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Convincing students to spend their time studying can be a challenge. However, the task becomes even more daunting when students employ study strategies that are less than effective. Convincing students to invest large amounts of time and still not see significant learning results can be a tough sell.  

The good news is that there are strategies students can employ to help them increase the learning they reap from the efforts they invest in studying. Meanwhile, they will have to spend less time studying in comparison to traditional approaches. Here are five strategies and comparisons we can share. You are encouraged to share these with your students! 

Typical study technique:  

Students read and re-read content, assuming that familiarity with information is learning. Yet, reading alone is not an effective way to develop deep understanding or transfer information into memory for later recall and application.  

Better:  

Have students read targeted content only one time, with as much focus as they can give. When they finish reading, have them spend time recalling and reflecting on what they understood and take notes accordingly. The key is for students to think about the meaning, structure, and significance of what they read. If they find that there are gaps in information or if they experience confusion, they can re-read only that portion of the text and then repeat the process.  

Typical study technique:  

Students often study one subject, skill, or concept at a time. This is called blocked practice, and the assumption is that focusing on one thing at a time will increase learning and recall.  

Better:  

Counsel students to improve and accelerate their learning by including multiple skills or concepts within the same learning or study session. For example, students might study math and chemistry in the same session, mix in new information while reviewing past learning, or address content out of chronological order. Known as interleaving, the process of addressing multiple concepts or skills in succession keeps the brain alert and improves its ability to differentiate elements and aspects of the content students are learning.  

Typical study technique:  

Students often spend hours leading up to an exam cramming information into their brain with the hope that it can be recalled during the test. Unfortunately, attempts to cram information into the brain is not only time-consuming, but it often results in confusion, gaps, and quick forgetting.  

Better:  

Coach students to engage in brief, intense bursts of learning, followed by breaks to absorb, reflect, and make sense of it. While learning may be spread over more days, the actual time spent studying can be less—and more effective—than trying to cram.  

Typical study technique:  

Students allocate time for studying but engage in multitasking with social media, digital distractions, and other unrelated attention-competing activities. The problem is that multitasking, or task switching, degrades focus and extends the time necessary to learn.  

Better:  

Encourage students to increase their study intensity for shorter periods of time. An hour spent in focused, uninterrupted study can be as effective as three hours of study, during which students spend time checking texts, scrolling through Instagram, and engaging in other distractions. As a result of intensely and intentionally studying for one hour, they will have two hours left to socialize and enjoy other activities.  

Typical study technique:  

Students spend their study sessions reading text, underlining key information, and reviewing highlighted content.  

Better:  

Advise students to pre-test themselves on what they already know about the topic or content before they begin to study. Even incorrect answers help to focus attention and look for key information as their study period unfolds. When finished studying, students can self-test using questions from the pre-test and any others that seem relevant from the study session. The time spent pre- and post-testing generates more learning than additional time they might have spent reading or reviewing highlighted content.  

We want our students to be successful and to see us as their advocate. Sharing strategies such as these can offer key support and reinforce our commitment to their success. Of course, these same strategies can be useful when we find ourselves having to learn new concepts and develop new skills. 

Thought for the Week

When we understand another person’s perspective, what they are thinking and feeling, we are better able to relate to them and understand their needs.

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