The majority of students retain information most effectively when blending a few different study methods. But setting students up for studying success begins before they get to the library.
Be up front
“Complete transparency about what it takes to study and retain the material is key,” says Amy Baldwin, director of the Department of Student Transitions at the University of Central Arkansas. “Letting students know that up front can be really impactful.”
- When you announce tests or exams, consider including an estimate of how far in advance students should start studying to do well.
- Have a successful former student talk to the class about how much time they dedicated to studying and what study tools they used.
Emphasize the “why”
Many students get a boost from knowing the “why,” or purpose, of material they’re being taught. “It’s very easy to dismiss something that doesn’t feel interesting or relevant,” Baldwin says. When material might not be directly relevant for their major, emphasize how the problem-solving or creative thinking skills they’re developing will help them later in life. “Learning to learn is a useful skill everyone can walk away with,” says Baldwin.
Champion study resources
Finally, do your part to normalize the use of outside help such as tutors and campus study centers. “Smart students go to tutoring—it’s not just for students who are struggling,” says Baldwin.
Here are some helpful tips
- Provide practice tests: These are a tangible way to help students stay on track.
- Encourage students to color-code materials to aid memorization.
- Come up with acronyms for lists students need to memorize.
- Create a concept sheet with key words, diagrams, and charts to summarize the material for each unit.
- Assign/encourage study groups.
- Record lectures and post them online for students to review.
- Break any study materials down into small sections to help students space out their studying.
- Encourage students to review lecture notes and add their own reflections or questions after class.
With some creativity, your students’ studying can be more effective and even enjoyable.Get help or find out more
The following resources offer study tips and tricks.
Amy Baldwin, director of the Department of Student Transitions, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, Arkansas.
Dr. Damien Clement, assistant professor of sport and exercise psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Carlson, S. (2005). The net generation goes to college. Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(1), 1–7. Retrieved from https://chronicle.com/article/The-Net-Generation-Goes-to/12307
Gurung, R. A. (2005). How do students really study (and does it matter)? Education, 39, 323–340. Retrieved from https://02c44f4.netsolhost.com/ebooks/tips2011/I-05-04Gurung2005.pdf
Komarraju, M., Karau, S. J., Schmeck, R. R., & Avdic, A. (2011). The big five personality traits, learning styles, and academic achievement. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(4), 472–477. Retrieved from https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0191886911002194/1-s2.0-S0191886911002194-main.pdf?_tid=1cc52fea-0920-11e3-8138-00000aab0f01&acdnat=1376952107_d8d9f6534a777cd4b523196c3175c933
Karpicke, J. D. (2012). Retrieval-based learning: Active retrieval promotes meaningful learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(3), 157–163. Retrieved from https://learninglab.psych.purdue.edu/downloads/2012_Karpicke_CDPS.pdf
Kornell, N. (2009). Optimising learning using flashcards: Spacing is more effective than cramming. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1297–1317. Retrieved from https://web.williams.edu/Psychology/Faculty/Kornell/Publications/Kornell.2009b.pdf
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. Random House: New York.