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6.2 Monitoring your performance

As you move into actually doing the assignment, the emphasis on consciously trying to monitor how you are performing continues to be important. This involves checking your work while you are working on the task rather than waiting until you have almost completed it before you look back at what you have done. You may wonder why we place so much emphasis on monitoring what you are doing. The reason is that if you check regularly what and how you are doing and are aware of your progress and performance, you are less likely to lose sight of the task and more likely to make appropriate changes as you work. For example, part of monitoring your performance as you complete an assignment is to make sure you check and re-check any guidelines or criteria given any student notes or guidance you’ve received. Even though you may have done this as part of your initial preparation and planning, it is very easy to lose sight of the question as you immerse yourself in study and then rush into producing the assignment.

Advice in student notes and grading criteria are sometimes ignored by students who then cannot understand why their grades are disappointing. Sometimes students drift away from the question, forgetting any advice they may have read, so this is something you should focus on both before starting and while working on the task. If you are given the marking criteria against which you will be scored but find them difficult to understand, don't be afraid to ask your tutor for clarification so that you will know how to use the criteria to enhance your work.

Activity 9

Try to find time to pause and think about the process of actually producing the assignment. It will give you a real insight into how you demonstrate your learning and produce material for assessment. If you can keep notes as a running commentary while you do this, it will give you an opportunity to review and possibly improve the process.


As part of a research project, some students were asked to keep a small tape recorder beside them to record their progress as they worked on an assignment. The evidence from the study suggested that the students involved may have gained as much from the experience as those responsible for the research.

Tim did his talking aloud on the phone to Jane, another student on the same course. Their tutor had suggested that the only way to become good at analysing poems and paintings was to practise doing it. Students were encouraged to pair up and do this regularly over the telephone in the lead-up to the final, compulsory assignment.

Right, now, as you know I've been a bit nervous about doing poems but I've written down the stages we agreed at our last meeting and tried to apply them. I've read it through several times and each time I jotted down a few notes in terms of what I think it's about. I think it's about a model who's upset at how unattractively she has been portrayed.

Right, count the lines - 14 - traditional for a sonnet. Whoops, I nearly forgot the title, oh, yes, perhaps she was a famous artist.

OK, next stage, the rhyme scheme. Oh, yes, it's ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Ah, good, although this is a modern sonnet it follows the traditional Shakespearean rhyme scheme. That gives me a clue to the next part of the process - the structure. Yes, after line 8 the tone changes, that's the 'turn' and the final two lines say something punchy to finish it off. Now I can see quite clearly that there are two ways to look at the structure - we can talk about the significance of that in a bit.

Now, I'll talk about the rhythm. I'm expecting it to follow the tradition for the Shakespearean sonnet - da da, da da, da da, da da, da da - yes, it does have 10 stresses for each line.

Now I'll look at that in relation to the punctuation. That's interesting, a pause after every line except line 7 - that makes a big point about how bad this woman makes her feel. Apart from that each line seems to make a statement on its own.

Good, now I've looked at the structure I'll have a go at the language. Alliteration - yes, in line 1 - all hard sounds where she feels ugly. That contrasts with the soft sounds in the second part where she feels beautiful. It's in the final line as well - I feel that the point is made strongly.

Oh, I nearly forgot - subject matter - does it follow the tradition? No, it's turned on its head! It not about adoration - quite the opposite.

I'm relieved that I've got so much out of this - a planned approach has made a huge difference to my nervousness about poems. I'm flagging a bit now though - can you help me to pull the language apart a bit more, please Jane?

Sue used a different coloured pen to jot down her thoughts as she completed her assignment.

  • final assignment - good!
  • end of course coming up - exam approaching! - panic!
  • deadlines tight - no extensions on this assignment
  • question 1 = essay - must check wording carefully - 'Compare and contrast' - draw up a grid I think to help note taking and essay planning
  • mustn't forget examples to back up each point I make. Tutor said that's what gets good marks
  • mustn't waffle
  • too much information for word limit - red pen needed for drastic cutting
  • Question 2 - these tables look complex. Need to work out what they mean. Think I've got it now. Ah - part (d) - not sure I understand what they mean here. Must try phoning tutor for hints.
  • Tutor said part (d) designed to get me to think and a 'tiered' question like this is designed so that part (a) is straightforward and it works up to a 'challenging' final part. He's right there! Really need to think on this one.
  • Think I've got it! Now I need to explain my reasons or I'll lose marks.
  • ' Need to re-do essay in final version. Happier now. Fascinating topic - but so much information provided. Difficult to know if my selection is the most appropriate.