TIPS FOR EFFICIENT LEARNING

THE CENTRE FOR EFFICIENT LEARNING AT TAV COLLEGE

This webpage provides useful tips and strategies for students, which can be applied to their studies in order to maximize the efficiency of note-taking, studying for tests and reading course materials.

 

After reading this webpage, learners should be able to:

  • Know how to apply learning strategies to their studies
  • Know how to identify key ideas of a text or of a lecture
  • Understand the habits of efficient learners
Download a printer-friendly note-taking template!
click here

Learning Strategies

“Skilled learners have a wide range of learning strategies that they can apply fairly automatically. Using learning strategies and study skills is related to higher grade-point averages (GPAs) in high school and persistence in college or university” – Robbins, S. B. et al., 2004, Winne, 2013.

WHAT ARE “LEARNING STRATEGIES?”

Learning strategies are methods (different ways) for approaching new knowledge with the objective of maximizing your understanding of this knowledge and retaining the most important information in your long-term memory.

TIPS FOR Identifying the Key Ideas (of a text or a lecture)

The “key” ideas (or sometimes referred to as the “main” ideas) are the larger, more pertinent messages that an author or speaker is attempting to convey to the reader or audience. For example, the key ideas for the film/novel series Harry Potter might be “Harry Potter learns the trials and tribulations of growing up, the value of friendship and the ability of good to overcome evil.”

Source: “What is the Main Idea of a Story?” Study.com, 30 May 2017, study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-the-main-idea-of-a-story.html

1. summaries

WHAT IS A “SUMMARY?”

A summary (similar to an abstract) is a tool for briefly organizing main points.

 

TIP:

Creating summaries can help students learn by breaking down a large amount of information into an organized list. Jeanne Ormrod (2012) summarizes these suggestions for helping students create summaries:

  • Find or create a topic sentence for each paragraph or section
  • Identify big ideas that cover several specific points
  • Find some supporting information for each big idea
  • Delete any redundant information or unnecessary details
Similarly, you can use this template:

This paragraph is about ______ and ______. They are the same in these ways:______, but different in these ways: ______.

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

2. Underlining and Highlighting

Underlining (text)

To place emphasis on a specific portion of text.

TIP:

Underlining and note taking are probably two of the most frequent but ineffectively used strategies among post-secondary students.

  • One common problem is that students underline or highlight too much. It is far better to be selective.
  • Research in Phil’s lab (Winne et al., 2017) indicates you have about twice as much chance to remember what you highlight compared to what you do not.

In studies that limit how much students can underline—for example, only one sentence per paragraph—learning has improved (Snowman, 1984).

  • In addition to being selective, you also should actively transform the information into your own words as you underline or take notes.
  • Do not rely on the words of the book.
  • Note connections between what you are reading and other things you already know.
  • Draw diagrams to illustrate relationships.
  • Finally, look for organizational patterns in the material, and use them to guide your underlining or note taking.

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

3. Note-Taking

Note-taking

The dual process of listening and then transferring these thought into written text.

TIP:

As you fill your notebook with words and try to keep up with a lecturer, you may wonder if taking notes makes a difference. It does, if the strategy is used well.

  • Taking notes focuses attention during class. Of course, if taking notes distracts you from actually listening to and making sense of the lecture, then note taking may not be effective.
  • Taking organized notes makes you construct meaning from what you are hearing, seeing, or reading, so you elaborate, translate into your own words, and remember (Armbruster, 2000).
  • Notes provide extended external storage that allows you to return and review. Students who use their notes to study tend to perform better on tests, especially if they take many high- quality notes.
  • Expert students match notes to their anticipated use and modify strategies after tests or assignments, use personal codes to flag material that is unfamiliar or difficult, fill in holes by consulting relevant sources (including other students in the class), and record information verbatim only when a verbatim response will be required. In other words, they are strategic about taking and using notes.
STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

Even though taking notes is valuable from middle school through graduate school, students with learning disabilities often have difficulty with the strategy.

  • Middle school and high school students with learning disabilities who used a strategic note-taking form recalled and understood significantly more key ideas from science lectures than students in control groups who used conventional note-taking methods.
TEMPLATE FOR NOTE-TAKING

Dividing up the page is an idea from the Cornell Notes system, devised by Walter Pauk of Cornell University, who wrote the classic guide, How to Study in College in the 1950s. It is still available (Pauk & Owens, 2010). This form could be useful for any student who needs extra guidance in note taking.

To download a printer-friendly version of the template, click here.

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

Reading Strategies

“These strategies are effective for several reasons. First, following the steps makes students more aware of the organization of a given chapter. How often have you skipped reading headings entirely and thus missed major clues about the way the information was organized? Next, these steps require students to study the chapter in sections instead of trying to learn all the information at once. This makes use of distributed practice. Answering questions about the material forces students to process the information more deeply and with greater elaboration.” (Woolfolk, A., et al. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition).

