back to school

academica, pedagogy

Every semester, I try to begin a class with a bit of wisdom for the students on the process of learning (I’ve blogged about this before, I suppose). It seems like a modest goal. I talk about note taking (the Cornell Note taking Method), how to be an active reader, how to rehearse knowledge, and what are a few good writing habits that I hope will stick. A New York Times article reviews the research on study habits debunks common wisdom and isolates a few good tips:

[M]any study skills courses insist that students find a specific place, a study room or a quiet corner of the library, to take their work. The research finds just the opposite. In one classic 1978 experiment, psychologists found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms — one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard — did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room.

And…

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time.

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