Academic Life

Our teaching incorporates a variety of approaches, designed to help you achieve the skills and qualities of a ‘Sheffield Graduate’. Learning in a range of ways will challenge you to develop skills such as independent inquiry and research, teamwork, individual and group presentations, web-based knowledge and project management.

An international learning environment

One of our central aims is that you should be able to compete for jobs internationally and to think of yourself as a global citizen. The international environment at Sheffield is conducive to this and gives you many opportunities to feel part of the larger community.

On many courses you will find yourself with students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures and this can be a rich source of learning. Other courses have mainly UK students, but here too we try to add an international element through inclusive curricula that offer examples from other contexts and cultures.

To give our students an international experience, we try to provide as many students as possible with the opportunity to spend part of their time abroad as part of their studies and you are encouraged to take a modern language or improve a second (or third) language you already know.  An international experience is on your doorstep at Sheffield. More than 20% of our student population are international students. Enjoy the benefits of our multicultural community of learners.

How will I learn?

Attendance at all timetabled course activity is compulsory unless you have been given permission to be absent. In addition to attending lectures and seminars, you will be expected to undertake considerable independent reading and study.


In many courses you can expect to attend traditional lectures. Lectures provide a broad introduction to a subject where the lecturer lays the groundwork for your subject area.


Linked to most lecture programmes is a series of tutorials. You will be placed in smaller groups to discuss the content of lectures in greater depth and related readings.


Some programmes (often at higher levels) consist mainly or exclusively of seminars. These are run like tutorials but are generally not attached to lecture programmes and require greater independent inquiry from students. You may be required to undertake a piece of research and present your findings to your seminar group.

What is expected of me?

In both seminars and tutorials you will be expected to contribute to discussions based on what you have read and prepared in advance. You may be asked to look at an issue on your own or with a small group of students. While your teacher may suggest key readings, most decisions about what to read and how to address discussion questions will be up to you.

In some cases, tutors may divide the tutorial or seminar group into groups of 4-5 students to discuss a particular issue. In others, the tutor may simply have a discussion with the whole group. Being prepared to participate is essential. 

For some assignments, tutors may organise the class into small groups who work together towards a group presentation or a written submission, website, or other item to be assessed. They are expected to meet regularly outside of the classroom to develop their work.

Is it the same for all subjects?

Different departments at the University often have their own subject-specific approach to teaching and learning. For example, in the science and engineering subjects, laboratory-based practical sessions are very common, whereas in architecture and landscape, you will participate in design studio-based practice. There will be conversation classes and laboratory work for languages.

Fieldwork and practical classes, which are common in the sciences, are also used in subjects such as archaeology, architecture, engineering, geography and journalism. In some subjects you may work on real-life problems facing local or regional organisations, for example doing research for a local charity or community group.

Visit your academic department’s website to find out more about the approach and environment that you can expect. Your induction programme in the department during Intro Week is also a good time to find this out and ask questions.

How will I be assessed?

As with teaching and learning, we use a variety of assessment methods to help you show us what you have learned and how you have gained new skills.

Types of assessment

There are the traditional written examinations as well as continuous assessment of submitted work, multiple choice papers, open papers, long essays, dissertations and project work, assessed groupwork, poster presentations, online quizzes, peer assessment and reflective writing.

How you are assessed will vary from module to module and from programme to programme, but most programmes will use a variety of methods.


You will be offered a variety of feedback on your work during your time at university. It could be verbal, written or audio, in one-to-one discussions, during lectures, and from your peers. Some feedback will be ‘formative’. This gives you feedback on a submitted or presented piece of work, e.g. a draft version of an essay, online quiz, or presentation, but does not count towards your final mark. This gives you a chance to think of ways to improve on it or help you identify areas where further work may be needed. Other feedback will be on work submitted for final assessment.

You can reflect on what the feedback you receive tells you about what you have learned, whether you’ve learned the right things in the right way, and how you could better have gone about this learning.

Details of how your department assesses your work and how it gives feedback are included in your departmental handbook. For more information and support on learning, feedback and assessment, see The Academic Skills Hub (TASH).