Our recent graduate Emma Jackson reflects upon her time as a History student and how this informed her decision to stand as RUSU Education Officer
No matter how we dress it up, whether as a stepping stone for a future career path or through genuine love for your field, students are at university to learn. That’s right – despite rife rumours of an “easy” student life, education actually takes centre stage for us… shock!
It is no surprise then, as I reflect on my time as an undergraduate (which has recently drawn to a close), I’ve come to realise my own learning experience has been developed and encouraged by those who have actively shaped my time at the University of Reading: You’ve guessed it – where I’ve spent three years studying – the History Department.
History at Reading is no self-taught text-book based course. Instead, it is a unique mix of independent and supported learning, which has allowed me to grow as an academic. Without such different eras to study, or varied teaching techniques I would never have become so interested in education itself, and the effects of teaching methods/resources on the students. In fact, it was the excellent experience that I have had here, that made me run for the role of Education Officer for Reading University Students’ Union. Seeing how great this department was, I wanted to make sure such good practice was shared amongst other schools. It is the close relationship with my lecturers that informs my plans for the coming year, as I intend to improve resources, standardise feedback and develop support.
To become elected as Education Officer, I promised many things to the students in my manifesto. These were various issues I had noticed during my time as a student. In some cases, these were influenced by my own experience in the History Department. For example, I noticed the great film evenings the Department had, in which a historical film would be preceded by a historian who would place, and give a background to its context. At the same time, I knew how the History Society had tried to put on similar film-related events which made me wonder if a joint department-society event would become more successful. This is where I decided to strive for a better tripartite relationship between RUSU, academic societies and the departments in the coming year. Additionally, being a student in History would mean lessons were taught in a number of places across campus. As a technology lover, I always took my laptop. Lessons where I had to access blackboard could sometimes prove frustrating as the Wi-Fi connection was intermittent. It is for this reason, I promised to campaign for complete Wi-Fi across campus. I also found that I was very happy with the feedback I received after any essay I had submitted. However, this was not always the case when I spoke to friends on other courses. After speaking to others, who were spread across other faculties, I could see how different forms of feedback could sometimes be viewed as less constructive. I could see how useful my in-depth feedback was from the History Department and it is for this reason my manifesto questioned how personal a tick-box could really be – and promised to strive for a larger emphasis on qualitative feedback.
Studying History at Reading was not just about getting a degree.; it allowed me to grow, learn and mature as an adult, as well as an academic – an experience I would not change for the world.