Friday, November 4, 2011

(23) Tips on Developing a More Effective Study Method

NoteStill being early in the school year for high school students and only a few weeks before final exams for the Fall semester, now would be a good time to reexamine our study habits.  Even as a doctoral student I was still trying to develop good study habits.  Life is constant study and learning. Thus we should continually strive to improve our study methods and make them more efficient and effective.  These pointers would be good for teaching our children and grand children.

How to Make an “A” Made Easy

     You’ve probably heard many times how to study for a course, but I’ve found from my own experience that certain principles on studying must be constantly drilled into practice. I never really learned that until I was a graduate student. So I’d like to give you a few tips in order to do well in this course. For easy reading, I’m presenting these study tips in a conversational style rather than a formal written one.

1. Pre-reading. Read the book before the class; this is critical. You should keep at least a chapter ahead of the professor. I don’t care if you don’t understand anything during the first reading. At least scan the material to get a rough idea. Then it will be much easier to understand the class. You’ll be better able to differentiate between what is more important and what is less important. That is often the difference between an “A” and a “C”..... knowing what to concentrate or focus upon.

   It won’t be necessary to copy everything I say or write on the blackboard because you’ll know what’s already in the book. “Oh, that point is in the book, so I won’t copy it”. If you did not do a pre-reading, you might have to copy everything I write. While I’m writing on the extreme right of the blackboard, that poor student is still copying from the extreme left and is completely out of it..... so far out of it that you don’t even know what question to ask. As a result you get little or nothing out of the class. With the pre-reading, you can ask more intelligent questions and participate more actively in class. You’ll have a better feel for the more important, you’ll take better notes.

2. Participate Actively in Class. You get more out of the class this way. If you’re passive, you’ll get as much out of the class as a TV program. Pay attention. If you converse or fool around, guaranteed you’ll miss something that will be on the exam. Take good notes. Answer my questions. I’ll never lower your grade for voluntarily answering wrong. Most professors won’t either. At least participate non-verbally with a smile, a nod of your head, etc. Have you heard of boring students? Active students stimulate the professor and make the class interesting and fun.

  Don’t rob Paul to pay Peter; that is, cut Paul’s class to study for Peter’s exam and then cut Peter’s class to study for Paul’s exam when it comes up. Then you mess up Paul’s exam and he gets even. You think you can cut the class and make up or catch up by copying the notes of your friend? Wrong! Often your friend takes incomplete or erroneous notes. You can’t understand his writing. Anyhow, it’s impossible to obtain the contents of a whole hour from a couple of pages of notes. You’ll miss the examples and the dialogue. If you’re late for class, you’ll often be lost from the start.

3. A Few Hours After Class. Review your notes and read the chapter a second time. If you wait until the night before the exam to review your notes, you won’t even understand your own writing. This serves to reinforce the first reading and the class. You can organize your notes, fill in gaps, and find the answers to questions you don’t know. Don’t credit indicates one class per week, and two hours or more of study outside of class. Make at least a reasonable effort on the homework problems and don’t get frustrated or “hung up” on a problem. You’ll learn from your mistakes when we go over the problems in class or in the help session. If you still have unresolved questions, you can ask me during my office hour, one of your friends, your study group, or your learning center tutor.

   Read the outside readings in the library and do the questions at the end of the chapter for extra credit. You can also work out the exercises and read the explanations in the study guide (manual or workbook) which accompanies the text and is also on reserve in the library. You need all the practice you can get. The best way to learn is by doing. Just watching, you forget. If you’d like to look at an overhead again, I have copies of all of them on reserve in the library. WHAT YOU GET OUT OF THE COURSE IS A DIRECT FUNCTION OF WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT. At the college level, about 90% of the responsibility of learning is on you, the student.

4. Prepare for the Exam Several Days Before. Don’t wait until the last minute and cram. Most crammed material is quickly forgotten. Read the book a third time for reinforcement to really get it down) and review your notes. Do the pre-exam and learn from your mistakes. Thus you’re practicing for the exam with a pre-exam..... a dress rehearsal or exhibition game. Do the exercises in the study guide/manual as well as the review questions and exercises at the end of each chapter in the text and the extra credit which is excellent preparation for the exam. Review the outside readings and previous homework. BE SURE to review the last exam since I repeat questions to see if you learned from your mistakes. Exams are not only for evaluation, but are also meant to be a learning experience. I generally give some questions on the exam identical to the pre-exam and the study guide (manual).

