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STUDY TIPS

TIPS FOR MORE EFFECTIVE LEARNING

This webpage provides information and tools for students in order to make their learning time more effective as well as offers guides for better time management skills.

On this page:

  • Printer-friendly note-taking template
  • Printer-friendly semester organizer
  • Printer-friendly weekly organizer
  • Identifying the key idea
  • Reading strategies
  • 8 Habits of Efficient Learners

DOWNLOAD A NOTE-TAKING TEMPLATE

This template provides a guide for more effective in-class note-taking by providing pre-filled sections, which are proven to make learners think more critically about new information.

DOWNLOAD A SEMESTER ORGANIZER

Use this semester organizer to list important dates for classes and due dates for assignments.

Having strong time management and organization skills will allow you to be more productive and less stressed.

DOWNLOAD A WEEKLY ORGANIZER

Being a college student can demand a lot of your time, however, having strong time management skills may allow you to maintain a healthy school-life balance.

Learning Strategies

“Skilled learners have a wide range of learning strategies that they can apply fairly automatically. Using learning strategies and study skills is related to higher grade-point averages (GPAs) in high school and persistence in college or university” – Robbins, S. B. et al., 2004, Winne, 2013.

WHAT ARE “LEARNING STRATEGIES?”

Learning strategies are methods (different ways) for approaching new knowledge with the objective of maximizing your understanding of this knowledge and retaining the most important information in your long-term memory.

TIPS FOR Identifying the Key Idea(s)

The “key” ideas (or sometimes referred to as the “main” ideas) are the larger, more pertinent messages that an author or speaker is attempting to convey to the reader or audience. For example, the key ideas for the film/novel series Harry Potter might be “Harry Potter learns the trials and tribulations of growing up, the value of friendship and the ability of good to overcome evil.”

Source: “What is the Main Idea of a Story?” Study.com, 30 May 2017, study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-the-main-idea-of-a-story.html 

Summarize after taking notes
What is a summary?

A summary (similar to an abstract) is a tool for briefly organizing main points.

TIP:

Creating summaries can help students learn by breaking down a large amount of information into an organized list. Jeanne Ormrod (2012) offers these suggestions for helping students to create summaries:

  • Find or create a topic sentence for each paragraph or section
  • Identify big ideas that cover several specific points
  • Find some supporting information for each big idea
  • Delete any redundant information or unnecessary details
Similarly, you could use this template:

This paragraph is about ______ and ______. They are the same in these ways:______, but different in these ways: ______.

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

Underlining and Highlighting while reading
What does Underlining (text) mean?

To place emphasis on a specific portion of text.

TIP:

Underlining and note-taking are probably two of the most frequent but ineffectively used strategies among post-secondary students.

  • One common problem is that students underline or highlight too much. It is far better to be selective.
  • Research in Phil’s lab (Winne et al., 2017) indicates you have about twice as much chance to remember what you highlight compared to what you do not.

In studies that limit how much students can underline—for example, only one sentence per paragraph—learning has improved (Snowman, 1984).

  • In addition to being selective, you also should actively transform the information into your own words as you underline or take notes.
  • Do not rely on the words of the book.
  • Note connections between what you are reading and other things you already know.
  • Draw diagrams to illustrate relationships.
  • Finally, look for organizational patterns in the material, and use them to guide your underlining or note taking.

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

Effective Note-taking
Define Note-taking:

The dual process of listening and then transferring these thoughts into written text.

TIP:

As you fill your notebook with words and try to keep up with a lecturer, you may wonder if taking notes makes a difference. It does if the strategy is used well.

  • Taking notes focuses attention during class. Of course, if taking notes distracts you from actually listening to and making sense of the lecture, then note-taking may not be effective.
  • Taking organized notes makes you construct meaning from what you are hearing, seeing, or reading, so you elaborate, translate into your own words, and remember (Armbruster, 2000).
  • Notes provide extended external storage that allows you to return and review. Students who use their notes to study tend to perform better on tests, especially if they take many high-quality notes.
  • Expert students match notes to their anticipated use and modify strategies after tests or assignments, use personal codes to flag material that is unfamiliar or difficult, fill in holes by consulting relevant sources (including other students in the class), and record information verbatim only when a verbatim response will be required. In other words, they are strategic about taking and using notes.
STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

Even though taking notes is valuable from middle school through graduate school, students with learning disabilities often have difficulty with the strategy.

