As I write this, I can see from my window that the sky is turning orange, indicating that this windy autumn day is coming to a close… at 4pm. Welcome to autumn in the city of York!
Not only does autumn indicate the shortening of the days and the return of the northern cold weather, it also indicates that term itself is beginning to draw to a close. Here at the University of York we are currently entering week 8 of our 10 week term, and campus is full of students heading to the library to work on assignments and ducks growing ever braver in their eternal search for bread.
Things are no different here in the Sociology department: assignments have been set and modules are in full swing.
However, as a third year student on the Paranormal in Society module (yes, there really is a module in which you learn about aliens and UFO sightings, horoscopes and the ability to talk to the dead), I was fortunate enough to attend a performance by a local medium. As someone who is very sceptical about the paranormal and who has only previously seen clips of mediums performing from Youtube and television programmes, it was fascinating to see a performance up close and witness the effect that the communications had on the audience members. But as we left the performance, all of us- sceptics, firm believers and adamant non-believers- were all thinking the same thing:
“how does he do it?”
Field trips are just one of the many elements that make studying Sociology at York a completely different learning experience. Seminars vary from week to week and between the modules: in one seminar you could be discussing the results of your research on crime statistics in York in comparison to the town or city you are originally from, and planning a covert observation of how people queue outside nightclubs in another.
Each module also has different ways of assessing your progress and expanding your skills throughout the course. The vast majority of the time, this will be in the form of a written assignment, such as an essay; but these could also be in the form of portfolios or presentations to your seminar group. Don’t worry though- seminar groups (particularly in first year) are not very big and- unlike some teachers at school- seminar tutors rarely make you stand up at the front of the class if you really don’t want to.
But should you find that you’re not enjoying any aspect of any of your modules- whether that’s the teaching style, the assessment or even the lecture rooms themselves- you have a voice to say so.
Just last week I attended a student-staff liaison meeting within the department, which was organised by our fantastic department rep, Robin- a third year student like myself. The meeting was open to all Sociology students and attended by Robin, the representatives from each year and four staff members. The idea of the meeting was that if any student had an issue with a particular aspect of the department or their course, they could discuss it face to face with fellow students and staff, who would then agree to raise the issue to the other staff members in the department.
Students can also raise these issues at the end of every term, as a feedback form is issued from each module in which issues can also be raised about how the modules are run. You can rate the course content, the lecturers, the online resources available and the assessments themselves, to name just a few.
Feedback is treated very seriously and last year we got to see this in action. Four second year assessments in second term were all due in at the same time, on the same day- which generated a LOT of work for us. As many people raised their concerns about this in the end of term feedback, the staff listened and now current second years only have two assessments to complete for the end of second term, with the other two being handed in after the Easter holidays.
So there you have little bit of information about the course itself and how you can actually have an impact on what is taught!
Congratulations to those of you who have already received an offer and, if you’ve just sent off your application, good luck!
Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions about the blog or any of the things I’ve spoken about here.