1. READS STRATEGY

The READS strategy is an excellent tool for rapid reading and comprehension, however, note that strategies are not universal and all students learn in different ways.

  • R  Review headings and subheadings.

  • E  Examine boldface words.

  • A  Ask, “What do I expect to learn?”

  • D  Do it—Read!

  • S  Summarize in your own words. (Friend & Bursuck, 2012)

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

2. CAPS STRATEGY (FOR STORIES)

  • C  Who are the characters?

  • A  What is the aim of the story?

  • P  What problem happens?

  • S  How is the problem solved?

Source: Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

APPLYING LEARNING STRATEGIES:

THE 8 HABITS OF EFFICIENT LEARNERS

You may have read all of the strategies listed above but still feel as though you do not fully understand how to apply them to your own unique needs. Applying learning strategies can be tricky, however, this list of habits of efficient learners may provide some insight as to how you can go about doing so.

1. BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR GOALS IN STUDYING

Examples
  1. Survey readings to target specific concepts on which you will focus.
  2. Write the introduction section of a paper.

2. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE NECESSARY DECLARATIVE KNOWLEDGE (FACTS, CONCEPTS, IDEAS) TO UNDERSTAND NEW INFORMATION

Examples
  1. Keep definitions of key vocabulary available as you study.
  2. Use your general knowledge. Ask yourself, “What do I already know about?”
  3. Build your vocabulary by learning two or three new words a day using them in everyday conversation.

3. FIND OUT WHAT TYPE OF TEST THE TEACHER WILL GIVE (ESSAY, SHORT ANSWER), AND STUDY THE MATERIAL WITH THAT IN MIND

Examples
  1. For a test with detailed questions, practice writing answers to possible questions.
  2. For a multiple-choice test, use mnemonics to remember definitions of key terms.

4. MAKE SURE YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE ORGANIZATION OF THE MATERIALS TO BE LEARNED

Examples
  1. Preview the headings, introductions, topic sentences, and summaries of the text.
  2. Be alert for words and phrases that signal relationships, such as on the other hand, because, first, second, however, since.

5. KNOW YOUR OWN COGNITIVE SKILLS, AND USE THEM DELIBERATELY

Examples
  1. Use examples and analogies to relate new material to something you care about and understand well, such as sports, hobbies, or films.
  2. If one study technique is not working, try another—the goal is to stay involved, not to use any particular strategy.
  3. If you start to daydream, stand up from your desk and face away from your books, but do not leave. Then sit back down and study.

6. STUDY THE RIGHT INFORMATION IN A PRODUCTIVE WAY

Examples
  1. Be sure you know exactly what topics and readings the test will cover.
  2. Spend your time on the important, difficult, and unfamiliar material that will be required for the test or assignment. Resist the temptation to go over what you already know well, even if that feels good.
  3. Keep a list of the parts of the text that give you trouble, and spend more time on those pages.
  4. Process the important information thoroughly by using mnemonics, forming images, creating examples, answering questions, making notes in your own words, and elaborating on the text. Do not try to memorize the author’s words—use your own.

7. MONITOR YOUR OWN COMPREHENSION

Examples
  1. Use questioning to check your understanding.
  2. When reading speed slows down, decide if the information in the passage is important. If it is, note the problem so you can re-read or get help to understand. If it is not important, ignore it.
  3. Check your understanding by working with a friend and quizzing one another.

8. MANAGE YOUR TIME

Examples
  1. When is your best time for studying? Morning, late at night? Study your most difficult subjects then.
  2. Study in shorter rather than longer blocks, unless you are really engaged and making great progress.
  3. Eliminate time wasters and distractions. Study in a room without a television or your roommate, then turn off your phone and maybe even your connection to the internet.
  4. Use bonus time—take your notes to the doctor’s office waiting room or laundromat. You will use time well and avoid reading old magazines.

Based on ideas from: https://ucc.vt.edu/academic_support/study_skills_information.html; Wong, L. (2015). Essential study skills (8th ed.) Stamford, CT: Cengage., Pearson Education in Anita Woolfolk, Philip H. Winne, Nancy E. Perry. (2019). Educational Psychology (Seventh Canadian Edition) [Texidium version]. Retrieved from http://texidium.com

How to Write Good

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. Avoid clichés like the plague. They’re old news.

4. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

5. Be more or less specific.

6. Writers should never generalize.

Seven: Be consistent!

8. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.

9. Who needs rhetorical questions?

10. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

 

Source: Visco, L. F., (1986) Writers’ Digest. Retrieved from plainlanguage.gov.

Do you have questions or comments?