  • Middle school and high school students with learning disabilities who used a strategic note-taking form recalled and understood significantly more key ideas from science lectures than students in control groups who used conventional note-taking methods.
TEMPLATE FOR NOTE-TAKING

Dividing up the page is an idea from the Cornell Notes system, devised by Walter Pauk of Cornell University, who wrote the classic guide, How to Study in College in the 1950s. It is still available (Pauk & Owens, 2010). This form could be useful for any student who needs extra guidance in note-taking.

To download a printer-friendly version of the template, click here.

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

Reading Strategies

“These strategies are effective for several reasons:

1. Following the steps makes students more aware of the organization of a given chapter. How often have you skipped reading headings entirely and thus missed major clues about the way the information was organized?

2. These steps require students to study the chapter in sections instead of trying to learn all the information at once. This makes use of the distributed practice. Answering questions about the material forces students to process the information more deeply and with greater elaboration.” 

Source: Woolfolk, A., et al. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition).

THE READS STRATEGY

The R.E.A.D.S. strategy is an excellent tool for rapid reading and comprehension, however, note that strategies are not universal and all students learn in different ways.

  • R  Review headings and subheadings.

  • E  Examine boldface words.

  • A  Ask, “What do I expect to learn?”

  • D  Do it—Read!

  • S  Summarize in your own words. (Friend & Bursuck, 2012)

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

THE CAPS STRATEGY

The C.A.P.S strategy guides the reader to thinking critically about the main components of a written text.

  • C  Who are the characters?

  • A  What is the aim of the story?

  • P  What problem happens?

  • S  How is the problem solved?

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

THE 8 HABITS OF EFFICIENT LEARNERS

You may have read all of the strategies listed above but still feel as though you do not fully understand how to apply them to your own unique needs.

Applying learning strategies can be tricky, however, this list of habits of efficient learners may provide some insight as to how you can go about doing so.

1. SET GOALS WHEN STUDYING
Examples
  1. Survey readings to target specific concepts on which you will focus.
  2. Today, I will write the introduction section of my research paper.
2. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE NECESSARY DECLARATIVE KNOWLEDGE (FACTS, CONCEPTS, IDEAS) TO UNDERSTAND NEW INFORMATION
Examples
  1. Keep definitions of key vocabulary available in a separate document to draw back on while you study.
  2. Use your general knowledge to create a foundation for a new concept. Ask yourself, “What do I already know about this topic?”
  3. Build your vocabulary by learning two or three new words a day and try using them in everyday conversation.
3. FIND OUT WHAT TYPE OF TEST THE TEACHER WILL GIVE (ESSAY, SHORT ANSWER), AND STUDY THE MATERIAL WITH THAT IN MIND
Examples
  1. For exams that ask detailed questions and expect long answers, practice writing answers to possible questions.
  2. For a multiple-choice test, you can use mnemonics (a learning technique) to remember definitions of key terms.
4. MAKE SURE YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE ORGANIZATION OF THE MATERIALS TO BE LEARNED
Examples
  1. Preview the headings, introductions, topic sentences, and summaries of the text.
  2. Be alert for words and phrases that signal relationships, such as: on the other hand, because, first, second, however, since.
5. KNOW YOUR OWN COGNITIVE SKILLS, AND USE THEM DELIBERATELY
Examples
  1. Use examples and analogies to relate the new material to something you care about and understand well, such as sports, hobbies, or films.
  2. If one study technique is not working, try another—the goal is to stay involved, not to force any particular strategy.
  3. If you start to daydream, stand up from your desk and face away from your books, but do not leave. Then sit back down and study.
6. STUDY THE RIGHT INFORMATION IN A PRODUCTIVE WAY
Examples
  1. Be sure you know exactly what topics and readings the test will cover.
  2. Spend your time on the important, difficult, and unfamiliar material that will be required for the test or assignment. Resist the temptation to go over what you already know well, even if that seems important.
  3. Keep a list of the parts of the text that give you trouble, and spend more time on those pages.
  4. Process the important information thoroughly by using mnemonics, forming images, creating examples, answering questions, making notes in your own words, and elaborating on the text. Do not try to memorize the author’s words—use your own.
7. MONITOR YOUR OWN COMPREHENSION
Examples
  1. Use questioning to check your understanding.
  2. When reading speed slows down, decide if the information in the passage is important. If it is, note the problem so you can re-read or get help to understand. If it is not important, ignore it.
  3. Check your understanding by working with a friend and quizzing one another.
8. MANAGE YOUR TIME
Examples
  1. When is your best time for studying? Morning, late at night? Study your most difficult subjects then.
  2. Study in shorter rather than longer blocks, unless you are really engaged and making great progress.
  3. Eliminate time-wasters and distractions. Study in a room without a television or your roommate, then turn off your phone and maybe even your connection to the Internet.
  4. Use bonus time—take your notes to the doctor’s office waiting room or laundromat. You will use your time well and avoid reading old magazines.

