It seems appropriate to open this section with an old adage:

“Poor preparation = poor performance.”

Knowing the structure and objectives of your study will help you to focus on an outcome and organise yourself as necessary. Knowing why you are undertaking the study is also a really important factor and it is this that will help you to keep motivated and on track.

Investing time at the beginning of your studies in familiarising yourself with what the learning intervention actually entails will pay dividends.

Taking a planned approach is important because as we all know, work, family and social life will almost always take precedence over studying unless we make the effort to plan for sufficient study time.

Let us begin with identifying the kind of study you are planning to do. It could be:

  • A professional or academic qualification – such as an institute or college exam
  • Evidenced based or vocational study – such as an NVQ or certification-based programme
  • CPD type learning – that is not related to a qualification or certificate, such as online learning, study texts, workshops etc

It may be that the study is part of your professional development plan at work or an initiative offered by your employer to underpin compulsory or voluntary professional development.

Which one is relevant to you?
Whatever the type of study, it is necessary to make sure you know what it entails and what is expected of you.

For the first two types of study, there will be a clear and published framework to adhere to, perhaps a syllabus, a set of criteria or evidence requirements, as well as a clear pathway as to what you have to do to achieve the ultimate goal (for example, a qualification, award, certificate etc).

Make time to read through the outline of the learning materials. Pay attention to how chapters or elements are structured and identify demanding or more straightforward areas. This will ultimately help you to allocate your time.

Make yourself aware of any requirements to attend lectures, seminars or workshops and the overall timescale for:

  • Submission of materials for feedback
  • Observations and/or assessments
  • Examination dates

For CPD activities there will be similar familiarisation requirements, including perhaps an introduction to an online platform, a diary of events, review meetings and specific recording criteria. If you have formal CPD obligations, you must acquaint yourself with these.

With all types of study, be sure to know the materials, equipment, and resources you will need to be able to undertake the study. You may have to join a library, pay a subscription or a membership, have a username and password or keep a learning log and file of evidence.

It will also be necessary to identify the source of support for your study – someone you can refer queries to, ask for advice, have discussions with and look to for motivation and feedback. This might be a tutor, a trainer, a mentor, a manager, or a colleague at work.

Simone works for Safe & Sound Limited – a personal lines insurance broker. She has just had her performance review with her manager and identified that she needs to improve her listening skills during telephone conversations with claimants.

Simone and her manager have agreed an item for her six-month personal development plan – to undertake an online learning course via the company’s intranet. This will be consolidated by Simone’s subsequent attendance of a Customer Care training workshop that is to be held in three months’ time.

Her study preparation checklist is shown for you below. Once you have read it through, complete one for yourself.

Checklist for Simone of Safe & Sound Limited

What type of study am I undertaking?An online learning course.
What is the format?An online course broken down into small modules.
What is the ultimate objective?Completion of the course, passing the assessment, a CPD certificate and an addition to my personal development plan.
How is my study structured?10 sections, each with questions and an end of course multiple choice assessment.
Why am I studying?To improve my listening skills and to add to my CPD.
What is in it for me?Improvement in my skills and better performance at work.
What is expected of me?Completion of the online course and passing the multiple choice assessment.
What materials, equipment and resources do I need?User access to the intranet and time.
What are the timescales and key aspects of my study?Completion of the course for my next review and in time for the Customer Care workshop.
Who is my study supporter?My manager and my online tutor.