To allow myself to focus on the exam without interruption I decided to write TMA06 before the residential school and use the momentum from that week to power the writing of TMA05.  Even though it took a bit more work after TMA05 to complete TMA06, doing them in this order worked well for me.  I don’t intend to submit either until the deadline to give me a chance to incorporate any feedback I get from a few people offered to read my final drafts.  I’m hoping this breathing space before submission will help address some of the issues I had in TMA04.  I also tried to address the essay issues I identified in my revised approach to processing feedback from my tutor.

In a refinement of an approach I started with DD307, I started TMA06 by turning the student notes into a very rough document outline wherever possible turning points to be considered into questions.   I used this to focus my reading.  Whilst reading chapter 11, I noticed something interesting when I came to add some notes to one of the questions I’d written.  I’d re-worded the student note

Consider also whether experts have a qualitatively different problem solving strategy to novices.


Are expert problem solving strategies qualitatively different to those of novices?

An answer to this question came to mind when reading sections 4.1.2 and 4.1.3.  Initially, I was just going to add a couple of bullet points with citations as placeholders of evidence for a qualitative difference, but when I started writing I realised I had the ingredients to produce a some fully formed words for the TMA.  As I seemed to have answered the question I changed it to a proposition

Expert problem solving strategies are qualitatively different to those of novices.

I realised that was a bold claim but saw that a stock phrase at the start of the sentence could tone it down

There is evidence to suggest that expert problem solving strategies are qualitatively different to those of novices.

That claim then invited some words presenting the supporting evidence I’d found

Experts tend to work forwards (Larkin et al., 1980) and categorise potential solutions differently (Chi et al., 1982).

What was most interesting about this was the natural process of moving from a question, via the course material, to a reasonably well articulated answer with supporting evidence.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to repeat this for the remaining questions and that this will allow tasks such as writing linking phrases and moving words around to create a coherent structure to be tackled independently of producing the main points in the essay.

I am writing this TMA alongside my first careful reading of Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide.  I should have read this years ago!  As this is a final opportunity to demonstrate critical thinking, Chapter 6 seems particularly relevant, as does the OU guide to critical thinking.

After some frustration at not seeing an essay plan emerge from my reading I decided to base my structure very closely on the student guidance notes.  (How I managed to waste so much time before taking this approach given previous epiphanies I don’t know!)  This seems like a breakthrough which is allowing me to (re)read the material (much easier and quicker second or third time around) whilst keeping the question in mind.  What was a homogeneous lump of knowledge in my head now seems much more like a resource that I can draw on to fill in the sections of my plan.  As I do this I’m starting see much more clearly which evidence supports which points in my argument and ways in which those points connect to each other.



4 thoughts on “TMA06

  1. Pingback: Writing Essays | Beyond The Earcanal

  2. Pingback: DD303: Recommended reading | Beyond The Earcanal

  3. Pingback: Preparing for the DD303 exam | Beyond The Earcanal

  4. Pingback: Assessment | Beyond The Earcanal

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