11th Jan 2019
We think it’s time to change how, when and where your child studies – Part 1
Studying is a skill. So, like any other skill, it should be first learned in order to be acquired. Then practiced, in order to be strengthened. Among the list of skills that a learner must have, studying is one of the key ones. Yet, it is surprising that very few schools, if any, focus on teaching and solidifying this skill. The result? Learners who perform badly because they do not know how to study. They do not know the difference between homework and studying and therefore consider them to be the same. It’s not true. And if your child is struggling in school, then we think its time to change how, when and where your child studies.
So how should your child be studying?
Well, there are three ways that your child can use to study depending on the subject and objective of their study time. Before we start discussing them, understand that it is important that your child has a reason for each study session. It is the reason that drives how they study.
The possible reasons for studying and how your child can approach those study sessions are:
Reason #1: Studying to Learn Something
The dictionary defines learning as the process of acquiring knowledge through study, experience or teaching. Therefore, a learner who is studying in order to learn something will use techniques that will enable them to acquire knowledge, retain it and recall it.
A few techniques to help a learner do this effectively are:
a) Being present. This means that your child must be mentally, physically and emotionally prepared to study. Failing that, he/she will have their minds wander everywhere but the content of their school work. When a learner is fully present, the mind is prepared to acquire and retain information. A learner can only achieve full presence when they understand why they are studying and are self-motivated.
b) Taking down notes. Whilst in class, it is important for learners to actively engage in the lesson and discussion, whilst taking minimal (mostly reference) notes. During self-study, note-taking becomes more important. A learner uses notes to commit information they are reading to memory. It is not enough to just sit there and passively read a document and call it studying. Studying is an active process that requires a learner’s engagement. Taking good notes achieves just that.
c) Make it make sense. A learner did not learn anything if they do not understand it and therefore cannot apply it. It must make sense. To do this, your child must consider as many resources as possible to ensure that they have no unanswered questions remaining. They should actively find answers to what they do not understand and even go as far as the understanding context for what they are learning. They will need to use their problem solving and creative thinking skills in order to achieve this.
Reason #2: Studying to Test Understanding
Another good reason your child has to study is to test their understanding of certain topics. The whole point of tests and exams is to check learners’ understanding and application of concepts. So, it is important that learners complete this self-test before attempting official tests. Of course, when studying, for this reason, the techniques used will be different from the above.
In order to test understanding during study sessions, the learner can use the following techniques:
a) Reflect and summarise. Reflection is the process of thinking deeply about something. Whilst reflecting, your child must them summarise the areas of the topic that they do understand and formulate opinions and further questions to explore about them. The process of summarising tests comprehension. If a learner understands a concept, they will be able to explain it briefly and in their own words.
b) Complete end-of-chapter quizzes. Almost every textbook has a short quiz at the end of each chapter. Unfortunately, with the limited school time, teachers do not have the opportunity to go through all these questions in class. Therefore, they are either given as part of homework or not at all. These short quizzes can be used by your child during their study time to test their understanding of topic-by-topic.
c) Create own question bank. A question bank is simply a list of questions. When a learner wants to test their understanding, they need to put themselves in the teacher’s shoes. What questions can be asked for each topic? It is not about developing questions to which they have answers. No, it is about studying the contents of the textbook and developing as many possible open-ended questions as possible. Once completed, the learner can use the questions bank as a checklist for things he/she understands and those he/she does not.
Reason #3: Studying to Refresh “Old” Knowledge
In 1968, psychologists, Atkins and Shiffrin suggested that information exists in one (1) of three (3) stages of memory. And it passes through them the more we rehearse it – practically recall it repetitively. The stages are sensory, short-term and long-term. Therefore, if a student is to remember in June, what they learned in January then they will have to intentionally commit information to long-term memory.
Refreshing “old” knowledge that was previously learned through the process of studying is reviewing. The question bank that created during the study process becomes an effective tool for reviewing the information later. The learner can also use mind-maps, flashcards, gamification etc. to review information. But we suggest that your child uses the 1+7 day-rule:
Day 1: Complete homework as a process of reviewing information/topic immediately after learning it.
Day 8: Set aside time to study the information/topic so they’re learning something else about it. Use different sources to make their knowledge richer.
Day 15: Set aside time to test their knowledge of the information using the methods outlined above. Check where there are still knowledge gaps.
Day 22: Set aside time to review the information and/or re-learn aspects where there are still some knowledge gaps.
Day 29, 36, 43 … Continue this process as they are learning new things in class.
The process of reviewing information takes less and less time every time it is done. This way, your child does not have to stress during exam time, because they know how to study, and they have been doing it consistently throughout their academic year. As we first said at the beginning of this article, studying is a skill. For some students, it’s a skill they can teach themselves. For others, they need help to learn it. If your child’s teacher cannot assist, then it’s important that you get a tutor/learning facilitator to not only explain concepts to your child but to teach them how to study.
In the next part of this article series, we will discuss when your child should be studying. Takes some time to read it and help your child make the best of their academic year.