I chose to study psychology for my master’s degree despite being told by many people that it could be a struggle. Thanks to the support provided by the University, many courses don’t have to be a struggle.
General Academic Support
First of all, the University kindly offers transition support for postgraduate students, especially international students. At the beginning of the term, Academic Writing Skills Program (AWSP) will arrange online academic writing test. Every student has to take the test and will receive a feedback. They will be arranged to take classes, required to submit an essay or even needn’t do anything based on the feedback. For me, I had to attend four hours of basic writing lecture, with two hours each week on the run. The content was too easy for me, but I appreciated the careful proofreading by the lecturer on my assignment of the class.
The next are classes about western culture, daily conversation, academic presentation and academic reading or writing opened by the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Some of the classes were useful as it explained cultural nuance. For example, in seminars, people say ‘hmmm’ with a nod to show understanding and encouraged speaker to go on; traightforwardly saying ‘I don’t agree with you’ would be rude.
Thirdly, Learning Enhancement and Academic Development Support (LEADS) also endeavoured to offer good student experience. Apart from attending academic writing lectures, we can also book 15-minute appointments with LEADS to discuss the writing of our essays before submitting them. The rule is we can’t book more than one appointments in 21 days on the roll because the uni wants to make sure that every student has access to the support. For me, I only made it for one appointment, in which I learned to use Phrase Bank, create transitions and express what I meant. Besides, there is also other types of support, such as effective learning. All those lectures and appointments are free.
The Scaffolding of the Program
There is a psychological concept called ‘scaffolding’, which means giving support just outside learners’ comfort zone to help them develop capability and removing such support when they demonstrate that they have grasped the skill. I think my program, Psychological Studies (Conversion), has done a fabulous job regarding ‘scaffolding’. For example, the assignments of Individual differences started with 300-word formative essays, offering the opportunity of receiving feedback from the lecturer and our coursemates; the 2000-word final summative essay was built on the previous written formative essays and was counted 100% of the final grade.
As for Social Psychology, we first worked on group project which required five of us to collaborate on presenting the critical review on one paper via poster (counted for 25% of the final grade); then we were expected to individually deliver a critical review on three to four papers (counted for 75% of the final grade). What was more challenging than the essays with the tight deadlines was the essay exams. Because we had to achieve both breadth and depth critically, linking knowledge in the topic areas, and we only had one hour to write them done. Overall, we only have one essay for Developmental Psychology, but next term, we will have essay exams for three courses. The courses are demanding, thanks to the careful design of the program, I am confident I can cope with it.
Apart from the support at university level and the program structure, we can also tap into Moodle, along with the help from lecturers. All the self-learning materials will be posted on Moodle, a site dedicated to all academic activities. You can find videos, online books or papers, slides, etc. You can also use the forum to discuss some questions. Every entry of the discussion will conveniently (sometimes too conveniently) arrive at your university e-mail box. Also, you can write reflective blogs on the Moodle to record your thoughts during the group work. Lecturers will also lend a hand. I was impressed that one of my coursemates didn’t get a peer review from peers, and one lecturer personally wrote one for her!
To sum up, postgraduate programmes are truly intensive. For me, I think the most useful support is Moodle resources because I am used to teaching myself. All in all, studying at the University of Glasgow is exciting and rewarding. See you next time!