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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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4.3.4 Monitor and critically reflect on your use of communication skills

You need to know how to track and record your progress on your use of communication skills. Try to assess the overall quality of your written and oral work and the way you produced the work. Checklists and criteria provided as part of the project or assignment and those set out in the Bookmark can be very useful tools in helping you to assess for yourself precisely what you are doing and how well you are doing it. Unless you know what you are doing wrong, it is very difficult to improve.

To help you critically reflect on how you have used and adapted your communication skills, you may need actively to seek feedback from others to help you make a judgement on your performance and to support your own assessment. It is often helpful to ask for feedback on a specific aspect. This will make it useful and relevant to you. If you can, look at work other people have done to help consider the quality of your own work. Take time to use feedback constructively, considering it thoughtfully and weighing up any action you might take.

Time out

Think about how you can keep track of and record your progress, perhaps by using your Skills File differently. You also need to identify reliable sources of feedback (such as your tutor) and be able to use feedback constructively to help you monitor your performance.

Judging and diagnosing precise problems in your own work is difficult. Below are two checklists. The first gives common criticisms of written work, and these may act as diagnostic cues. The second is a list of helpful hints or ideas to help you in reading and understanding written material. You may find it useful to use these to help you monitor progress and improve your communication skills. Most study skills books contain helpful hints like these.

Checklist to help diagnose common problems in written work
Choppy – ideas aren't connected very well
Hard to tell what the point is
Too much space given to one point
Argument ignores an obvious point of criticism
Doesn't give any reason to take the idea seriously
Part of the essay doesn't belong with the rest
Incomplete idea
Says something that is not believable
Puts ideas in a clumsy way
The reader will have thought of this already
Weak reasoning
Too few ideas
Example doesn't help to explain the ideas
(Source: Adapted from Scardamalia, M. and Bereiter, C. (1985) ‘Development of dialectical processes in composition’, in Olson, D. R., Torrance, N. and Hildyard, A. (eds), Literacy, Language and Learning: the nature and consequences of reading and writing, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press)

Checklist of hints and tips that students have found useful in relation to reading, understanding and remembering complex material
Reread some of the material
Underline or highlight the main ideas
Ask yourself questions to test your understanding
Re-state the materials in your own words
Take notes
Make an outline of the material
Summarise the material
Draw diagrams or pictures related to the material
Relate it to what you already know
Look for logical relations with the material
Mentally identify the most important ideas
Relate the material to your own ideas
Think about how the material could be used
Relate the material to your own experience
Think about your emotional or critical reaction to the material
(Source: Adapted from Spring, C. (1985), ‘Comprehension and study strategies reported by university freshmen who are good and poor readers’, Instructional Science, vol. 14, pp.157–67)