Study Suggestions
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Several times every year I am asked to present my study suggestions to various student groups. So this page of suggestions springs from those presentations to college students. My suggestions are best applied to what I term the "rigid science courses". Those are the courses like biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, etc. Students with relatively high GPAs (>3.50) will benefit the least from these suggestions because those students are already operating at a high level. Students with relatively low GPAs (<2.50) will benefit the most from these suggestions. I am confident any college student reading this page will gain something valuable. Learning and long-term retention of knowledge isn't fully reflected in the GPA. Two students may have similar GPAs, but one of them may have a knowledge domain that enhances retention and retrieval better than the other student with a similar GPA. My suggestions are focused upon long-term retention and retrieval, and therefore easier acquisition of new knowledge.

Consider this page a work in progress. I will add and modify items every so often.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and his dogs.

Also visit my Tools for Learning page

Allrich Technique of Note Extension (ATONE)---View my video on my YouTube Channel.

Consider a Gap Year---
Recently, much has been written about the value of a Gap Year. There are many ways to define this concept, but basically you delay starting college by one year, or suspend your current college career for one year. For some students, it could make a big improvement in the amount of knowledge gleaned during their college years. Some students have little or no idea why they are in college and therefore have no focus or intrinsic motivation to keep them going when the going gets tough. As always, there are many pros and cons to be considered. The following links provide excellent material on the Gap Year. Gap Year-NACAC, American Gap Association, Gap Year Fairs, Gap Year ProgramsInside Higher Ed.

Treat college like an 8 to 5 job
----Get up, get yourself ready, have breakfast, and get out the door everyday (M-F) by 8 a.m. Do this whether or not you have a class at that time. If no class, go to one of your study spots (study spots will be discussed as a separate topic) and start working (studying). When class time comes, go to class. If no class, you should be studying in one of your spots. Have lunch sometime. Continue this procedure all day until 5 p.m. You are now done working. Have supper, enjoy friends, read email, pet your dog (or cat), etc. Then get to bed so that you have 8+/- hours of sleep. Repeat this M through F. Reserve weekends for a job at the store, visiting parents (hint, hint), some studying--if necessary, working on a hobby, brushing the dog (or cat), etc.

Build a great academic foundation----Freshmen, and perhaps sophomores, should consider their 100 and 200 level courses as laying a foundation for courses yet to come (like a foundation for a building you don't know how many floors will be added). A lot of their courses are entitled "Introduction to Subject X, Introduction to Subject Y, etc." Failure to do well in these courses usually predicts poor performance in subsequent courses. Since we can't predict the future, wouldn't it make sense to make sure the foundation was solid? A solid foundation doesn't restrict how many floors you can later add on top. Evaluation of academic performance takes honesty and self-reflection. At the end of each semester, students should ask themselves-"How did I do this semester?", "Can I alter my study habits to improve my learning/grades?", "Do I need to obtain advice on how I can improve?" Rushing into a new semester after a low level of performance in the previous semester (without corrective measures) often leads to another low performing semester. Earning a low grade in a foundation course is like digging a hole, now you need to dig out (often by retaking the course) and then move on to subsequent courses. All this takes more time and more money and leaves a trail in the academic transcript. I often tell freshmen to be aware of the "hidden 3 credits!" These 3 credits are all the adjustments that freshmen undergo during their first semesters at college. College is a different world than high school-hence 3 credits of hidden burdens (time, in other words). So if a freshmen signs up for 13 credits, my mind reads that as 16 credits, perfect for the average freshmen! Of course, my 3 credit rule doesn't apply to well prepared freshmen. But many many freshmen come from high school underprepared. Read the reports-US News, The Chronicle of Higher Education (don't miss the comments at the bottom of each article).

Build a class schedule that promotes learning----If possible, schedule your courses so that there is a hour between each class meeting. Then, before a given class, review lecture notes (or lab notes) from the previous meeting (lab). This method will help you prepare for the upcoming lecture/lab. Then, after that lecture (lab), review the notes you just took. These techniques help prepare your mind to acquire the next new information for the course and make for productive reviewing. There is no way that much learning occurs when a student runs from one course to another (often 3 courses or more in a row) with no breaks between. It is surely efficient to run from one class to the next, but this is counterproductive relative to meaningful learning. The negative effects are especially great when 3 or more courses run together without breaks. Avoid this type of schedule if you value meaningful learning. Of course, students don't control the times when courses are offered, so at times it is impossible to avoid these situations. But try to avoid them if possible! Perhaps colleges should consider making changes to course offering times so students have more time between successive classes.