Studying in a group may be helpful, but that has its advantages and disadvantages. Some groups just fool around” and don’t accomplish anything. In a serious group, each member learns from the other. The more gifted and better prepared student helps the less gifted student. That is really human. From a practical, selfish point of view, the student who teaches another, learns the material better as s/he teaches. Ask each other questions in the group, trying to anticipate what questions the professor will ask.

     Also very good is to prepare a short summary on both sides of a sheet of paper..... i.e., a “cheat sheet”, but don’t cheat. Here you summarize the most important parts of each chapter on one sheet of paper. This forces you to pick out the most important and learning that well is excellent preparation. Then on the night before the exam, quickly review everything and get a good rest.

     Constant Effort. You can’t learn the material in one day before the exam. You must learn little by little everyday. Learning is like a chain which is as strong as its weakest link. If you do not understand the first step, you cannot understand the second. Each class depends upon the principles of the previous class. Thus, perfect attendance is crucial. Preparation for an exam is similar to sports. One learns through constant practice and intense effort everyday. You learn best by doing. MANAGE YOUR TIME WELL. Don’t waste it. Place your priorities on the more important and the urgent. Sacrifice the non-essential. Work continually to get the paper done well and on time. Pay attention to details, but don’t get bogged down on details. Focus on the goal and what is important for success..

   Study to Understand. The test for understanding is answering the questions: How? Why? How do you know? Read critically. Does the author know what he or she is talking about? Does s/he have sufficient evidence to support his/her conclusions? A parrot can memorize without understanding. A myriad of facts are worthless if they cannot be applied to a practical situation. It’s not necessary to memorize. Things remain naturally in your mind when the key words or points are understood. Then you can use logic to remember what is needed.With these basic steps, you’ll receive the benefits of understanding, practice, repetition, and reinforcement..... the most important principles of learning. Each time that you review the material, it will become more clear; you’ll understand it better, and you’ll be prepared for the exam.

     Overall Attitude. Learn for life, not only for the exam. Learn for future success..... to be the best for God and Country..... to make a contribution to the community. Keep trying and don’t get frustrated. If you have faith in the Lord and in yourself, if you keep at it and don’t quit, you’ll do okay. “Quitters never win; winners never quit”. Do your best and let the Lord take care of the rest if you are religiously inclined. So keep in there.

    Keep a positive mental attitude (PMA)..... “I think I can; I think I can; I know I can. All I have to do is to give my best effort every day, come to every class, and I’ll make it.”.....good positive self-talk. A negative attitude of complaining, whining, and fighting the instructor accomplishes nothing and wastes energy. When it’s all over, you’ll better understand where s/he’s coming from. Later you’ll even appreciate that tough instructor. If you have a problem with a professor, talk to him during his/her office hour to work it out. So adapt and make the best of it. Then SUCCESS WILL COME!

   As you study, try to develop your thought processes: to think clearly, reason logically, arrive at your own conclusions through your own observations, interpret data, analyze situations, discover principles, resolve problems, read rapidly with understanding, to do research, stimulate your creative powers, to express your ideas orally and in writing. If you, your employees, and your children have these reasoning skills, they’ll be successful at almost anything or in almost any responsible position. You’ll be able to keep learning all of your life with no need for a teacher. 

     One of the main purposes of any university is to develop the student’s abilities and thought process so that one day s/he could learn by himself without any teacher. Companies don’t want memorizers. They want problem solvers and creative thinkers who can come up with new ideas for new products, greater quality, more efficient processes, and better ways of doing things. That’s the way to beat the competition obtain greater sales and profits. On the job, the problems you face will be much different than the examples in class. We must be accustomed to apply principles from known situations to new, strange, and different situations.

   At the same time, try to develop personal values and attitudes so indispensable to personal development and the economic progress of any country in the world. That is, basic honesty, individual responsibility, reliability, self-discipline, perseverance, inter-personal cooperation, social awareness, and..... a spirit of hard work, sacrifice and dedication to God, country, community, family, and neighbor. I’ve seen it so clearly in living here and for periods of time in Canada, France, Mexico, and Peru plus traveling all over the world how a mentality of greed, dishonesty, selfishness, exploitation, laziness, and corruption produces its own consequences in all parts of the economy in low productivity, high costs, high prices, labor conflict, resentment, social chaos, crime, stagnant economic development, and more economic crises. Ultimately, man punishes himself.

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