essay writing and to attend to issues of grammar, mechanics, usage and punctuation. The students are encouraged to develop their writing as a process (Collect-Focus-Order-Draft-Clarify) so that the exercise of writing becomes a learning and reflective experience.

Writing Skills involves a series of seminars and workshops taken in years 1 and 2 of the degree. While this programme is part of the BA degree, it is closely linked with the support for student writing offered by the Writing Centre: one-on-one tutorials for students are available at the request of students or academic staff. The Writing Centre also supports research into the teaching of writing and is currently engaged in a funded project on peer tutoring.

Oral Skills

The ubiquity of oral communication often means that we fail to analyse and develop our skills for good conversation, argumentation and debate. We underutilise our range of abilities and fail to hone our skills for persuasive communication. Over the two years students are encouraged to become more aware of their voice and of the act of communication. In a learning context, emphasis is placed on the link between clear communication and rigorous thought.

In year 1 students are introduced to the basic principles of presentation and argumentation enabling them to build their confidence for speaking in public. Through a series of practical workshops involving discussions, argument and debate, students develop their skills in listening and talking. A basic question underpinning the sessions is: "How do I sound to others?"

Year 2 workshops build on the presentational skills developed in year 1 and use the common experience of the interview as a focus for activities. Moving on from presentation, students develop the skills of interrogation. These skills have practical application in the workplace and also in academic discourse.

Intellectual Skills

The development of the appropriate skills for intellectual enquiry takes place throughout the degree. To introduce students to the accepted skills levels for higher education, and to the methodology of learning through seminars, we offer year 1 students two course units. In the opening weeks of the academic year, there is a series of presentations and workshops on Study Skills at University. Throughout year 1, students take part in a seminar series called Reading Skills. Based on a model common in American colleges, these seminars use selected readings which relate to the major curricular themes of the LA programme. Students meet on a regular basis with a tutor to discuss the readings and to relate these to their other studies within the year 1 programme. Tutors guide students to develop their attention to reading and analysis of argument; their analytical thinking; their library and investigative skills; and their utilization of discussion, dialogue and conversation as learning methodologies.

In year 2, students take part in a further intensive course concerning Research Skills. This series of presentations and workshops prepares students for social science research projects in their final year. As well as reviewing issues relating to literature searches, this unit explores the design and construction of questionnaires and interviews.