Samford University in Birmingham Alabama has made a number of videos to help students, freshmen especially, develop good study skills.
Dr Chew guides in this series of mini-talks which can also be beneficial for all kinds of students, not just those at university.
The video uses graphs and headings that help us follow everything Dr Chew is saying, although you can find a full transcript for the first video below.
Video 2: What Students show know about how people learn
Video 3: Cognitive principles for optimizing learning
Video 4: Putting principles for learning into practice
Video 5: I blew the exam, now what?
Hi, I'm Doctor Steven Chew. I'm a professor of psychology here at Samford University in Birmingham Alabama. This is the first in a series of videos on how to study effectively in college.
Attending college is a huge transition and the academic challenge of college-level coursework is a big part of it. We made these videos to help students make their transition. The information will be helpful though to people in almost any learning situation. I'm a cognitive psychologist which means I study how people learn and think.
I'm going to be explaining to you the basic principles of people learn best. Now you can use those principles to increase the effectiveness of your study. I'm not peddling any quick fixes or magic products that's going to make you an A student overnight with little effort. Such things don't exist. The bottom line is this: if you use ineffective or inefficient strategies you can study long and hard and still fail but if you use effective learning strategies, you can get the most learning out of your study time.
In this first video will examine your believes the to see how accurate and understanding you are about how people learn.
All students based their study behavior on their beliefs about how they best learn: do I need to go to class? do I need to read the textbook? how much do I have to study material before I’ve mastered it? The more accurate the beliefs, the more effectively you learn.
Let’s start with some common misconceptions about how people learn that I call beliefs that make you stupid. If you hold these believes chances are you're undermining your learning.
Most first-year college students grossly underestimate the time required to complete assignments or study material effectively. I hear students say things like ‘Dr Chew, you’re going to be proud of me: I read 8 chapters last night’, and I think ‘No, you didn’t. You skimmed the chapters but you learnt virtually nothing’.
Truly comprehending material takes careful reading and more importantly review. Always plan for assignments to take longer than you think and always plan to have your reading finished for an exam well enough in advance to give yourself multiple days for review.
A hall mark of students who are struggling is that they study by trying to memorize isolated facts. Unfortunately many textbooks encourage this by putting key terms in bold print and listing definitions in the margins, so students get no cards right out the definitions and memorize them. The problem is a good teacher tests for comprehension, how well you understand the concept. You simply don't get that if you memorize isolated facts.
Many students believe that people are naturally good or bad at the subject and nothing can be done to change that, but academic success is much more a matter hard work than an inborn talent. Students say to me ‘doctor Chew, you don't understand, I'm really bad at math.’ I tell them ‘no, Tyler, you can do it, you just need to really work hard at math.’ You have to commit the time and hard work necessary to succeed. Now I recognize that people have jobs and family and other obligations, but you have to recognize that the time you have will limit your likelihood of success.
But time and hard work alone do not guarantee success. A lot of students believe they're good at multitasking because they do it all the time, so they study while texting, checking social networks, email and having other distractions. The problem is that these students never compare their performance while multitasking to the performance when they focus on one task without distraction. The research evidence is overwhelming that we are bad at multi-tasking. We’re bad especially if one of the tasks involves concentration and effort like studying. What we're good at is fooling ourselves into believing that we're good at multitasking because all those distractions are more fun than studying, but in order to succeed you need to reduce, or even better eliminate, all those distractions. For every distraction you have, you reduce the amount you learn, increase the time it takes to understand material and increase the chance for a bad grade. So those are the beliefs that can sabotage your learning. I want to introduce a new concept that can have a huge impact on your learning. It's called meta-cognition.
Meta-cognition refers to your awareness of how well you truly understand the concept. Accurate meta-cognition is one of the key differences between successful and struggling students. Weaker students are grossly overconfident on how well they understand the material. As a result, weaker students don't study as much as they need to truly understand the material. They take an exam, they're confident they've done well, then they're stunned when they find out they've done poorly. Let’s see how this works.
A few years ago in my general psychology class I did the following: at the end of the first exam I had students estimate what percentage of the questions they got right, from 0 to 100 percent. I then created this graph of everyone in the class, based on their actual exam performance and how they estimated they did. Each point represents a student. If students have an accurate view of how well they knew the material and how well they did on the exam, their estimate should match the actual performance and they should score on the diagonal. If they did better than expected on the exam, their point would fall above the diagonal. If, however, they were overconfident on how they did, their point would fall below the diagonal.
Look at the results. There are a few students who scored above the diagonal and did better than expected, but most students scored below the diagonal, showing they thought they scored better than they actually did. Now look at the upper right hand corner of the graph. These are the students who did best on the exam. Notice that most of the students are clustered around the diagonal. Now look at the middle of the graph. Here are the students who did poorly and most of their points are far below the diagonal. It was the weakest students who were the most overconfident. They had poor meta-cognition.
After the exam I had students who did poorly tell me ‘I felt so confident after exam’ or ‘I thought I really knew the material’. These are all signs of poor meta-cognition. These students were underprepared, overconfident, and completely unaware of those facts.
The problem for college freshmen is they spent years honing their sense of meta-cognition for high school. Now they come to college and their sense of meta-cognition is all wrong. A big transition in the freshman year is developing a more accurate sense of meta-cognition. The problem of poor meta-cognition is that it may indicate your poor study strategies. The hall mark of the poor study strategy is that builds overconfidence without increasing actual learning, so therefore you have poor meta-cognition. In order to improve your study effectiveness you need to improve your studies skills. That will be the topic of the next video.