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Good study habits

230 bytes added, 20:53, 24 March 2014
/* Cramming, forgetting, and spaced repetition */
The material on this page is based on extensive discussions with students, personal teaching experience, an understanding of the psychological and review of the external resources at the end,.
==A response to the "easier said than done" objection==
While some good study habits are counter-intuitive, others are widely known, at least in approximate form. The latter evoke an ''easier said than done'' response -- students feel they already know they should be doing it, but are unable to do so due to a very busy schedule, time management problems, trouble concentrating, procrastination, or akrasia. Keep in mind that there are two levels at which you can take each piece of advice:
* Follow the piece of advice in individual instances on a regular basis: For instance, if we say you should use [[learning:quiz and recall|quiz and recall]], you could choose to try and remember to do that every time you are reviewing.
* Try to create or select environments that force or nudge you into following these pieces of advice. Environment here could refer to your choice of instructors or study materials, your choice of peer groups for study, your physical environment while you study, or your biological state while you study (how much you have eaten or how well slept you are).
 
==Cramming, forgetting, and spaced repetition==
A particular learning method called [[wikipedia:spaced repetition|spaced repetition]] (see also this [http://www.gwern.net/Spaced%20repetition overview]), where facts are periodically reviewed at increasing time intervals between successive review periods, has been shown to be more effective at memorizing lists for long-term retention. However, although spaced repetition is better for memorizing lists, a lot of study can be done effectively with very little memorization required. Therefore, while the philosophy behind spaced repetition is sound, your first line of attack should be to reduce the amount you need to memorize using the techniques of deep learning and overlearning. If there is still a substantial amount of relatively unmotivated stuff that you need to memorize, consider spaced repetition.
A fee few caveats are in order:
* Cramming ''can'' be an effective strategy if your sole goal is to do well on tests (i.e., you do not want to retain the information for the long term) ''and'' the test tests very directly for the knowledge crammed (so you do not need to process it or learn it deeply). Even here, however, cramming may pay off only in the limited setting where there is a single occasion for testing the material: with two or more tests (such as midterms and a final) cramming may not be time-effective.
* The advice to start early and review regularly is ''easier said than done''. Many people have issues with procrastination and akrasia and even the knowledge of this fact may not help them learn and review material regularly. You might be interested in seeing our general list of [[recommendations for overcoming procrastination]].* A good workaround here to minimize the consequences of procrastination and akrasia in the context of studies, without necessarily overcoming the problems, is to choose instructors and peer environments that make up for one's own shortcomings. For instance, a student who has trouble motivating himself or herself to review material immediately after class might find it more advantageous to study under an instructor who gives more quizzes and assignments. The student might also benefit from a peer group that creates social pressure for the student to regularly review material.
* People may not know ''how'' to review material. These issues are discussed below in the deep learning section. Again, students facing trouble with these can work on selecting instructors and peer groups that make up for their own shortcomings.
* Cognitive psychologist and college professor Stephen Chew combined his academic research on psychology and his classroom teaching experience to design general guidelines. His guidelines are available as a [http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL85708E6EA236E3DB YouTube playlist] and a [http://www.samford.edu/uploadedFiles/How_to_Study/Teaching_Resources.pdf PDF with the guidelines] is also available. Chew's list coincides considerably with out recommendations. The recommendations are targeted at college students, and are focused more on people interested in learning.
* Writer Cal Newport offers a number of study tips in his book ''How To Be Become a Straight A Student''([http://www.amazon.com/How-Become-Straight-A-Student-Unconventional/dp/0767922719 Amazon link]). The recommendations are targeted at college students. Newport is more focused on the minimum needed to get an A, and his advice is focused more on students interested in grades. However, the advice overlaps to a considerable extent. Newport bases his advice on many interviews with "straight A students" as well as his personal experience being one.     Using these study habits can substantially improve your ability to learn the material in your courses.
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