What to do if you get stuck

All students get stuck at times – that’s normal. What’s important is how you react when you do and what strategies you have to help you solve your problem. Below are some tips and ideas.

Talk things over

People learn by talking things over. If you can, get together with a friend, family member, the whānau, a colleague or a mentor to talk about what you are stuck on.

You could also talk to other students. This could be through your course pages or our Online Community.

Ask yourself questions

Start by working out exactly the problem is and write it down in the form of a question. Use the questioning words why, what, when, where and how. Then try and work out the answer. To do this you could:

  • Keep the question in mind while you’re reading your course materials and try to answer it.
  • Ask a friend or mentor to help you find the answer.
  • Contact your lecturer/tutor and ask for help.

Use glossaries and dictionaries

You may be having trouble understanding something because you aren't familiar with the words or terminology used in your learning material. If that's the case, the first step is to find out what they mean. You could:

Look in your learning materials or the online course page to see if there is a glossary or list of technical terms, or a link to an online resource.

  • Check other online sources.
  • If you have textbooks, check them.
  • Look in a dictionary, such as the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary or the online dictionary One Look.

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary website (opens in new window)

One Look Dictionary website (opens in a new window)

Ask your lecturer/tutor

If you're still uncertain, ask your lecturer/tutor. When you do it can be useful to email them, so that you have a record of what you asked and the answer. If you phone, make notes of what you want to ask so you don’t forget anything; keep your notes.
When you contact your lecturer remember to:

  • Let them know who you are and what you're studying. For example, Mira Smith, ID 1234567, 73132 Psychology of Stress; or I'd like to study ECE next trimester; etc.
  • What part of the course you need help with, including the topic number any page references, activity numbers, etc.
  • What you need.
  • What you've already done to try and find the answer.
  • How you'd like to receive their help. For example, whether phone or email is better, and if by phone when you're available.

If you still feel stuck after you hear back from your lecturer keep asking questions until you understand.

For example, if your lecturer says, 'You need a better structure', you may need to ask 'What do you mean by structure?' or 'Can you give me an example?' or 'Can you give me a good starting point?’ You could also explain what you think their answer meant and ask for confirmation; if necessary, ask for further clarification.

If you don’t ask, your lecturer won't know that you don’t understand and won't be able to help you.

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