Level Up: Focus on New Learning Strategies
Resources for Upper-Year Students
Work Habits for Long-Term Learning
Focus on Long-term Learning Strategies
Research into student study habits indicates that effort management and organized study should be promoted over surface-level memorization. Continued, on-going effort throughout the semester is a better approach than trying to do a blitz of studying prior to exams.
How much time should you be spending on each of your courses? That depends on the subject and your overall learning goals. The average for a social science or humanities course is about 7 - 9 hours of school related-work per week (Figure 1). For science students, the average increases to 10 - 13 hours per week. If you are taking five courses, this translates into approximately 47.5 hours for humanities and social science courses and 57.5 hours for science courses! The lesson you already know from past years: make time for study so you can be an engaged learner both in and outside the classroom.
Academic Skills has tools to help you plan out your time, including the 24/7 planner, term-at-a-glance calendar, and more.
Social Sciences (hours)
|Labs||-||3 (alternate weeks)|
Figure 1. Average amount of time needed for one course.
How do you study? Do you memorize a large amount of information for an exam and then promptly forget it the next day? If yes, then you may want to consider other study strategies to help you retain information over longer periods. Neurologists have studied the most effective ways to learn and recommend interacting with the same material several times over the course of many days. Each time that you interact with the material, there are neurological changes in your brain to help you retain the information
Here is a suggested approach:
- Preview before Class
- Skim the chapter, note chapter headings and sub-headings. Review summaries and chapter objectives.
- Come up with questions that you would like to understand in the lecture.
- Attend Class
- Take meaningful and thorough notes.
- Seek answers to your questions during and after class.
- Review after class
- As soon after class as possible (within 24 hours), review your notes
- Fill in gaps in your notes and note any questions that you may still have.
- Study the material
- Repetition is key.
- Ask questions such as ‘how’, ’why’, ‘what if’
- Read over the notes from the week to make connections.
- Create study aids.
- Assess your Learning
- Periodically assess your learning.
- Am I using study methods that are effective?
- Do I understand the material enough to teach it to others?
Strategies for Learning
Go to class and take good notes
Many students underestimate the benefits of going to every single class. If you miss a class, then get a classmate’s notes. Generally, more learning happens when you take notes by hand than on a digital device. However, you can be an effective note taker no matter your tools as long as you listen, write/type slowly and paraphrase the ideas being presented. If you want to maximize the impact of the lecture, sit in the first few rows of the class. This helps you to focus, brings your wandering attention back to the lecturer, and supports your engagement with the material.
How to take effective lecture notes
Charts help you see both the major themes of a course (the big picture) and the specific ideas of each theme (the details). Use a study chart to summarize and organize key content and to think analytically about concepts, theories, models, practices, and processes. Study charts can be adapted to all disciplines and courses.
Use your assignments to test your knowledge
Before beginning your assignment, actively read the relevant part of your textbook and your class notes. Now start the assignment question by pretending you are doing a test: systematically analyze the question, then follow through with your response to arrive at a solution. This investigation sparks much deep learning and your mistakes can be turned into learning opportunities. Identify where you went wrong – perhaps you missed an important detail or misunderstood a concept. Using your assignments to assess learning is one of the most transformative strategies that you can use.
Teach a concept to others
You can assess your understanding of a concept by teaching it to someone else - a friend, a pet, or a stuffed animal. By trying to explain a concept in a way that others will understand, you become aware of the gaps in your own understanding. You can clear up the confusion on your own, or ask a fellow student, your Teaching Assistant or Professor.
Work in pairs or groups
A powerful addition to working alone, working in pairs or groups provide opportunities to teach others and to learn from someone else. Working in pairs or groups helps you judge your own learning. For study groups to be effective you must be engaged in both discussion and problem solving. When working in groups, make sure that your assignment is your own work (unless expressly allowed otherwise by your professor) to avoid Academic Integrity violations.
Keys to Success in a Study Group
Create practice tests or exams
To help you practice questions and answers prior to an exam, create a series of practice questions. Your lecture notes, course syllabus, textbook, quizzes, and assignments can help guide you to the type of questions which will likely appear on your exam. Practice exams can be made in groups, where each member is responsible for questions from a section of the course. By practicing questions and solutions, you will strengthen your learning of a concept.
Visual representations of large amounts of data and information in a concept map will help you to visualize interconnections, understanding, and remembering the information. Concept maps work because the information is hierarchically displayed, and relationships are visualized with lines and arrows. Concept maps are useful for integrating new knowledge into already existing knowledge while enhancing learning and are especially useful for visual learners.
Plan your Study Time
Having a plan for studying prior to mid-term and final exams will ensure that you give adequate coverage to all your courses and help to reduce anxiety and stress. Spend some time prioritizing your workload and plotting out your time.
Create a study plan
During mid-term or final exam times, it is important to be organized and systematic in your study process. The best way to prepare is to evaluate each of your exams to understand your priorities and the amount of time you want to devote to each exam. Then map out an achievable plan for study that takes into account the content and strategies you’ll use for study in each of your courses.