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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Student stories


International students were asked "Was the approach to assignments different in Australia compared to your country?"

The teachers here have a particular way, there's a particular style of writing that they adhere to, that they subscribe to and that they expect.

For instance if you write an assignment in an essay form they much rather that you are direct. You say the point first and then you support it, state the point, support it and give examples.

For instance whereas I would given any assignments before I come to the main point I am more used to giving more of the background and saying everything else and then zeroing in on it at last. And I would just find that even with exactly the same information, depending on how you presented it, the grade that you would get for it would be very very different. It varies depending on how you have done it.

The structure is very important. You've got to do an introduction, you've got to do the body and you've go to do your conclusion or your summary.

And I've actually found that right here what they expect in the conclusion is a summary of whatever else was discovered. It's not a good idea to bring in new information in the conclusion. So it's small things like that.

You may have everything that's needed actually it may be all in there but it's just the way that you're putting it. At first it seems a little intimidating, I was a bit annoyed by it, especially because everything was in there. If you really took up my paper and you read all the points that were required were there, so I just was annoyed.

But then after thinking about it and listening and trying it a different way I actually realized it made reading the paper a whole lot easier actually. It made it a lot more clearer and it's easy to pick up. That way it's easy to distinguish from somebody who's not sure what's being asked and is giving all the information that they can come across or is it somebody that exactly knows what's being what they are being asked.

So you do learn even though sometimes it doesn't feel like, whilst you're going through it it's a little painful. But actually you do learn and it's not bad at all.

I would say that they shouldn't get overwhelmed by the different learning style and the different learning system. It's just how you approach it in the beginning. I think you need to basically need to develop some kind of understanding before you begin to write anything before you start preparing for an assignment.

Students should take out some time and develop this basic... clarities about what is expected out of them and what really the lecturer is looking for, and if there is some specific type of assignments that they have been given, for example like a critical essay, or a reflective memoir, or something like that then they will need to first, get clear information about what basically a critical essay is all about.

And they can find these kind of information, either from the website, from the learning and skills website, that's a really good helpful resource.

Secondly they can ask their teachers. I found that the teachers and the lecturers, they are really really helpful about that. So the good start is the key to success.

The structure of writing over here was very different. I found it a real struggle here because the expectation of the teachers was quite different from what was expected in my country.

For example in our sub continent in India and Pakistan the way we are taught to structure our essays is we don't come to the point directly we have to develop this major build up, and before coming to the point so that unless and until we don't have that huge context coming to that point, our lecturer wouldn't think that we have put enough effort into that, so but over here the thing was to go bang! Go to the point directly. And then you can start explaining OK why do you think that way, and then link it to the context and then again narrow it to the point that you initially began with and explain your opinion about that.

Also, about writing assignments it's very important to learn or understand very clearly what the expectations are.

When I was in university in Denmark it was much more writing an assignment that was the same thing every time you just pretty much wrote whatever you wanted but here it's a lot of focus on is this an essay, is this a report, is this a case study and there is lots of rules about how it needs to be done.

So it's very important to talk to your teacher, really listen to what they want. They will usually give you a structure and most of the time it's very important and it makes a big impact on your grade that you follow that structure.

So that's a big advice that you first of all really listen to what the teachers say and then if it's not clear that you ask again and make sure you know the difference between an essay and a report and all those kind of things.

There were different kinds of paper you need to write, like the essays, sometimes you need to write a literature review, lab report and a thesis, and so on.

Here we've got not only the individual assignments but the group assignments as well and in China we will normally just have the individual assignments. And the style of writing is quite different.