Writing Skills for the Level 6 Qualification
Work logically and systematically and take your time with each of the steps. Taking your time means you have taken everything in more fully so you learn more; and it will improve the quality of your work. Structure is important. Don’t skip any of the steps! This benefits:
- You – it’s easier for you to review your work and make sure the learning outcome is fulfilled, which in turn means you don’t have to add or change too much when you get it back from your assessor.
- You again – it’s easier to overview what you have learnt and it’s easier to come back to later if you feel you need it for your work or CPD.
- The assessor/IQA/EQA – it’s easier to assess your work and to say ‘yes’ to your work as it will provide stronger evidence… in turn benefitting you yet again!
The learning outcome we are going to use for this guide is 1.1 from Unit 2. Obviously, this is just an example and this technique can be applied to most, if not all, of the Units for the qualification.
Let’s make a start…
Step 1: Explore the learning outcome.
First, look at the learning outcome and what is required. Highlight the key activity you need to perform in the learning outcome and indicate what you need to apply to activity to.
So this learning outcome expects you to critically evaluate. What does that mean?
- You may have received a prompt sheet or a sheet which explains what all the ‘action words’ mean.
- If there isn’t; have a look online or ask your assessor. The Open university and other universities often have an explanation for these. In this case, you need to:
- Describe the theory – otherwise there is nothing to evaluate…
- Explore both the negative and positive aspects of theory of reflective practice.
- Select one that fits in with your practice or one you prefer and explain why.
What do you need to critically evaluate in this example unit? -> Theories of reflective practice.
Notice that it asks to critically evaluate theories, plural! So you need to do this for more than one theory. I would suggest 2 is too few, so 3 or ideally 4 will be a good number.
Decide on which theories to include. However, if you have a prompt sheet for the unit, look on there first and follow instructions. For instance if they suggest you need to critically evaluate 4 theories, then that’s what you need to do…
Step 2: Explore the prompt sheet linked to the unit (if available)
Let’s see how that works in an example below… Highlight the key words…
This is very useful… it asks you to:
- Describe 4 theories and it even gives you examples of the theories. Don’t be afraid to find more theories online, but make sure they fit the learning outcome, which in this case is about reflective practice.
- You can have a look for these theories online or elsewhere and explore them a bit. You can then select 4 that really resonate with you or that you can use in your own practice.
- You then have to write about the strengths and weaknesses of these theories. This is the critical evaluation part. Evaluating is about weighing up the theories.
- You have to pick one that particularly fits well with you and/or your practice and explain why you picked that one.
So that is what it wants you to do in this learning outcome. The next step is to start building the structure of your piece of work.
Step 3: Start building the structure of what you are going to write
Take the key points from the learning outcome and copy these over as headers for your work. This forms the basis of the structure:
Step 4: Build a more detailed structure using the prompt sheet
Take each of the requirements you have to write about. In this case for instance; the 4 theories you have chosen, as well as the suggestions and add them as bullet points to the headers you just made.
And in this case you can either:
- work the other suggestions (the strengths and weaknesses), into the first requirement (the description of each theory) or
- you can describe the theories first and then come back to them, one by one, to describe the strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s work them in so it flows better… Adding them as ‘sub-bullet points’, this would look like this:
And then we’ll add the last requirement from the prompt sheet, which one you prefer and why, at the bottom of the list which gives you another two headers to write about…:
Now our headers and structure are ready and we can start filling in some of the things we think about them, have found out about them etc… Let’s go on to step 5…
You can think of the headers you put together in this step as ‘empty boxes’ which you fill with the material you find out about as well as your thoughts on what you find out.
Step 5: Taking notes of what you find & writing down initial thoughts and ideas
Explore the material, theories, their strengths and weaknesses and write down what you found out under the relevant headers. There are some hints and tips about where you can find evidence and material about the theories on marcr.net. There may also be materials offered by the organisation through which you do your qualification.
