By Dr Alison Pike

Welcome (or welcome back) to your studies in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex! Whether you are part of the new Foundation Year, an incoming 1st year, a returning 2nd or 3rd year, or a postgraduate student, I wish you a productive, interesting and exciting learning journey for 2016-17.

I love the start of the academic year. Crisper mornings, an excuse to buy new stationery, and New Academic Year resolutions aplenty! As the Director of Teaching Learning, I have oversight of all of the teaching, learning, assessment & feedback provision within the school.A Pike

I would like to take this opportunity to suggest a few practices to make the very best of your learning experience (apologies for sounding like your mother; I can’t help myself).

Here are my top 10 tips:

  1.  Go to lectures! I know that we record them, but in a study I conducted I found that students who binge-watched before exams did significantly worse. There is nothing like a live performance to inspire, engage, and cultivate understanding.
  2. Please, please make use of faculty office hours. The easiest way (IMHO) to find out when these are is to Google the name of the member of faculty, go onto their Sussex profile page, and click on ‘student feedback and drop-in sessions’. We are here and happy to help, but do be proactive!
  3. Ditch the tablet/laptop during lectures. For taking notes, handwritten is best! Research has shown that students retain information much better if they write notes by hand. This also has the added bonus of removing the temptation of checking Facebook, twitter, etc.
  4. If you have a question, ask. If an issue arises, please talk to someone about it sooner rather than later. If you don’t know whom to approach, start with your academic advisor or a student advisor from the Student Life Centre. Do not let anything fester!
  5. Prepare for the unexpected. As a recovering procrastinator, believe me, I get it. Seriously, do not leave submissions to the last minute. Things can and do go wrong. Computer or printer failures are not a valid excuse. Avoid the stress and give yourself an earlier internal deadline.
  6. If you have a question about a mark that you receive, or the feedback, please do ask. We all want you to do your very best, and are here to help. It is your responsibility to ensure that you get the most from the marks and feedback provided.
  7. Get adequate sleep. The findings are robust – a tired brain is cognitively impaired. To do your best, it is almost always better to get a decent night’s sleep and focus the next morning. As an added bonus, people who are well rested are less likely to over-eat!
  8. Keep moving! Not only is regular exercise good for us, sitting in the new smoking. Do take regular breaks to walk around. You are more likely to have creative insights and keep focussed this way.
  9. Set an end time to your day. Before I had children, I often stayed at work into the evening. Now I always leave by 5. Do I get less done? No. Am I more focussed and productive during the day? Yes. Do I enjoy my evenings? Absolutely!
  10. Happy students are successful students. The biggest predictor of happiness is having emotionally supportive social bonds. Take the time to cultivate friends on and off your course, and engage in some of the many activities open to you.

I wish you all a fabulous 2016-2017 academic year!

PS. Note that this is a blog post, and not an academic essay. If it were an essay, I would have looked up all the studies mentioned and referenced them correctly!


Dr Alison Pike is a Reader in Psychology and the Director of Teaching and Learning. Her research focuses on family relationships and child development. Alison co-directs The Nurture Lab with Dr Bonamy Oliver.

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