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Learning how to learn

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4.2 Analysing the task

This involves you in analysing both the learning task, (e.g. working through the text, other readings, calculations, experiments) as well as the assessed task (e.g. the assignment). It is important to work out from the start just what this part of the course requires you to do as well as to know.

Activity 5

Scan through your course material, looking at section headings, activities etc. Check any other components of the course you may have been provided with or directed towards. This could be other reading, audio-visual material, or electronic texts. Then look at the assignment. Take particular note of any guidance you’ve been given. This may have been given verbally by your tutor or in student notes. Also look at the criteria that will be used in marking it. If you have a choice of questions for your assignment, look at them all at this stage – it will also help you see what to expect and look out for as you study. Make notes as you compile this overview.


Here's Tim's list of what his next assignment requires:

What I need to know sounds really daunting - I've looked through the next assignment question and the advice. There are two parts to the question. This is what I need to know:

The basic elements of classical architecture

The form of the Colosseum - structure, decoration, shape

Its function - why it was built and what it was used for

The relationship between form and function

How far the functional needs were achieved in the design

What the Roman Games were all about

The reasons why they were important for the Romans

Some idea of the relative importance of these reasons (seems difficult, I think I will need to weigh things up - possible weakness)

What primary sources are

How they should be approached

How to decide which bits of the course material are relevant (I'm getting there but I do find it time-consuming)

How to structure the work (I believe I'm OK at this now)

How to answer the question within a tight word limit (a weakness)

How to be analytical rather than just descriptive (a definite weakness!)

Addition to skills audit completed earlier

I've looked back at the early skills audit that I did and I note that I need all the same skills again plus a few more for this assignment. I'll need to be able to synthesise the information. It's all there in the material but I've got to pick out the right bits and direct them to a particular question. I've also got to look at some detailed architectural drawings which are a bit like diagrams and understand the technical bits.

From the overview, you will get a good idea of what to expect in terms of content as well as an indication of what learning skills you may need. Pause for a moment and look back on previous parts of your course or other courses you have studied; or on earlier learning experiences that are relevant to the current task. This may help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as a learner. In what skills needed for this task are you particularly strong? What areas need improving? This analysis can be quite specific, perhaps based on feedback from previous assignments or, if the current task demands something new, only very general points from your previous learning may seem relevant.

To get an overview of what she had to do, Sue made a comprehensive analysis of what the next part of her course entailed and then looked in detail at the assignment that followed. Here are her notes on the assignment.

Assignment 7. Assignment booklet useful here as it tells me about:

  • assessment strategy and the role of assessment in learning
  • subheadings in essays, spelling, diagrams and referencing
  • computer-marked assignment strategy and the role of formative and summative computer-marked assignments
  • tutor-marked assignment strategy and gives hints on things like sequence for setting out arguments in essays and why short answer questions are 'tiered'
  • marking strategy and explains why over 55% is good and over 70% is very good
  • skills expected and tested in the course
  • a.understanding of key facts and concepts
  • b.clear, concise and coherent writing
  • c.interpretation of data from tables, charts and graphs
  • d.experimental design and analysis
  • e.integration of material from different parts of the course
  • f.interpretation of new data in relation to material in the course.

Assignment 7: 2 questions, Q1 = essay, Q2 = 4 parts.

  • Q1: essay 'Compare and contrast psychoses and neuroses'. Answer in no more than 1200 words.
  • It carries 50% of total marks for the assignment.
  • It tells me that it refers mainly to book 6 material but information from other parts of the course may also be relevant.
  • It tells me about marks to be deducted if I go over the word limit.
  • Q2: A four-part question about Parkinson's Disease.
  • Part (a) has 15% of total assignment marks; (b) = 10% (c) = 10% (d) = 15%.
  • It tells me to refer to the tables in the Assignment Booklet. Table 1 for part (b) Table 2 for (c) and both tables for (d).
  • It tells me that it refers mainly to book 6 material but information from other parts of the course may also be relevant.