Students to Study Effectively
Tennen and Gary K. Hagar
told my students that there would be a quiz in our
next class period ...a quiz that was also listed on
the class outline. I gave the students a study sheet
and told them I'd be asking them to define three of
the five terms on the study sheet. Prior to
the quiz, we discussed all the terms for two days
in class. The terms were also defined and discussed
in the assigned textbook chapter. On the day of the
quiz, 1/4 of the class failed the quiz; two students
said that they didn't know we were having a quiz;
one student asked where these terms had come from
as he had never seen them before.
- Anonymous Social Science professor
All instructors have stories like this one. An
instructor's first response is to ask why students did not
succeed. "Was it something I did?"
Or was the failure a result of the students' poor study
skills and lack of preparation? All too often, students'
failure to succeed is a direct result of poor study habits;
they just have not developed the skills and behaviors necessary
to support comprehension of college-level content.
There will be students in your classes with poor or inadequate
study skills, but you, as the instructor, will be busy covering
a designated body of content. Most likely you
will not have the opportunity to teach students how to develop
good study skills as a part of the class you are teaching,
but there are some things you can do in your class
to assist them in assuming responsibility for their learning
and in becoming more effective learners:
the importance of good study skills to student success
students of the knowledge, skills and study behaviors
that will help them to be successful in your class
students assess their study skills strengths and weaknesses
(include learning style preferences)
students with information resources for study skills
students clear directions and frequent opportunities
for progress assessment and feedback on class work
provides guidance on how you and your students can become
partners in the learning process. It provides resources
that students can use to improve their general study skills.
It also contains information that will help you to
recognize some of the most common study skills problems
and suggests strategies
you can use to help students become better learners.
the Importance of Good Study Skills
students are not aware of the value of good study skills
to their success. Unless they're among the fortunate
few who have taken a study skills course, note taking and
studying are at best a haphazard collection of habits that
have been developed over time. The first thing students
must recognize is the benefit of good study habits.
You can help by taking a few minutes of class time to encourage
students to improve their study skills and by giving them
compelling reasons why it's worth their time and effort.
good study habits helps students to:
responsibility for the learning process
aware of performance and progress
and retain content
Simply put, students
with good study habits achieve better grades and
are more successful in their classes.
of the Knowledge and Skills Necessary for Success
of the content and the types of assignments you require
in your class will guide you in identifying specific study
strategies that will be effective for your students. Share
your insight with students on what you believe will help
them master the content. Some
classes have easily identifiable skills that influence students'
ability to succeed. Informing your students of the
types of skills the course content requires will help them
to have a realistic understanding of class expectations and
to make judgments about their preparedness to meet course
requirements. You can help your students by identifying
and explaining the general requirements of your course content.
Your list may include many of the factors compiled below
for social science classes.
reading, writing, or math skills necessary to learn
the information, concepts and skills taught in the
communication skills (reading, writing, speaking)
to demonstrate learning
body of knowledge assumed by the text or the teacher
from the textbook (e.g. annotating, summarizing, using
the glossary, outlining, checking comprehension)
from the lecture (e.g. taking notes, listening skills,
for and taking tests
(e.g. awareness of the quality of their learning,
awareness of what they can do to enhance their learning)
and study commitment
of classes required
commitment of study time
and number of assignments
assess their study skills strengths and weaknesses.
are convinced of the benefits of good study habits, they
will need to determine how to improve on their skills.
The major components of study habits are:
- Note Taking
- Test Taking
- Time Management
A student who has poor
study habits may be deficient in any or all of these areas.
Any deficiency will hamper a student's ability to master content
or to demonstrate mastery of the content in your class, resulting
in a poor or failing grade. Since you are probably
not teaching study skills as a part of your class, students
themselves will have to take most of the responsibility for
improving their overall skills.
So how can you help a student determine
where help is needed? Guide students to resources
available at your college and on the Internet.
with information resources for study skills development
to online study skills resources. For
more immediate self-help, the Internet can be a valuable resource.
Many sites have been developed and maintained by colleges
in support of their students. Try to avoid sites that
are selling specific products or services. One of the
most helpful tools students can use is a Study
Skills Checklist that enables them to find out about the
strengths and weaknesses of their own study habits.
You may download the checklist or use this printable
version; have students complete it on the first day of
class or encourage students to visit the website. Taking
a few minutes in class to administer or recommend non-threatening
self surveys such as this one sends a clear message to students
that 1.) Study skills are important to class success, and
2.) Developing good study skills is the students' responsibility. Provide
students with information resources for study skills development.
