Student advocate: dog sleeping on books

We all know the majority of students retain information most effectively when blending a few different study methods. Here are some ways you can help set the tone.

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.”

  • If you have an idea in mind or have heard from students who have done well, consider including an estimate of how far in advance you recommend beginning a particular assignment or aspect of a course.

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

Instructors at Ashford are great about this! Keep doing your part to normalize the use of University resources referenced in each classroom. Sometimes the emphasis is about reducing stigma, “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.

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Article sources

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.

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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.