Living a bilingual life gives me the very annoying super-power to see beyond words, for instance: exam diet. Oxford English Dictionary explains that ‘diet’ describes activities ‘in which a person or group habitually engages’.* However, my superpower enables me to completely ignore the contextualised meaning and jump straight to the most obvious one: food!** Thus, emerged the idea for the exam buffet.
I designed the session as a one hour drop in. Students were invited to just come along, engage with the handouts I provided, and chat with one another. Initially I explained the different handouts belonging to the 4 courses. The key themes covered were: Unhealthy Foods (How to avoid bad habits, such as procrastination, flitting etc), Add Exercise (Stress coping strategies—based on a) sports for coping with stress but also b) relaxation and stress coping strategies need some training to become effective), Before the Diet (Learning and memory strategies) and Exam Snacks (Exam survival strategies, such as deconstructing questions, planning time etc.).
The students were from different year groups and courses, which created a fantastic environment for exchanging experiences. Second year students telling first year students not to freak out too much, explaining tested learning strategies and knowledge of exam processes. I belief one of the most valuable tips was that coming to an exam early will provide time to fill in all the cover sheets without infringing on actual exam time. Something probably only students and exam invigilators are consciously aware of.
The session found a bit of resonance, I’ve never had that amount of email and 1-2-1 inquiries from students who could not make the time slots. Also the session ran 30 min over time with several students staying on, deep in discussion about coping strategies and how to survive an ‘All Nighter’***.
Apparently students have the issue of falling asleep when reading for their exams. It must be so common for students to fall asleep in the library that when the issue came up a student suggested: you would normally just ask someone close by to shake you awake when you fall asleep—obviously. I used this example to inform my students of a recent study that demonstrated improved cognition when learning outside. Now our students are lucky, Glasgow has a beautiful botanical garden with several green houses to frequent. So even rainy, stormy Scottish winters are no excuse for not learning outdoors (well semi-outdoors). An urban take on outdoor pedagogy, engagement with public space, and improving memory retention, all in one.
I should probably add, the handouts I prepared for the four courses are all based on research or counselling strategies, to let you know that a quirky form does not equate to poor quality content. If budget permits, I would suggest to print the handouts in colour and ‘menu’ related shapes. Alas I am direly restricted.
* Now I belief habit contains an element of choice not so sure my students would agree
** I am Saxon what do you expect, really?
***Which included explaining the term to international students