Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Helping Students Develop Self-Regulated Study Skills

by Leslie Johnson
We know that many students arrive at college with insufficient and ineffective study skills; often they believe that what got them through high school will also get them through college. The October 2016 issue of The Teaching Professor reported how an “authentic” study skills assignment actually helped first-year students improve exam scores.

Students in a first-year experience course were not only taught college-level learning strategies, they were also given an assignment to actually utilize the strategies for an upcoming exam in a course other than the first-year experience. Students created a study game plan that included several parts:

  • Meeting with the instructor about the exam.
  • Using reading review activities.
  • Active note-taking strategies.
  • Implementing their choice of appropriate exam study strategies.
  • Predicting their grade after taking the exam.
  • Reflecting on their preparation and performance after receiving their exam grade.
Study author, H. H. Steiner noted that students need to be provided with such opportunities for “deliberate practice,” actual application of the study skills taught in a way that is meaningful to them. “In order for a person to achieve mastery levels, practice of the skill in an authentic context is necessary,” Steiner writes.

The reflections that the students wrote indicated the effectiveness of an assignment requiring them to use their new study skills. While many were initially reluctant to change their study habits, most students reported an increase in their exam grades. Forty-five percent of the students saw their exam grades improve by one letter grade; another 26 percent saw smaller gains in their grades. The few who reported declines cited “personal circumstances” as interfering with their success. One student even called the project “the most eye opening project of my entire semester.” Importantly, many students noted plans for permanent changes in their exam preparation.

Steiner explained that the project could be easily adapted to any mandatory introductory course students must take or an early course in a major where students need to learn how to study for particular content.

If you would like to read more instructional ideas from the current or past issues of The Teaching Professor, stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence during our open hours. You can even enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while you read!

Reference: Steiner, H.H. (2016). The strategy project: Promoting self-regulated learning through an authentic assignment. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 28(2), 271-282.