In BA English, we use a balanced range of teaching methods. These include traditional lectures, small- and large-group seminars, workshops and mixed-activity sessions, and one-to-one tutorials. Teaching delivery within individual modules is carefully planned in order to meet the needs both of the students and of the module itself. For example, in the first year, to help you through the transition from school to university, we make greater use of workshop-based skills sessions to support small-group seminar teaching. By comparison, the contact hours for your final-year dissertation: an individual project, chosen and structured according to your own literary interests, consist almost entirely of one-to-one meetings with your supervisor. We also support your independent study with extensive resources and information within our Virtual Learning Environment.
In the first year, the emphasis is on acquiring the foundational skills and knowledge which will form the basis of your studies throughout the rest of your degree. You will work on a wide variety of authors and genres, including texts from the medieval period through to the present day. You will be encouraged to develop your skills in literary analysis and essay-writing, and will also be introduced to the major library and electronic resources relevant to the university-level study of English literature. During your first year you will undergo a formal 'transition' review to see how you are getting on and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support. In the second year, you will continue your studies in all the major literary periods, but will work more closely on the key literary issues and genres specific to each era. In your final year, you will choose from a wide range of research-led modules, each taught by a leading specialist in the field. These optional modules will be complemented by your dissertation and by a year-long Shakespeare module, overseen by our colleagues from the world-renowned Shakespeare Institute in Stratford.
From first to final year, our aim is to guide and support you in your progress through the degree, helping you to gain confidence as a reader, researcher and writer and assisting you to prepare for life beyond your undergraduate studies. To aid you in your academic development, a Personal Tutor is assigned to you at the start of your programme and remains with you until graduation, helping you in three important areas: supporting your academic progress, developing transferable skills and helping with welfare issues.
How will I be taught?
As a Birmingham student, you are joining the academic elite and have the privilege of learning from world-leading experts in their fields. Throughout your studies, you’ll be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner, thriving on challenge and opportunities to think for yourself. At first, you may find these new ways of working and learning a challenge, but we’ll help you to make the transition and you’ll soon be benefiting from some of the most highly regarded teaching in this subject in the country.
From the outset, you will be assigned your own Personal Tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies, providing academic and welfare advice, encouraging you and offering assistance in any areas you may feel you need extra support to make the most of your potential and your time here at Birmingham.
Student Mentors and Buddy Scheme
Our enthusiastic established students act as mentors to our new Modern Languages students. This provides you with a friendly face to help you settle in. Languages students may also be offered a Language Buddy – English speaking Language students are paired with an Erasmus or International exchange student who is a native speaker of a language they are studying, in turn the Language student helps the exchange student with English language and settling into Birmingham.
Academic Writing Advisory Service
The Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) will provide you with individual support from an academic writing advisor and postgraduate subject-specialist writing tutors; You'll receive guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level which can be quite different from your previous experiences of writing. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, feedback through email and tutorials.
Your contact hours will be made up of a variety of different learning activities, which you’ll see described in more detail below. But personal reading and research is also a crucial part of your studies. As you progress through your studies, we encourage you to learn more independently, culminating in your personal research project in the Final Year for your Dissertation.
Lectures explore a particular text, topic or context, often involving brief factual descriptions and outlining major questions and interpretations. Their main purpose is to challenge and stimulate, encouraging you to come to your own conclusions based on further reading and seminar debates.
Language laboratory sessions allow you to practise your listening and spoken skills and are an essential part of all our language programmes.
Discussion-based seminars run alongside the lecture course, addressing any individual problems you may have and allowing you to consolidate lecture material, engage in constructive debate and expand your understanding.
Personal reading and research are a crucial part of your studies. As you progress through your degree, we encourage you to learn more independently, culminating in your personal research project in the final year for your dissertation.
The Guide to Effective Learning website aims to help you develop the skills you need to successfully complete your studies, and includes material on Strategies for Learning; Personal Development; Reading; Writing; Working with others; Revision and Examinations.
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is an excellent tool for supporting our academic modules, giving you access to extensive resources and information, and allowing you to share thoughts on assignments with other students via the discussion group facilities, and even submit your work electronically.
Enquiry Based Learning (EBL) means that learning is driven by the shared enquiry of students and tutors. This places you, the student, at the centre of your own degree: you learn through involvement and ownership, not simply by being a passive recipient of information thrown at you. We believe that this is the best way of learning while you’re at Birmingham as it’s very effective in enabling you to acquire the key skills and attributes that are valued by employers: creative and independent thinking, self-motivation, self-organisation, team-working, goal-setting and problem-solving.
Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.
During your first year you will undergo a formal ?transition? review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.
The principal means of assessment on BA English are coursework essays and written exams. At the beginning of each module, you?ll be given information on how and when you?ll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You?ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. Exam-based assessments are more heavily concentrated in the first and second years of your degree, with the balance shifting towards coursework in the final year. Furthermore, all final-year exam papers are pre-released, giving you the opportunity to reflect on the questions, check references, and plan your answers. You?ll be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.
In addition to formal assessments, you will be given the opportunity to practise analytical and argumentative skills through formative assessment. This kind of assessed coursework does not count towards your final mark, but will provide you with valuable writing practise and detailed feedback to help you improve your work.
Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching; you’ll be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject, and find things out for yourself. We’ll enable you to make the change to this new style of learning, and the way that you’re assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time here at Birmingham.
During your first year you will part take in a formal ‘transition’ review with your personal tutor to see how you are getting on and whether there are particular areas where you need support.
To test your knowledge and develop your core skills we use a range of different assessment methods, including end-of-year examinations, written assignments (essays, projects), oral presentations and examinations, and aural tests. Interim tests are also used in various modules during the year. While some modules are assessed completely by coursework and others purely by timed examination, most modules draw on more than one assessment method.
At the beginning of each module you’ll be given information on how and when you’ll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You’ll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, highlighting the positives of your work as well as any areas that need more attention, so that you can learn from and build on what you’ve done. This includes written feedback on pieces of assessment which may be complemented by class feedback sessions as well as one-to-one discussions with your tutors.