How to Study Effectively; Surprising Ideas!
Here’s a follow up article to the New York Times article, Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits, by Sandhya Nankani and Holly Epstein Ojalvo. Here’s an excerpt of how to apply the strategies in the classroom but it might be a fun thing to try with your kids at home as they study:
1. Alternating Study Settings
Strategy: Studying material in different environments instead of a single location.
Experiment: Divide students into two groups, a test group and a control group. Provide each group with a list of information to learn, such as vocabulary words and definitions, key U.S. history facts or other material related to your curriculum.
Have the control group stay in the classroom and study the information for 20 minutes, with a five-minute break. Have the test group spend ten minutes in the classroom and ten minutes in a different environment, such as the library, the cafeteria or the outdoors. Afterwards, administer a quiz to all students and evaluate performance. Which group performed better?
2. Mixing Content
Strategy: “Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting” instead of focusing on just one skill or piece of content at a time.
Experiment: Below are some ways to test this strategy in different areas of study, working again with a test group and control group; after the activity, assess student retention, recall and comprehension of the material.
- Math: Teach a new concept. Have the control group work on a problem set for that specific concept, while the test group works on a problem set that includes other skills and concepts. For example, if you are teaching how to solve basic proportions, you might provide students with worksheet that also includes basic equations, word problems and FOIL method multiplication.
- World Languages: Provide a list of basic words in the target language that anyone traveling to a country where the language is spoken should know. Have the control group study the list silently, while the test group studies the same words by using them in spoken conversation, writing (in context), and reading.
- American History: Present a timeline of key dates surrounding a historical event. Have the test group study this list in the traditional method by reading and memorizing it. Have the control group read the list, then read a prose passage about that same historical event and write a short essay about it, as well as examining a related photograph or illustration.
- Language Arts: Introduce the control group of students to a poem or monologue by having them read it aloud a few times over an assigned block of time. Have the test group approach the same poem in the following ways: first, reading it silently, then reading it aloud and then writing it out in their journals.
- Fine Arts: As described in the article, give the control group three sets of 12 works, each set by a different painter. Give the control group a mixed collection of works by various artists, including two or three paintings by the three artists assigned to the control group. Allow students ample time to examine and study the works. Then administer a quiz on the painting style of the three artists whose works they all examined, or play a “memory” game to test recall and identification.
3. Spacing Out Studying
Strategy: Studying material over time – say, an hour at a time on different days – as opposed to “cramming.”
Experiment: Teach a new concept or skill. Then divide the class into two groups. Have one group study the same material over time — such as one hour that night, another hour over the weekend, and then a third hour a few days later. Have the other group cram (or study intensively on one night). Give a quiz on the material, and then a second quiz on the same material a week later. Then assess: Who performed better on each quiz? Who was better able to recall the information immediately after the study sessions? Who retained the material better after a few days’ time?
4. Rehearsing Recall
Strategy: Taking practice tests and quizzes.
Experiment: As in the other experiments above, give the entire class a set of information to learn or memorize, such as vocabulary words, functions or facts, and assign the class to study the material for homework.
Assign a short “pretest” to only the test group (or have students develop their own), to be taken as part of their study session, and merely tell the control group to study the material. The next day, test the entire class on the material.
Going further | Students create and illustrate a “Dos and Don’ts” brochure with tips for effective study habits, and make them available in the school library, learning center or study hall, or on the school Web site. (You might introduce students to Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits for Highly Effective Teens,” then have them write their brochures as “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Studiers.”)
Alternatively or additionally, students choose one or more strategies from the article to implement into their own study practice. They keep a journal over the course of a unit or semester, chronicling their use of the habit(s) and the results in the form of quiz, test and course grades.