Encourage students to explore
resources such as those identified below to improve their
study skills in the areas in which they need help. Some
links contain categorized study skills resources available
to students online. To assist your students, you may
duplicate and distribute to them a printable
list of study skills resources. You may add your
own suggestions including any specific content-related links
that will help students' mastery.
College resources in your syllabus. Most
colleges offer courses in study skills and professional
assessments of any learning disabilities that interfere
as well as subject-specific tutorial services
Your class syllabus is an easy way to inform
students of these resources. If you are not
sure of the specific information, refer students to
the Counseling Department
, where they
will be able to get up-to-date information on courses
and college services that will help them study more
Give students clear directions and frequent opportunities for
progress assessment and feedback on class work.
Aside from helping students
identify resources that improve overall study skills, you
can help them develop and use study strategies that support
mastery of the content of your class.
Instructor Strategies. There are many strategies
you can use as a part of your class organization, presentation
and interaction with your students that will aid students
in developing better study skills. Most of these Instructor
Strategies take little or no additional class time, but
reinforce student behaviors necessary for good study skills.
Pedagogy. You will find that
many of the classroom practices you use are
simply good pedagogy that will also be
helpful to your students' study skills.
a well organized, easy-to-read
syllabus. If you need to give students
a lot of information, do it in two stages. On the first
day of class, give students a one to two page sheet that
summarizing the structure and requirements of the class.
To avoid overwhelming or confusing students, organize
additional class information into manageable "chunks"
and distribute it at subsequent class meetings.
Information on developing an effective syllabus is covered
in the section Building
A Learner Centered Syllabus.
Give students the
for every lesson. Refer to these often in your class lectures
and assignments. Make sure assignments and test
items are consistent with the specified learning objectives.
Use a variety
of teaching methods to address a wide range
of learning styles. As discussed in How
People Learn, not all students learn best from lectures.
Supplement lectures with videos, audiotapes, group activities,
community-based field trips, guest speakers, and demonstrations.
lesson content outlines from your lecture notes
for distribution to students. Leave ample white space
on the outlines so students may take notes. If you
use PowerPoint to organize your lectures, you may print
a convenient note taking aid for your students using this
procedure. It provides all of the lecture's key points
plus space for students to write additional information.
to ask questions; give them opportunities to process information
through practice, discussion
regular feedback on student progress toward
course/lesson objectives. Early and often feedback gives
you an opportunity to recommend resources and students
an opportunity to improve study habits before negative
- Assign peer
study groups. Participation in a peer
study group is an effective and non-intimidating form
of study. Study groups are based on the concept that
students learn more effectively in a cooperative peer
environment with multidirectional information flow
and with little pressure.
Recognizing Common Student Study Problems
The University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill provides the Ten
Traps of Study. These are undoubtedly the most (over)used
reasons students give for their study failures. You'll
hear many of these problems from your students.
Here are some suggestions you can provide to students who
state specific study problems.
Suggested Study Strategies
read the textbook but I still have trouble with exams
and discussion questions."
remember what's read
skills course or module in reading
group or partner
I don't understand anything."
explanation of problems
overall study skills; unrealistic expectation of college-level
source of confusion, i.e., lecture or reading
skills module/course in listening, reading, note taking
of college-level work requirements
I studied for the exam but I got a D anyway."
lectures or other activities
to ask questions
test-taking skills; procrastination
skills course/module in test taking
skills course/module in time management
know I missed the last few classes and failed my midterm,
but I've been having some problems. I know I can
make it up."
financial, legal, health concerns
crisis; lacks priority/goal setting
skills course/module in time management
group or partner
of college-level work requirements
don't get anything out of the class lectures so I just
distracted in class
listening and note taking skills
skills course/module in note taking and listening
I know the material... I just freeze up on the test."
to demonstrate content mastery
anxiety; poor test-taking skills
skills course/module in test taking, test anxiety
testing strategies, e.g. verbal, class presentation
Instructors want their students to
succeed. It is especially frustrating to see students
struggle with course content because poor study skills got
in the way of learning. Even though study skills development
may not be among the learning objectives for your course,
your efforts to emphasize the importance of and to provide
resources to help your students develop better study skills
will be reflected in improved student performance and satisfaction.