Based on ideas from: https://ucc.vt.edu/academic_support/study_skills_information.html; Wong, L. (2015). Essential study skills (8th ed.) Stamford, CT: Cengage., Pearson Education in Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

TIPS FOR MANAGING THE SEMESTER

Self-regulated learning is the ultimate goal of higher education. Expert self-regulated learners are able to:

  • Independently prioritize their time
  • Question their methods
  • Think critically
  • Set goals for and reflect on their process
  • Create objectives to obtain goals
  • Adapt learning strategies

Below are a few more tips for becoming a self-regulated learner.

TIME MANAGEMENT

Time management refers to strategies for organizing your time within a day, week, month, year, etc. The most effective time management strategy is the use of a schedule.

HOW TO USE A SCHEDULE

Time blocks are used within a schedule to label what you will do within a timeframe. For example, if you are using a weekly schedule, on Monday, within the 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM time block, you may write that this time will be used for reviewing the English lesson that you learned in the morning.

The most effective time management

The most effective method for managing time is to use multiple schedules. This allows for specific as well as general organization options.

1. Semester schedule (15 weeks)

Create a semester-long schedule, at the beginning of the semester, to organize the most important dates within that timeframe. Using this system, you will be able to foresee how much time you have to prepare for important assignments, exams, or projects.

2. Weekly schedule

Create weekly schedules to organize your time. Weekly schedules should take all aspects of your life into account. For example, schedule times for studying, working on assignments, and reviewing lectures, but also, schedule time for socializing with friends, physical activity, and engaging in a hobby that you enjoy.

3.  Daily schedule

Daily schedules are not favored by most as they tend to shift as a result of life’s unpredictability. Nonetheless, daily schedules can be an excellent tool for self-discipline and time management as it allows you to plan goals for your day and by extension, feel accomplished when those goals have been met or act as a reinforcer to be more disciplined the following day.

scheduling technologies

You can find many different types of schedule or calendar-builder applications and software through a simple Google search. However, we recommend the following:

Write by hand!

Download the templates that we provide on this webpage and write down the dates and times that you need. Writing by hand allows your brain to focus more on the information you are writing through the physical action.

 

Google or Apple Calendar

Google (or Apple) Calendars are free schedule-building software that allows the user to switch from daily, weekly, monthly or annual schedules. These calendar apps are also available as mobile applications and can synchronize with other applications available by the same provider, such as Google Contacts, which allows multiple users to see each other’s calendars.

GOAL SETTING

Goals are specific targets that we want to accomplish. Goal setting is listing those goals in an organized manner. Goal setting helps us to not only organize our thoughts but also, to list where we are and where we want to be with something.

Setting goals is related to higher success rates and improved performance (Latham, 2002). This is because goal setting is a form of cognitive (brain function) organization and also, a form of motivation.

TIPS FOR SETTING GOALS:
  • Be specific
  • Create short-term goals that are realistic
  • Set hard goals for yourself to reach, but not to the point where it causes stress
  • Revisit your goals and update if needed
  • Take away goals once you have accomplished them
EXAMPLE A OF GOAL IN YOUR CONTEXT:
  • It is Sunday morning, I know that I have a test coming up on Tuesday morning. I will set a goal today to study for 3 hours between 6:00 – 9:00 PM and then again tomorrow night at the same time.
    • I will review … from 6:00 – 8:00 PM and then I will review … from 8:00 – 9:00 PM

Source:

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.

HOW TO STIMULATE INTEREST

Sometimes the topic of what we are learning can seem dull or boring and you may find yourself having trouble focusing because your interest is simply not there.

A strategy that you can apply to the topic to stimulate interest is called “real-world application,” also known as “authentic or problem-based learning.” This is a strategy that many teachers use in their courses, however, students can use it as well.

HOW TO APPLY THE STRATEGY

To stimulate your interest in a topic that isn’t interesting to you or doesn’t seem relevant, consider how the topic can be applied to a real-world problem. Why does this work? This strategy works because you are then pairing new knowledge with knowledge that you already had, thus enhancing your understanding of the new information. Further, you are applying new information to something that is personal and familiar to you, which will peak your interest and help you retain the new information.

Examples:
  • New information: I am a student in the Early childhood education program and I have just learned about the positive effects of bilingual education on children.
  • How can this be applied to my own life? My best friend has a two-year-old and is hesitant to introduce her child to a second language.

UPDATED: AUGUST 20, 2021

Do you have questions or comments?

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