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Study Strategies: What the Research Tells Us

Study Strategies

Study Strategies: What the Research Tells Us

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study strategy research
We know a lot about study strategies—how they can be used to improve exam performance and promote a deeper understanding of the material. We also know that many students are attempting to learn course content without particularly strong study skills. They procrastinate and have short attention spans. If they read, they spend lots of time haphazardly highlighting large passages. And they equate memorizing with understanding. If these approaches to studying don’t work, what about the ones that do?

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e know a lot about study strategies—how they can be used to improve exam performance and promote a deeper understanding of the material. We also know that many students are attempting to learn course content without particularly strong study skills. They procrastinate and have short attention spans. If they read, they spend lots of time haphazardly highlighting large passages. And they equate memorizing with understanding. If these approaches to studying don’t work, what about the ones that do? The research enterprise has much to offer. It includes concrete evidence that certain ways of studying are more effective than others. Self-testing, regular review, review of several topics during a study session, elaborating, and explaining to others are among the strategies that improve performance on exams and promote deeper understanding and better long-term retention. Teachers can play an important role in helping students develop study skills that promote success in college and translate into increasingly necessary lifelong learning skills. The resources below comprise a small collection of the work that’s been done on study strategies. They are representative of the findings. All the articles are well referenced and can lead those interested to a wide range of other studies and resources on study strategies and related topics. Many of the articles in this collection have been highlighted in the Teaching Professor newsletter and its associated blog. Links to those fuller descriptions of the study are included in the reference, when available. Background: Good overviews of the research on learning generally Benassi, V. A., Overson, C. E., & Hakala, C. M. (Editors). (2014). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php Halpern, D. F, and Hakel, M. D. (2008). Applying the science of learning to the university and beyond: Teaching for long-term retention and transfer. Change, July/August, 36-41. How do students study? Blaisman, R. N., Dunlosky, J., and Rawson, K. A. (2017). The what, how much, and when of study strategies: comparing intended versus actual study behavior. Memory, 25 (6), 784-792. Hora, M. T. and Oleson, A. K. (2017). Examining study habits in undergraduate STEM courses from a situative perspective. International Journal of STEM Education, 4 (1), 19 pages. Sebesta A. J. and Speth, E. B. (2017). How should I study for the exam? Self-regulated learning strategies and achievement in introductory biology. Cell Biology Education—Life Sciences Education, 16 (2), 1-12. Which study strategies does the research say are most effective? Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J. and Willingham, D. T., (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14 (1), 4-58. How much do students and faculty know about evidence-based study strategies? Hunter, A. S., and Lloyd, M. E. (2018). Faculty discuss study strategies, but not the best ones: A survey of suggested exam preparation techniques for difficult courses across disciplines. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4 (2), 105-114. McCabe, J. (2011). Metacognitive awareness of learning strategies. Memory and Cognition, 39 (3), 462-476. Morehead, K., Rhodes, M. G., and DeLozier, S. (2016). Instructor and student knowledge of study strategies. Memory, 24 (2), 257-271. [For a version of the scenarios used in this research see A Quiz on Study Strategies that Support Student Learning.] Are there approaches that get students using more effective study strategies? Chen, P., Chavez, O., Ong, D. C., and Gunderson, B. (2017). Strategic resource use for learning: A self-administered intervention that guides self-reflection on effective resource use enhances academic performance. Psychological Science, 28 (6), 774-785. Dang, N., Chiang, J., Brown, H., and McDonald, K. (2018). Curricular activities that promote cognitive skills impact lower-performing students in an introductory biology course. Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education, 19 (1), 1-9. A sampling of the evidence supporting individual strategies shown to improve performance and promote learning Study Groups McCabe, J. A. and Lummis, S. N. (2018). Why and how do undergraduates study in groups? Scholarships of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4 (1), 27-42. Test-Enhanced Learning Brame, C. J. and Biel, R. (2015). Test-enhanced learning: The potential for testing to promote greater learning in undergraduate science courses. Cell Biology Education—Life Sciences Education, 14 (Summer), 1-12. Batsell Jr., W. R., Perry, J. L., Hanley, E., and Hostetter, A. B., (2017). Ecological validity of the testing effect: The use of daily quizzes in introductory psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 44 (1), 18-23. Distributed Practice Benjamin, A. S. and Tullis, J. (2010). What makes distributed practice effective? Cognitive Psychology, 61 (3), 229-228. Interleaving Rohrer, D. (2012). Interleaving helps students distinguish among similar concepts. Educational Psychology Review, 24 (3), 355-367.