Assignments take a long time to write….

Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 : toastytreat87

We have only two assessed pieces of written work on the PGCE (2 x 30 credits at M level), the rest of our credits come from gradings of our teaching placements and our personal development portfolios (2 x 30 credits at H level). It has been a long time since I’ve written an assignment, but I have regularly written peer and non-peer reviewed papers over the last few years, of equivalent length so I wasn’t too worried about tackling a 5,000 word case study. However, I’ve been amazed at just how long it has taken me. I added it up today and estimate it to be:

  • background reading prior to and during placement: 20 hrs
  • re-reading the literature in light of evidence gather: 14 hrs
  • drafting (writing main findings to be edited down): 14.5 hrs
  • editing: 7.5 hrs
  • final proofing, printing, submission online: 4 hrs

total: 60 hours

The assignment also represents a synthesis of everything we have learned on the taught section of the course so far, which has been 9 weeks of mostly 9.15-4.15 contact time (approximately 270 hours). In relation to the contact time we have had, my 60 hours ‘self-study’ on the assignment doesn’t seem so bad. Perhaps I should have done more ? Then again, it is Christmas, and I have a family to look after, so I’ve done the best I can whilst still giving some time to them.

I found the Student Development Service guides on editing, critical reading and writing really useful. Editing for specific foci each time definitely helped me to be more structured in my approach and gave me a purpose to editing rather than just going over and over the same material. I don’t think I have managed a particularly critical approach, since writing in the first person is still very difficult for m and passing comment or evaluating academic work in a field that I am still not familiar with does not come easily. I guess I know how to be critical in science and it has made me realise how difficult it is to get to know the literature in another field. I longed for the equivalent of forward mapping of citations that you can use in PubMed to move forward from classic works to modern journal articles that cite them (perhaps this does exist – if it does please let me know before I start my next assignment!).


4 thoughts on “Assignments take a long time to write….”

  1. You’ve missed off all the time worrying about the essay, the time moaning about the essay and not forgetting the time taken to persuade my dad to proof read it!

    1. LOL – indeed! Though it was my husband that had to proof read mine. Didn’t count the time trying to work out how to do the set tasks during TE1 to collect the data in the fist place either!

  2. Yup, it takes forever, doesn’t it? I have just finished my 6,000 worder, and it’s taken me the best part of a month to complete. I couldn’t tell you in hours, but my approach is a bit like yours with regards to reading, re-reading, evidence gathering, writing etc etc. It occurred to me whilst going over the essay for the umpteenth time that my undergrads (from their reactions!) pretty much try to write their essays in one or two sittings, in a linear fashion and it makes me wonder what we should be doing to break that (lack of!) cycle.

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