Good study spots----We all need our space, study space that is. Students need to find 3, 4, or 5 places on campus where they can productively study. Such spaces may be in the library, empty classrooms, student union, conference center, the end of a quiet hallway, etc. These spaces should be free from all distractions, provide adequate light and a desk (or table or bench). Rotate yourself among the selected spaces. Maybe have one space for Monday, a different one for Tuesday, etc. Once you are in the study place, study, don't do email, text, or phone someone. Stay focused upon the task at hand. Maybe have one or two study spots that will accommodate 2-3 people (when a group study session is in order). Don't use the study spots for anything other than studying. Go elsewhere to eat, email, etc. Focus. Use these study spaces whenever you are not in class (see the 8 to 5 section above).

Learn how to ask questions----Too many students sit in class day after day, and never (I mean never) ask any questions, before, during, or after class. They remain silent the entire quarter or semester. If you are one of those students, start small, but encourage yourself to ask at least one question per week (either before, during, or after class). Most instructors welcome questions whenever they are presented. Questions naturally arise when anybody studies a subject in detail. Learning and retention of knowledge are enhanced when you ask questions. See this article:  Here

Don't learn in silence----Too many students remain relatively quiet throughout their college career. If you secretly followed one of these students for a week, you would find that they never talked in any of their classes. By that I mean, they never discussed course topics with peers or instructors and did not ask questions in any class. If they, for example, were studying a unit on the liver, you would find that they never uttered a single word about the liver all week. This is wrong. It enhances learning when you speak about the topics/facts that you are studying. When you speak about a topic out loud, you hear that information again! This helps retention. See this article.

Develop your listening skills----Productive listening in the classroom is a valuable trait for students. Students can learn more from any course if they value and practice active listening. These two articles can help students improve their listening skills. One, Two

To teach is to learn twice----When you teach others, you really enhance your own learning. If possible, students should find opportunities where they can teach peers. For example, when you establish a group study session, each student can take turns teaching each other. In addition, some courses hire undergraduate TAs to help the main course instructor. One relevant article: Here

Create your own course----Most academic departments at colleges allow students the option of creating "special topic" courses. These courses allow the student to study subjects that are not part of the regularly offered courses found in the published offerings each quarter/semester. For example, Jane is interested in learning the details of "Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome". But no such course exists at the college she is enrolled at. Taking matters into her own hands, she finds an instructor who agrees to supervisor her activities, and together, they seek departmental approval for a temporary course entitled "Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome". Jane researches the syndrome (including interviews of relevant scientists) and writes a final report. Thereafter, a course entitled "Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome" appears on her transcript with a set number of credits and a grade. The option of creating courses allows a student to somewhat customize their education and to allow them access to courses that deeply interest them. An intrinsically motivated student could end up with several of these courses on their transcript. When Jane interviews for jobs after graduation, she can proudly point to those courses on her transcript and say, "I created those courses".

Put those PowerPoint slides/printouts away----There are many uses and misuses of PPT slides/printouts in college. The individual (usually the instructor) who creates the PPT presentation clearly is the person that learns the most from them (this is active learning). When students are given the printouts of PPT presentations, they should store them in the back of their notebook during class. Students should generate their own notes during class. You learn a lot by writing down words, concepts, and making illustrations commonly found in class notes as you listen to the instructor. Use the PPT printouts as a reference source when you need help filling in gaps in your notes or as you review for a test. If you passively read or high-light the PPT printouts during class, learning takes a backseat. Some articles: One, Two, Three

Know what a good tutor looks like----A good tutor can help students overcome those difficult subjects that they struggle with. We all could use a good tutor now and then. The kicker is knowing what a good tutor looks like. Too many times at college, a published list of "approved" tutors for a given subject is simply made up of individuals who have earned an A or B in a set course or courses. This is very wrong. Some people with A's in courses make terrible tutors. Some are great. So how do you select a good tutor? Here is a link to general characteristics of good tutors. Here. That link did a good job describing the general traits of good tutors. However, it missed THE MOST IMPORTANT TRAIT of a good tutor. A good tutor will ascertain what the student knows and will then provide scaffolding. Read about scaffolding: One, Two, Three