History and Organisational Difficulties
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Development of effective organisational skills can be affected by a number of factors such as if the student has dyslexia or dyscalculia and finds it difficult to organise their thoughts and apply them to the solving of problems. Another example could be if the student has ADHD and finds it difficult to focus on the relevant information without being distracted by external factors. It is possible that some students simply haven't developed effective organisational skills prior to entering Higher Education and application of some of these strategies are likely to be beneficial to all students regardless of the cause of the difficulties.
There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help all history students to develop their organisational skills, and these can be summarised as follows:
- Ask students to locate another teacher, or a member of their peer group that can act as a monitor of progress, and can regularly review the student's progress on their assignments. Encourage students to meet on a regular basis with their monitors to discuss progress and to plan and organise for the forthcoming work.
- Encourage the use of diaries and calendars to help organise deadlines and schedule study appointments.
- If students have difficulties managing long assignments, encourage them to break these down into smaller sequences of short, interrelated activities. Develop a crib sheet to help students structure assignments and reports (see eg the APA style research paper crib sheet - see http://www.docstyles.com/apastyle.htm).
- Students may need help to make structured notes either during lectures or from textual information sources. This help may take the form of an appointed note-taker (depending on the severity of the difficulties experienced by the student) or by running short tutorials on effective note-taking and encouraging all students to attend.
- Consider providing a checklist of mistakes that the student frequently makes in their written assignments and encourage the student to refer to this list when proof reading their work prior to handing it in. Ensure the list has a positive slant and is not simply a long list of criticism.