This is about writing down your rough thoughts briefly. At this point there is no need to make it look perfect. All you are doing is ‘filling the boxes’/adding to the headers. Make notes while you explore the different theories, their strengths and weaknesses.
- What you find out as well as how it would or can work in your day to day practice will help you think about how you are going to fulfil any of the headers and sub-headers you have made.
- This is where you need to start keeping track of references, Harvard style – what did you find where. At this point as well, revisit the Harvard referencing guide you have or look this up online, as consistent referencing is what you need to start doing now to keep track.
- There is a way to do this within MS Word, which I found quite straightforward once I got used to it. If you would like to explore this, I have a guide on the marcr.net website which may help. Have a go… It takes a bit to get used to but it makes things much easier.
It’s important to not start referencing when you have written the entire assignment as this will make this task a lot more difficult. Starting now will save you a lot of work, hassle and annoyance!
In the illustrations below I will use [square brackets] as examples or fillers to indicate that this is the text you write, about what you find out. Obviously these are mere examples to illustrate the point I’m trying to make.* I found this quote on Google books by entering Kolb’s theory of self reflection in the search field and by then clicking on a result that I considered useful for the unit. You can find further tips for research on https://marcr.net/level-6-writing-skills/finding-resources/
If you are not using MS Word for your referencing, would strongly advise you to start building your bibliography with the things you find and you reference, such as the Kolb reference in the example above. Your bibliography comes right at the bottom of your writing for the entire unit. This is an example:If you are using MS Word for your referencing, you don’t need to build a bibliography as long as you follow the steps described on the referencing guide on this website and you fill in the different fields as fully as you can. You can generate the bibliography almost automatically, right at the end.
Step 6: Writing ‘the story’ or narrative
This step is about fleshing out the thoughts you have put down in step 5 and making it into ‘a story’ or narrative that is easy and pleasant to read.
- Make sure to keep your eye on the learning outcome and requirements carefully and don’t write too much.
- Fulfil the learning outcome to the best of your ability, not less, not more.
Step 7: First Proofreading
When you have finished writing the narrative to the learning outcome, re-read what you have written, keeping a close eye at what the learning outcome asks you to do, to make sure you have fully fulfilled it. Also make sure that you have properly referenced any quotes you used from other sources.
It’s important not to skip this step. And don’t send your unfinished copy to your assessor! This will cost you a lot of time in the longer term and it’s likely you won’t be pleased when you get it back with lots of feedback for improvement. However, if you want your assessor to cast an eye over your work while you are writing it, to make sure you are on the right track, I’m sure they will be very happy to help and offer suggestions where needed…
Step 8: Making it look good
Now, take the sub-headers you made for all the items on the prompt sheet away, but keep the sections as paragraphs and leave the learning outcome as header.
- Make sure that everything looks good and consistent with how you normally write.
- Use a different paragraph for the section of each of the sub-headers you take away
- Make sure that your sentences make sense and are easy to read.
- Shorter sentences are better than longer ones, but don’t exaggerate.
In the illustration below, the Latin filler text represents the space of what you have written for the learning outcome. It shows you an example of how the layout could look once you have written up the learning outcome. No writing in Latin needed in your work! But make sure you don’t plagiarise. It needs to be your work! – which is why I used Latin filler text so I don’t lead you into temptation :-D…
Step 9: Second proof reading
This is where you re-read what you have written to make sure that:
- The grammar is OK
- There are no typos
- It makes sense
Step 10: Saving and naming your file
If you haven’t done so already, save your file using at least the following:
- your name or initials
- unit number
- (unit title)
- (draft number)
Eg.: Unit 2 reflective practice Alex Jones 1st draft.docx
Especially if you have to send your file by email, rather than uploading it to a system like Ecordia or OneFile, this will help everyone keep track of what is where and what belongs to whom.
That’s the learning outcome finished. On to the next one!
This will take some time to practice, but once you get the hang of this, it will become routine and will make your workflow easier and your work quicker to complete. It will hopefully also give you the time to enjoy your learning and to take away very useful knowledge, insights and techniques for your day to day work.