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Good preparation 

Good preparation entails working consciously with your own learning and reflecting on it. 

   

There are many different forms of teaching at a university. Most students are familiar with lectures and classroom instruction, while others also regularly have laboratory teaching, clinical training and theoretical exercises. Common to all of these teaching formats is that you need to prepare for them. Similarly, group work, supervision, presentations, project work, etc. require preparation. All in all, this entails spending a lot of time on preparation, so it is a good idea to consider how to prepare in the best and most efficient way. 

Push-ups by your teacher won’t make you stronger yourself 

Good preparation is more than just reading the texts or completing the assignments defined by your teacher. Good preparation is also about taking ownership of your own learning, working consciously on the material you are reading, and reflecting on how you acquire knowledge. 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just show up to class and soak up the teacher’s words? But unfortunately, push-ups by your teacher won’t make you stronger yourself. Therefore, below we have listed some useful tips on how to spend your preparation time most efficiently: 

Prepare for the start of a new semester

Your mental preparation for the semester 

It is a good idea to prepare yourself before the start of a new semester. Preparing mentally for what the semester has in store will make it more manageable and give you a better understanding of what to expect and what is expected of you. 

Familiarise yourself with the academic regulations   

To find out what is expected of you during the semester and at the exam, familiarise yourself with the academic regulations and read the formal requirements for the courses you are taking. Talk to your teacher and your fellow students about what the requirements mean in practice. 

  • Read more about exam requirements. 

Plan your week 

Making a weekly plan for your preparation, teaching etc. will make it easier for you to balance the time you spend on your studies, leisure time and your student job. 

  • Read more about making a weekly plan. 

Make agreements with your study group   

At the start of a new semester, it is a good idea to align expectations and make fixed agreements with your study group – regardless of whether it is a new or an existing study group. 

  • Read more about good collaboration. 

Before a teaching session

Find a good reading strategy 

Preparing for class often involves reading a lot of literature, and this may seem daunting given the time available. Especially because simply reading the texts is not always enough. Therefore, you need a reading strategy. 

  • Start by familiarising yourself with the topic before actually reading the texts. This preliminary work will give you a better understanding of the topic and make it easier for you to read the texts and complete any assignments. For example, you can: 

    • make a quick Google search on the topic/highlighted concepts/theorists 

    • read about the topic in a reference work 

    • watch videos about the topic online 

  • Find the right reading technique. First of all, you have to find a technique that matches the purpose of your reading and the type of text at hand. Find inspiration for selecting a good reading technique

   

Preparatory notes 

If you take notes during your preparation, you will know whether you understand the material or not. In particular, this will often clarify what you don’t understand, and it will enable you to identify specific questions that you can bring up in class or with your study group. For this reason, it is a good idea to prepare BEFORE a teaching session, rather than reading the texts afterwards as this would not give you the same opportunity to discuss the topic with your teacher and fellow students during class. 

   

Prioritise your preparation 

The literature on the syllabus is often complex and time-consuming, so you may need to prioritise your reading. The aim of your preparation is to acquire new knowledge and get ready to take an active part in class. Therefore, consider what is most important for you to read and write so that you can, independently, gain an understanding of the material. Would it be a good idea to work on some specific assignments and read up on the parts that you don’t understand, or is it more important to skim all the literature on the syllabus and then delve into specific parts? You have to develop a good learning process for yourself.

During and after teaching sessions

Participate actively 

Apart from being well-prepared for class, your learning will also benefit from participating actively in teaching activities. It is important that you 

Listen and get involved   

Turn off your computer (or at least your social media), listen actively and try to get involved in the topic being presented. 

Take notes 

Taking notes activates more parts of your brain, and makes it easier for you to process information. Also note down questions about the topic while it is being presented. 

  • Read more about taking notes during teaching sessions. 

Engage in dialogue   

Based on what you did not understand when preparing for class, and the questions you wrote down during class, engage in dialogue with your fellow students and your teacher during or after the class. 

   

Process the material after class 

There are different ways to process your learning after class to help you remember what you learned during class. This post-processing also serves as part of your preparation for the next teaching session, where you will build further on a topic or on your knowledge. 

Summarise for yourself   

Spend 5 minutes to sum up what you have learned and ask yourself whether you actually understood what was presented in class: Are some points still unclear? 

Summarise in your study group 

Talk to your study group about any questions you may have, and about any aspects that may still be unclear. You can also summarise the main points of the teaching session to get each other’s different perspectives on the topic, or discover any misunderstandings. 

Continue work on the topic   

After class, spend some time working on the topic, or any part of the topic that you found particularly interesting or hard to understand. For example, search for YouTube videos on the topic or use reference works to get a different perspective on the topic. 

   

Work actively before, during and after class 

This exercise will help you engage with the academic material before, during and after class.