HOW TO study and perform well in the class
Does anybody out there
really know how to study? You'd think so, since a lot of young folks say that's what
they're doing. Like you perhaps, Napoleon supposedly had great skills of concentration.
While in the midst of battle, for example, he could calmly decide
what to do and how to do it. However, that hardly compares with a student who has waited
until approximately 9:30 pm the night before his or her final to crack open the books. A
bunch of things can get in the way...laundry, dinner, call home, a quick game of
one-on-one...before a person can really settle down to learning what he or she has avoided
the whole semester. Now it's time to start and the dorm sounds like a war zone, people are
dropping by like messengers from the front trying to get you to give up the fight (it's
hopeless), go for a beer and just take your chances that the Prof won't read the exams.
Napoleon would have had a nervous breakdown.
In order to study you need one resource above all. TIME. It's just the way it goes, to
"learn" something: a pirouette, a side-pocket shot, German, or a breakeven
chart, you gotta have time. Your roommate may not need much, others like you may need a
lot. But everybody needs some time.
So the first task of anyone trying to learn "how to
study" needs to know how to manage his or her time. On the other hand, if
you don't have much time left...and who does these days of multitasking, then you better
be good at learning Stress Management. So where can you start?
There are probably a lot of sites online which can aid students in learning skills,
however, one of the best is provided by McGraw-Hill and its subsidiary, Dushkin Publishing (Dushskin Online): <www.dushkin.com/online/study/studymain.mhtml>
This site is comprehensive and should meet all the needs that
most students have for acquiring learning skills. One of the special sections is: Study
Tips: Tools for studying and learning (free) and includes the following topics:
- Basic Library Research: A quick four-step process for doing library research.
- Critical Thinking Tools Tips on how to improve your critical thinking with puzzles, tutorials and articles.
- How to Best Use the Web A six step method for learning which are the best and worst sites for the task.
- How to Evaluate Material Practical information for evaluating Web research sources.
- How to Learn in Class Straight forward counsel on how to best utilize class time.
- How to Manage Your Time Why should you...and how should you?
- How to Perform on Tests How to make them less threatening and more productive.
- How to StudyWhat's really the best way?
- How to write Term Papers Tips to meet instructor's expectations.
- Problem Solving Techniques Finding Solutions to difficult or uncertain situations.
There are other sites where
individual professors have offered their own insight into the "How to..."
process, but Dushkin has developed a very strong and useful site. Nevertheless, many of
these professors have been teaching a very long time, know their students well and how to
Also, try a great little site called: the Learning Skills
Program developed by the Counselling and Development Centre (CDC) at York University in Toronto
<www.yorku.ca/cdc/lsp/lsphome.html>. This site offers free online information on:
Reading, Note-taking, Time Management, Exam Preparation, Essay Writing, and yes...Stress
Management. There is some awfully good information in these sections and you ought to take
the TIME to read them...you have to start somewhere!
following may not sound like a guide to studying, but in an important sense it is.
Studying is a mind-set...that is a willingness to dedicate yourself to the learning
process...that is, work. How can you create a "mind-set?"
Someone once said that the only two things you really need to reach your goal, are:
(1) know what it is; and
(2) recruit the people to help you get there.
Neither of those tasks are particularly easy. Once you have the goal insight, you are the
"keeper of your vision." Don't forget that, since almost everyone else will,
since there are a lot of distractions. The people that you choose as friends and
collaborators in almost anything you do will have a great impact on whether you reach your
goals or not. Therefore, reach out to the best: friends (dedicated students), professors
(open-minded and friendly mentors), librarians and staff, family members (motivators and
financial assistance), professionals in your chosen field (professional mentors), and
anyone else that you feel will be an essential part of your "team."
You have to communicate your
goal(s) to yourself...probably
the toughest assignment of all since it requires complete dedication. Then there is your
team; ask their help, motivate them (thank them), and reward them. This team will be the
foundation of anything you study. They will motivate you, direct you, contribute towards
the efficiency of your efforts, and share in your successes. You have to be a leader...of
your team. If you learn that lesson, then success after college is yours for the taking.
How you study, where you study, when you study is best done by what you decide; but you
must be objective and critical about the results of your efforts. If studying in the
library is perceived as the right place, but nevertheless, is actually screwing around
with your friends and setting up dates for the weekend, then you know that what you are
doing is wrong. You need three basic things to study well: dedication, no
distractions, and good information, how you apply these principles is up to you.
Let's be very, very honest...the great majority of professors
give better grades to students who want to learn than those that don't.
It's no different from banks who base loans and credit ratings on the account owner's credit history.
If that seems self-evident, consider that seating and behavior make a difference. What does that mean?
(1) It means putting yourself in a strategic
seat in the classroom (sometimes that's controlled, but usually it's not). A strategic
seat is usually near the center-front of the room. Slouching down in the back row (the
gunfighter position) so that you can survey the entire room to check out the opposite sex
or keep control, escape being called upon, or possibly catch up on come Zzzzz's usually is
a bad strategy (are there any good reasons for sitting in the back?). A good seat means
you can see better (and the prof can see you better...which is the point); hear better
(ditto), and you will make contacts with people who usually have also made a commitment to
learn. These are rules of thumb of course, but the logic is mostly indisputable.
(2) Relating well to the professor in the classroom is ESSENTIAL.
Good relations with the professor...(i.e. come on time, do your homework, try and help the
discussion (but participate no matter what), volunteer to get whatever the prof forgot,
helping with the VCR, etc. will usually help you succeed. Some people will call this
"sucking up to the prof;"...those who call it that are usually jerks. Being
helpful to others in the class, including the professor is both appropriate and honest.
Bad relations (coming in late, smart-mouth attitude, bored look, bad smell and dress,
cynical questions "are we expected to know this for the exam?", talking in class
with your neighbor, no homework, and cutting class are guaranteed to get you mentioned in
the faculty lounge (professors are not the only ones who get reputations)...and not the
way you would like.
you won't feel like being there...maybe the prof ain't so hot. that's life and won't
change anywhere, even when you start work, so learn to go with the flow. Other times,
there will be problems at home or in the dorm. Your best choice is to make sure you share
those problems with someone on your "team;" but make sure your
professor knows that it is not him or her or the class that is causing you problems
(sometimes it's very hard for the prof to tell)...and if it is the prof or class situation
let him or her know, in a nice way, what you need to change things so you can be more
Bottom line :
communicate, communicate, communicate.
best use the Library and the Web
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