A resource to help support psychology students to write

This project’s resources were developed by Hineatua Parkinson from the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science to assist students so that they feel supported whilst on their journey towards full academic literacy. It works with members of the Māori and Pacific Postgraduate Research Group (MPPRG), an initiative to create an inclusive and dynamic space for Māori and Pacific students in the School of Psychology to motivate, inspire and support each other through the research process.

These resources might be useful to teachers of psychology, teachers of Māori and Pacific students, those supporting postgraduate students and teachers of writing.

The project was supported by the SEED Fund grants for 2017.

For similar projects, see: Vaka: Navigating Pacific Postgraduate Horizons.

Project background

As Hineatua Parkinson explains: “At present, there is a real gap in the School of Psychology around course content for students who are required to write lab reports, essays and research proposals, etc. I currently work for the Psychology Tuakana Programme, and one of the main challenges our Māori and Pacific students face is writing for Psychology and, surprisingly, not with the content. This gap becomes more evident when our (few) students reach the postgraduate level and have very few options to get feedback on their writing style and formatting. As Tuakana resources are stretched, historically we have focussed on content in our Tuakana workshops for Stage 1, 2 and 3. Funding from a SEED grant, has enabled us to run a programme for our students focused on writing for Psychology.”

Project reflection

Below are some reflections from Hineatua:

Seminar Series

A series of ten seminars, entitled “Writing for Psychology” was run in Semester Two, 2017. Each session was two hours long, with the first hour devoted to learning about the writing style, and the second hour to practice. The second hour was also a space where students could come to get feedback on their work in regards to structure, referencing, etc. Each session was open to up to 20 students and they were designed for both undergraduate and post-graduates. 25 students in total attended the seminars.

Seminars were run on the following topics:

  • Lab reports
  • Essay Writing
  • Critical thinking
  • Tackling articles
  • Writing a research proposal
  • Writing a journal article critique
  • Writing a dissertation
  • Summarising lecture materials, preparing revision materials for exams
  • Psychology careers panel
  • Writing for exams

Verbal feedback was given at the end of each session and students advised that the sessions were relevant to their learning, needs and stage of study. The sessions were informal and quite intimate, which allowed for small group activities, good flow of questions and answers, and plenty of one-on-one time where required. The whakawhanaungatanga (process of establishing relationships) at the beginning was important for students to make connections with each other, this also contributed to them feeling at ease during the session.

Presenting the content in each session varied with the use of powerpoint, whiteboard, mind-mapping, interactive exercises, case studies, check lists, written examples and group chat. The idea behind this was to cater for a range of learning styles and have interactive activities to maintain engagement with the material. The practical application hour was useful for students as they could bring pieces of work (primarily essays and lab reports) to be discussed, reviewed and commented on. Kai (food) was provided for each session, this was a good way to break up the 2 hours and provide further opportunity for whakawhanaungatanga.

In terms of improvements that could be made to the seminar series, some of the sessions would be of more benefit to students if run earlier in the year. For example the dissertation writing and proposal writing seminars should be held in the first 2-4 weeks of Semester One. Also the time of the seminars meant that some students could only come for the first hour and missed out on the practical application. To combat this, one-on-one assistance was offered outside of the seminar hours.

Feedback from students included a desire for more workshops at the start of the year looking at how to write a literature review, whereas towards the end of the year time and space is needed for writing.

The seminar series was a pilot programme that the Psychology Tuakana Programme will incorporate into their workshops for 2018, with adjustments made to the number of sessions and order of content.

Psychology Postgraduate Writing Retreat

A three-day writing retreat was organised for Māori and Pacific Postgraduate students in Psychology, in the second semester of 2017. The retreat incorporated values of whanaungatanga, manakitanga (hospitality, kindness, generosity, support) and awhitia (support, help, nurture). It was attended by 12 Psychology Postgraduate students including Honours, PgDip, Masters and PhD. Many of the students said they often feel isolated whilst working on their thesis and the wananga-style event contributed to them feeling supported on their academic journey. The group held a feedback session at the conclusion of the wananga (educational forum). A feedback session was held at the conclusion of the wananga, during which students discussed the benefits of the event as well as what improvements could be made for future events.

What worked well:

  • Getting to know everyone
  • A very supportive group
  • Free-flowing structure
  • Length, four nights was perfect, although a week would be even better!
  • Space was suitable with options to study in various different rooms
  • Facilities such as ability to make tea, coffee and toast at all times
  • Uplifting and motivational speakers
  • Location that was close to university
  • The chapel as a space to meditate was good for spiritual well-being
  • The retreat really helped students to get work done
  • Flexibility about the programme structure was appreciated as some students were required to come and go
  • The venue, people, hosts and co-ordinators were approachable, this created good vibes!
  • Venue was close to major bus routes, convenient for those who attended the retreat during the day and those who had to return to the university campus.

Improvements to be made:

  • Retreat could be a week long, one should be held during each semester
  • Different rooms could be reserved as study space, quiet space, break space etc.
  • There should be a workshop for writing introductions.
  • The schedule could include time for exercising in the morning and evening
  • Simple and short talanoa (Pasifika process of conversation) sessions
  • Karakia (thanks giving prayer) prior to eating
  • Access to a space for cooking
  • Give students a tour of the facilities
  • Hold a pyjama night
  • Provide snacks between meals
  • Provide dairy-free milk options

For more information about the Tuakana programme, see here.


Project resources

More information on the Māori and Pacific Postgraduate Research Group (MPPRG)

More information on the Tuakana Programme.

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