What Works, What Doesn’t – Which study habits are effective? Which should be avoided?

Students do a lot of studying, at least we hope, at Georgia State University. But how effective are their efforts? Unfortunately, students often exert themselves on study methods proven to be ineffective. But there are a number of approaches supported by a growing body of evidence that could actually increase both their knowledge and understanding.

As instructors, it would be great if we could share study strategies with students that help them better comprehend and remember the important topics that we share with them. But who has the time to comb through the research literature and conduct a meta-analysis of what works? Do you?  Luckily others have taken on that task and produced an article entitled “What Works, What Doesn’t published in Scientific American Mind that explicates useful strategies and the place they have in a student’s study regimen.

Title Page

I encourage you to check out the article. But **Spoiler Alert!** the two study practices most supported by the research thus far are Self-Testing and Distributed Practice. Supported with some reservation are Elaborative Interrogation, Self-Explanation, and Interleaved Practice. The practices with extremely limited value are Highlighting and Rereading. So what are these mysterious practices? How do students employ them? We’ll just share a bit more about the ones that are enthusiastically supported (indicated by exclamation points because they are exciting) or supported with some reservations and encourage you once again to check out the article for more in-depth information.

  • ¡Self-Testing! – Having students take practice tests or flipping through flash cards.
  • ¡Distributed Practice! – Spreading your studying over time, rather than cramming.
  • Elaborative Interrogation – Prompting students to ask “Why?” questions like “Why is it that…?” “Why would you…?” encourages independent recall and articulation rather than merely recognition.
  • Self-Explanation – Students explain what they have learned.
  • Interleaved Practice – Rather than studying topic-by-topic in blocks and moving on to a new topic, inter-mix different types of problems so that you learn to select the correct approach.

Thank you to Ed Bowen for sharing this article with me at the ELI Conference!

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Posted in Pedagogy Bytes, Research
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