How do you study? This might seem like a ridiculous question, but I have found that so many of the first year students think that the way that they studied in high school will work perfectly in university. For some students this will work well; however, for so many this is not the case. Some students are used to regurgitating information. I work in a writing intensive department and regurgitation will not get the student far in our first year courses—let alone the upper division courses.
It is important to reflect on your study habits. Are you focusing on one course at a time? Do you have few distractions, as you read dense material? Do you discuss the material with classmates? Do you participate in tutorial discussions?
One of the things that I like to share with my students: when I need to grade, I can do this virtually in any place or at any time. However, when I want to do my writing, I need as little distractions as possible. I can engage in research amidst my children fighting, but cannot think about verb tense and proofreading my writing with any distractions—short of some music.
So, I ask you to think about how you are studying and to think about how effective your current strategies are. Do they work?
Hello Dr Aragon,
I might start of by saying this is response may be percieved as a way for me to procrastinate from finishing my honours but I also believe it’s a way to reflect on an activity I often do studying.
I find that there can be distractions everywhere: the banal ones such as a humming fridge, the dishes that need to be done and the discussions happening across the library corridor; more serious ones, such as volunteer, familial and work commitments; the unavoidable, lack of sleep from staying up til 4 to do your work, the pain in your side or more.
But to become more effective, I’ve started to use a new strategy. On a piece of paper I do the following:
a. look at the clock, say it’s 5:30 and simply put down all of the quarter of the hours for the time I plan to study (5:30,5:45,6:00, etc.)
b. after every quarter of an hour passes or when I see the clock again, I jot down my progress. If I am reading a book, I put down the page I got to by that quarter of an hour, or if I am writing, I will put down the amount of words my document is now at.
c. I also record what hindered me from doing work: did I chat with my friends? decide that I should practice my second language by looking at a french newspaper? how about deciding that I NEEDED to finish my volunteer responsibilities?
After a certain amount of time, I can reflect back on my progress or lack there of and begin to systematically realize what is and is not helping me. It’s so helpful to realize just how long it takes you to return to work after checking out a social media site, type an email or chat for a minute.
This strategy can be so useful for realizing one’s bad habits and for identifying what factors can enable me to do more efficient work, whether it be school work, volunteer activities or more.
What about you, Prof A?
Dear Alicia: Thank you for your thoughtful post! I’m not surprised to read about how methodical you are when you study. This would make sense, given the multiple classes, work, and strong academic record. It seems like a no-brainer to think about how you study, but I imagine there are lots of students who really don’t think about this. And, given the time of year it’s really important for students or anyone with major deadlines to think about ways to work efficiently.
As for me, if I really want to get work done, I need to be at my work office. I know that I cannot get any substantive writing done at home. I have too many cute distractions!