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PAL Central: Academic Skills Hub

An online hub of guidance and resources for our PAL Leaders and their Level 4 students.

The Academic Skills Hub provide a wide range of guidance and resources that you can signpost your students to. From Referencing to Time Management, below you'll find the various topics included in the Academic Skills Hub area and how to access these on Brightspace.

Some of these are popular topics for PAL sessions - we've provided some activity ideas you could facilitate in your sessions below.


Link to Brightspace: Critical Thinking

Activity: Think Critically

Approx. time allowance: 30 minutes


  •  PREP - Print out the Critical Thinking Checklist (How to spot fake news tab) - enough for each student in your group
  •  Ask students to read this news article (5 minutes)
  •  Ask the students to pick information out of the article to answer the questions on the checklist (15 minutes)
  •  Go around the room and ask each person to state something they found from the article and which question it answers (10 minutes)

Benefit: Students an practice picking apart a piece of text to find information that is relevant for them






Link to Brightspace: Presentation and seminar skills

Activity: Presentation practice and peer review

Approx. time allowance: 45 minutes


  • As a group, mindmap a list on the whiteboard of 'qualities of a strong presentation' (5 minutes)
  • Pair students up and task them with creating a 1 minute presentation they will present to the group - the topic could be anything they want or you could assign topics. (15 minutes)
  • Get the students to each present their presentation one at a time and task other pairs in the room with noting down feedback using the Stop, Start, Keep method and then feeding back (20 minutes)
  • Task students with creating an action plan for future presentations to include feedback from their peers and the qualities of a strong presentation that can be referred to later (5 minutes)

Benefit: Getting students to work in pairs may reduce any initial anxiety the students have about presenting to a group for the first time and may help with receiving feedback as this feels less targeted.




Link to Brightspace: Healthy study habits

Activity: Mind-mapping / discussion

Approx. time allowance: 45 minutes


  • Ask students to list 5 things they are currently worried about. (5 minutes)
  • Ask students to read the text in Manage stress and anxiety titled Gaining perspective to manage stress and anxiety. Once finished, ask them to discuss the text with the person next to them, considering how it relates to them. (5 minutes)
  •  Ask students to draw Covey's Circle of Influence on paper and to copy each of the 5 things they are worried about into its corresponding circle - i.e. is it in the circle of control, influence, or concern? Students can refer to the text as necessary. (10 minutes)
  • Ask students to share their circles of influence in small groups, noting how many of the things they are worried about they can actually control, and start an action plan on how they would overcome one of them. Near the end, choose a couple of groups to share. (10 minutes)
  • If there is still time watch the following video on Increasing confidence and resilience

Benefit: Getting students to consider their worries in this way may help them see that much of what they are stressed and anxious about is beyond their control. Helping them target the worries they can control may help them focus more clearly on strategies to overcome them.

Link to Brightspace: Referencing

Activity: Round Robin Referencing

Approx. time allowance: 40 minutes


  •  PREP - Using the referencing system appropriate to your group here, find one of each type of source (e.g. a book, journal article, webpage, etc), making sure all the information needed to make a reference for that type is accessible
  • Show the students each source and ask them to work as a team to come up to the whiteboard one at a time to each write a part of the reference without using the referencing guide
  • Once they believe the reference is complete ask them to find he reference guide and if needed to correct the reference on the board
  • Check their understanding by wiping the reference off the board and asking them to repeat the reference using just the source and reference guide

Benefit: Encourages team working and promotes the retention of information 

Link to Brightspace: Time Management

Activity: Time Plan

Approx. time allowance: 45 minutes


  • Ask students to first fill out the  Eisenhower Decision Matrix worksheet to prioritise their tasks such as lectures and seminars a well as their essential activities such as sleeping and eating. Finally ask them to add their additional activities such as society meet ups, assignment prep work, unit reading, sport / exercise, hobbies and seeing friends etc (15 minutes)
  • Now the students must copy these into the Weekly Planner , they must place them based on priority (10 minutes)
  • Team the students into small/'buzz' groups and ask them to now hare this information with their group and to collectively decide which one of them has organised their time more efficiently (5 minutes)
  •  Ask the chosen team members to feed back to the room about their planner so the whole group can discuss which timetable is most effective (10 minutes)

Benefit: Activity will double as an icebreaker as students discuss with the group what thy do in their spare time, allowing students to become more familiar with each other


Link to Brightspace: Exams and Revision

Activity: Word Web

Approx. time allowance: 30 minutes


  • Ask students to read through the Process Words answers pdf on the Academic Skills Hub. Telling them they will be quizzed on this later in the session (10 minutes)
  • Instruct students to stand in a circle. One person starts with the ball of string and says one of the process words that the remember
  • Then they must toss the ball of string to a classmate, whilst holding onto the end of the string. The student the ball was thrown to must remember their word before saying another classmate. The cycle continues until a web of words has formed (5 minutes)
  • Once every student has said a word they must work backwards, with each person now saying the definition of the word they were given (15 minutes)

Benefit: Promotes the retention of information that could be useful to know in exams 

Link to Brightspace: Finding Sources

Activity: Source Search

Approx. time allowance: 40 minutes


  •  PREP - Make a list of concepts / topics that your class should be familiar with from lectures and seminars
  •  Write these topics on the whiteboard and elicit any topics missing from the students
  •  Pair students and ask them to use MySearch and Google Scholar, by following the instructions on the section on the Academic Skills Hub, to find a source for each source
  • The first pair to find a source for each topic wins

Benefit: Allows students to experience working as a pair for future group assignments and getting use to working with someone else with a common goal as well as having students become more familiar with the resources BU provides.



Link to Brightspace: Understanding Assignments

Activity: Brief Breakdown

Approx. time allowance: 35 minutes


  •  PREP - Download the Example Assignment Brief making sure you are able to open and edit it
  •  Ask the students to work as a team to identify what in the brief is important information for the student to keep in mind if they were to complete the assignment, each time an answer is given remember to ask the students why they think it is important (15 minutes)
  •  Once they have completed this ask them to look at the brief for one of their own assignments and identify the important information individually(15 minutes)
  • Now ask them to compare their work to the brief they analysed in class to see if their classmates thought of anything they couldn't (5 minutes)

Benefit: Allows students to think about their assignments in more depth and break them down to be more manageable, this can make the assignment less overwhelming  






Link to Brightspace: Academic Integrity and Plagiarism 

Activity: Your work or mine

Approx. time allowance: 33 minutes


  •  Utilise the Bullseye technique, by asking your students to plot on the Bullseye how confident they are when understanding Academic Integrity and Plagiarism on the whiteboard using post-it notes. With the centre of the circle being very confident, the middle circle being confident, the outer circle being not confident and if they place their post-it outside of the Bullseye this means that they know nothing about the topic (5 minutes) 
  • Signpost students to the BU video on Academic Integrity on the Academic Skills Hub (3 minutes)
  • Once the class has watched the video go through the BU Academic Offenses Quiz as a class (20 minutes)
  • Ask your students to repeat the Bullseye method by moving their post-it to the relevant place on the bullseye after the activity (5 minutes)

Benefit: Students gain a batter understanding of what is expected of them when writing a university assignment rather than their previous experiences in other forms of education