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Learning and Teaching should be Flexible:

Study Skills
 

 
 
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 In order to learn most effectively, pupils should develop skills in studying.  This will help them learn and understand coursework, it will help them prepare for exams/assessments and it will help them prepare for life-long learning.  This area is closely linked with other Toolkit topics, such as Learning Styles and Learning to Learn (qv).

Points Arising From Research

Study skills advice draws on much research about how we learn and how the brain works.

For example, research indicates that review is important in aiding recall:

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Without review, 80% of a lesson can not be recalled 24 hours later

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The most effective time for the first review is 10 minutes after initial learning

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Minimum subsequent reviews: 24 hours later, then a week later and then a month

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Review should deal with key points, rather than wholescale re-reading

Other research points are often implicit in the advice given below.

Key Elements of Study Skills

Because advice on study skills is essentially advice  to pupils, this document will summarise key aspects for that group.  Teachers can then consider how these might be delivered and impact on organisation of coursework, homework and revision.

Study environment

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Should be free from distractions which would make work more difficult

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Suitable furniture should be available

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Effective lighting should be used

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Research suggests that recall of information is enhanced if the study environment is similar to that of the final assessment, since learning is related to context

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Perhaps an area of the school is more likely to meet these requirements than the home, but the school should advise parents about study environment

Personal well-being and attitudes

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Physical exercise and fitness improve studying capacity

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Sleeping well improves studying

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Good diet is important - sugary foods should be avoided just before studying

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Starchy foods eaten about an hour before can set the body up for study

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Pupils’ attitudes are important: they need to engage with a topic before it can be effectively studied.   Learning should be linked to long-term goals.

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They should be aware of their own learning styles and preferred learning strategies

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They should be encouraged to take a positive attitude to their potential

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In preparing for an exam, they need to know the format of the paper(s) and have had sufficient practice to familiarise them with requirements and to build confidence

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Relaxation techniques can be taught for relieving stress during study

Time management

( Pupils need to be able to cope both with normal week-to-week study and with the greater freedom of Study Leave - and, indeed, study situations later in life )

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Pupils should carry out an audit of what has to be done and the time available

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Study time should be planned - but realistically, so that there is plenty leisure time

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A list of things “to do” should be drawn up

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Specific targets for individual study sessions should be set

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Deadlines (whether teacher-imposed or self-imposed) should be met

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Projects should be started in good time

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Blocks of study time should not be very long (research suggests about ½ hour at a time)

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Research suggests that if a part time job takes up more than 6 hours per week, then it is likely to interfere with learning.

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Some research suggests doing memory work and review just before going to bed is effective

Handling information

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Big tasks should be broken down into chunks

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Information should be prioritised

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Difficult tasks should be identified and tackled first

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The SQ3R process is effective:-

  • Pupils make a preliminary Survey of the information

  • Pupils make up their own Questions on the topic

  • They then Read the material

  • They then Recite key points and speak out loud answers to their questions

  • Finally they Review the main points

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Highlighting, underlining, using colour, noting key words etc are all useful techniques

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Information can be elaborated, with the pupil supplying personal examples

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Information can be linked to something already known

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From a topic heading, pupils can brainstorm their own questions and then try to answer them

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Information can be grouped or placed in a pattern/matrix (eg mind-maps/flow charts)

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Working with a friend or group is valuable

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Experimenting with different strategies

Reading, Writing, Talking and Listening

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Strategies for effective reading can be employed (speed reading, for example)

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Study material can be turned into notes, especially revision notes for exams

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Note-writing skills are important:-

  • bullet points and indented sections - certain points marked specially?

  • separate notes on separate lines

  • wide margin and “white space” (blank space) left on the page for clarity and later additions

  • abbreviations, symbols and codes (including ones devised by the pupil)

  • acronyms (including ones devised by the pupil)

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Flash cards can help - colour coding can be used

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Varied mnemonic strategies can help (See Toolkit section on Learning to Learn)

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Talking over study material with someone aids understanding and recall

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When a study session involves listening, those having difficulty can adopt certain strategies:-

  • making up questions about the topic and trying to focus on finding answer

  • focusing on a reason for learning the material

  • sitting near the front of the classworking in a group

  • identifying specific information on which to focus

Reflection and Discussion

Many schools have Study Skills courses.  Does yours and, if so, to what extent does it influence your pupils in the work they do with you?  What is the best means of delivering Study Skills to pupils?  To what extent is this the province of PSE in secondary schools?  To what extent should subject departments be involved in building these skills?

Could you build some of the above strategies into your curricular and revision work?
 

Some Activities Relating To the Issue of Study Skills

Key element

Objective

Action

 

Some examples and suggestions

Study Environment

Perhaps an area of the school is more likely to meet these requirements than the home

It might be possible to carry out (by anonymous questionnaire?) a survey of facilities which pupils have access to for study.   Do they make use of a homework club or similar opportunity?   If so, is there scope for developing study skills in the curricular context here?   If not, how does the homework set match their opportunities to do it?

Personal well-being and attitudes

They need to engage with a topic before it can be effectively studied

Ask pupils why they are studying a topic.   Can you do anything to make the work seem more relevant?   What connections can they make with prior knowledge, with other interests and with future careers?

Time Management

 

Specific targets for individual study sessions should be set

Evaluate your course and consider how effectively pupils would be able to break study into “chunks”.   Can you make it any easier for them to study in this way?

Handling Information

SQ3R

Have the pupils try the technique of brainstorming questions on a study block, and then have them work on answers.

 

REVIEW

Consider the occasions on which you encourage pupils to review.   Do you structure lessons so that the first review can take place before the end of the lesson?   Do you build in opportunities at intervals thereafter? Can you exploit this technique more?

R, W, T and L

Note-writing skills are important

Without teacher intervention, have pupils convert a block of course information into notes.   Is it worth devoting more time to this skill?   Consult with colleagues (English teachers in 2ndary?) on pupils’ note-writing experience.

Selected References

 
Further Reading

There are various Study Skills books available in bookshops.  There are even academic courses in Study Skills.   However, there is much excellent material available on the internet.   Amongst it is direct advice to college students, much of which is applicable to school pupils.   Indeed, pupils can make direct use of some of these sites themselves if they are looking for advice.
 


Websites

www.ucc.vt.edu/stdysk/stdyhlp.html
Includes online, interactive self-assessment.  Describes specific strategies.  Includes specific advice on reading strategies.

www.studygs.net/lrnstudy.htm
Offers many practical suggestions, such as tips for memorising, and includes specific advice for those with ADHD.

www.support4learning.org.uk/education/revision_and_study_skills_.cfm
Provides various links to study skills

www.brunel.ac.uk/~mastmmg/ssguide/sshome.htm
This site gives step-by-step advice on “Study Skills for High School”
 


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Last updated 20/08/2010
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