Effective Learning As An Undergraduate
To a large extent, most students view success at the University in terms of grades and academic performance. There is a general assumption, that “studying hard” is very important. However, it’s not clearly understood by many, what studying hard entails.
However, as the role of the University in the 21st century is both to develop human expertise as well as employability skills which can be transferred from the classroom to the workplace. Assessments at universities will not simply pay attention to what a student knows, but rather the way and manner the student is able to develop and communicate ideas or how well they have applied theories to solve problems.
So studying hard has been replaced by “studying effectively”, listed below are some strategies for students to study effectively;
1. Study at regular intervals
Studying at regular intervals, which can be done by studying a little at a time and often throughout the semester, prior to the examination period is much more effective than studying and memorising days or hours leading to the examination.
Simple activities such as note writing, group discussions, extensive and additional readings, regular visit to the library and after each lecture will be much more effective.
2. Engage in active study vs passive study
Based on research, the most effective study strategy is answering test questions (triggering memory retrieval) or writing essay questions.
This activity strengthens memory through the process of constantly bringing the information backwards and forwards from memory or having to use it to plan essay answers.
Similarly this testing effect can come from teaching the information verbally to others. Talking about the subject with classmates or in study groups or talk to parents who may be more patient to listen. This strategy should be implemented after taking a break from the books and without them in front of you for the best results.
3. Don’t sacrifice sleep
A lot of students try to use the strategy of last minute cramming for exams, staying up and reading all night right up to the exam in the hopes that the information will be fresh in their mind.
However research has shown that as the mind tires, one’s ability to learn new information is impaired. Therefore, all night study activities are likely to be counterproductive. For some students getting enough sleep at night is a problem caused by living arrangements and work or study pressures.
If this is the case, provisions should be made for daytime napping. Napping even for small amounts of time when you feel yourself nodding off can boost concentration. Allowing yourself to nap rather than feeling you must force yourself to push through is a relief and decreases the additional stress on your mind.
4. Use handouts wisely
Most lecturers will make slide handouts or lecture notes available prior to class. Generally, students understand they are expected to bring this materials to class. But they may not fully understand the purpose of this practice. In a direct experiment of the impact of handouts in 2009, students who were given handouts ahead of time had a better memory for what the lecture had covered at follow up test.
This was because they were able to take down additional information and listen attentively to the lecturer, rather than attempting to copy every single word or simply listening passively.
With this in mind, the most effective students will both print off the handouts and read through them before class. This gives an even better basis for your brain to predict how the lecture will be structured, what to expect and what is likely to be key information for writing down.
5. Attitude over Ability
No matter how brilliant a student may be, it is important to have a mindset of confidence and belief. Research from the University of Central Florida showed that higher ‘self efficacy; – a feeling of general competence – will impact positively on actual performance irrespective of ability.
Self efficacy doesn’t breed intelligence, rather it breeds confidence and willingness to face challenges. Similarly, students who saw performance and intelligence as something that could be developed, rather than in innate brilliance or intelligence performed better. That is, your attitude about the potential for success can be as important as your baseline ability levels.
6. Put aside procrastination or, ditch delaying things
Procrastination is the dirty secret, guilty pleasure and all round irritating habit affecting everyone at one point in time or the other. Especially with the deadlines for assignments and many distractions at university campuses, it can be easy to fall into procrastination.
Research confirms that procrastination occurs most when we find a task unpleasant or boring (which likely applies to many assignments or tasks students will encounter).
However in battling procrastination, making changes
to the task or environment can reduce the risks. For example, break down a large task into small steps with rewards at the end, or make it more social by including group activities.
People who are prone to procrastinate are generally distracted by nature and find it harder to stay on a task. Therefore create a study environment without distractions, no TV/radio and if possible no internet.