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Tag: study strategies

Study Strategies
rethinking rereading as a study strategy
student-led study groups
Reading Notes
What do students do when they study
Male college student studying in library.
Study for the Exam
Students in a large lecture hall
college student studying
Female college student studying
Consider this scenario: Two sections of an art history course taught by two different instructors. Both professors show slides of paintings—six paintings each by 12 different painters, a total of 72 paintings. Professor A shows all six paintings by the artist, one after the other. Professor B mixes up paintings, showing one by one artist, followed by a painting done by a different artist. Here’s the question: which strategy is most beneficial to learning? If you answered mixing up the paintings is more beneficial, you are correct. Researchers call that approach interleaving, and it rests on a strong empirical base. However, many instructors present all the related material together—all the pictures by the same artist, all the problems that use the same equation, all the poems by the same author, etc. And most students study that way as well. On exams, though, the questions present the content in random, unrelated order, which is often the first time students have seen the material out of the order in which it was presented and studied. If you rated presenting all the paintings by the same artists together as more beneficial to learning, you are not alone. This scenario is one of six, each presenting a study strategy supported empirically alongside one not supported by research, that researchers used to ascertain levels of student and instructor knowledge of study strategies. As for this particular strategy, only 16 percent of the students and 13 percent of the faculty rated the intermingled approach as more beneficial to learning. However, over all six of the scenarios, instructors were 54 percent more likely to endorse the empirically supported approach and students were 48 percent more likely to endorse the research supported strategy. This study’s findings that students aren’t consistently using the best study skills is not surprising. Teachers see it firsthand, and it’s been reported regularly in the research for a number of years now. Two reasons are usually given, both more or less confirmed by this research. Students procrastinate and tend to spend most of their study time the day before or the day of the exam. At that point, they have a lot of material to get through, and the study strategies with strong empirical support like interleaving and self-testing are time-consuming. They work because they provide lots of retrieval practice, but in a time crunch it’s quicker to just reread notes and text material. Corroboration was provided by student responses to two questions: 1) How do you decide what to study next? Over 60 percent of the students responded that they studied whatever was due or happening next in the course. 2) Which of the following best describes your pattern of study? “I most often do my studying in one session before the test” was the selected response by 52 percent of the students. Students also opt for less effective study approaches because they don’t know which approaches are the most effective. And here the study breaks some new ground. These researchers wondered how well-informed faculty were on study strategies. And faculty responses to the scenarios and a set of survey questions similar to those asked of students produced findings that led the researchers to this overall conclusion: “Our results suggest that instructors and students have modest knowledge of optimal study strategies and differ little in this regard.” (p. 268) So, both students and faculty have more to learn about study strategies. The research team suggests “that instructors represent a ‘front line’ in dissemination of information about studying.” (p. 258) And, they can use teaching methods that demonstrate good study approaches as well. Interestingly, 79 percent of faculty reported that they discussed study techniques in class. On the other hand, when students were asked if they studied the way they did because they’d been taught to study that way, only 36 percent said “yes.” If faculty are offering advice, why aren’t students heeding it? That’s not a question this research addressed, but one that merits further exploration. As with all descriptive research where respondents are asked to report what they do, they report beliefs about what they do, or they report what they think they ought to be doing. How well self-reports match up with actual behavior is an open question. Likewise, instructors chose to respond to the survey used in this research. It’s possible that only those with interests in and some knowledge of student study strategies responded, which, in this case, could mean the levels of knowledge are higher than they actually are. Study strategies do matter. In large part, they determine how much students learn, how well they learn it, and how long they retain it. For that reason, accurate knowledge about study strategies matters as well. Reference: Morehead, K., Rhodes, M. G., and DeLozier, S. (2016). Instructor and student knowledge of study strategies. Memory, 24 (2), 257-271