Good reading skills are more important than ever, and science points to those who really work.
Any student reads his notes and textbooks over and over again. Research shows that there are more effective ways to use your valuable study time.
As a teenager, Fariah Sana often featured books with markers. “The colors told me different things.” Later, she recalls, “I had no idea what these featured texts meant.”
He also took a lot of notes while reading. But often she was “just copying words or changing words.” That didn’t help much, she says now. In fact, “it was just a matter of practicing my writing skills.”
“No one ever taught me how to study,” says Sana. College became difficult, so he worked to find better reading skills. He is now a psychologist at the University of Athabasca, Alberta, Canada. There she studies how students can learn better.
Good teaching skills are always helpful. But it is now even more important during COVID-19 epidemics. Sana notes that many students worry about their family or friends who may be ill. Others feel more general pressure. In addition, students in many countries are facing different forms of learning. Some schools are once again holding private classes, with rules on distance and masks. Classes at other schools falter, part-time with students. Still others have all the online classes, at least for a while.
These situations can deviate from your lessons. In addition, students may have to do more work without looking at the shoulders of the teacher or parents. They will have to manage their time and study on their own. Yet many students never learned the skill. According to Sana, this could be tantamount to asking students to learn to swim “just by swimming”.
The good news: science can help.
For more than 100 years, psychologists have found that reading habits work best. Some tips are helpful for almost every article. For example, just don’t worry! And try it yourself instead of just re-reading the content. Other tactics work best for certain types of classes. This includes things like using graphs or combining what you study. Here are 10 tips to improve your reading habits.
1. Place your study.
Nate Cornell “definitely did well” before the big exams when he was a student. He is a psychologist at Williams College in Williams Town, Mass. He still thinks it’s a good idea to study the day before a big exam. But research shows that stopping all your reading on this day is a bad idea. Instead, make room for these study sessions. In a 2009 experiment, college students studied word for word with a flash card. Some students studied all the words in a distance-separated session over four days. Others studied small batches of words in one day. The two groups spent the same amount of time together. But testing shows that the first group learned the words better.
Cornell compares our memory to water in a bucket with a small leak. Try to fill the bucket while it is still full, and you can’t add more water. Allow time between study sessions, and some content may slip out of your memory. But then you will be able to learn it again and learn more in your next study session. And you’ll remember it better, next time, he notes.
2. Practice, practice, practice!
Musicians rehearse their instruments. Athletes practice sports skills. It should be the same for learning.
“If you want to memorize information, the best thing you can do is practice,” says Catherine Rawson. He is a psychologist at Kent State University in Ohio. In a 2013 study, students took practice tests over several weeks. In the final test, they scored better than a full letter grade, on average, compared to students who normally read that way.
In a study conducted a few years ago, college students read material and then took memory tests. Some took only one test. Others took several tests with short intervals of several minutes in between. The other group remembered the material better a week later.
3. Don’t just read books and notes.
As a teenager, Cynthia Niebel read her textbooks, worksheets and notebooks. “Again and again,” recalls this psychologist from Nashville, Tan’s Wonder Bullet University.
In a 2009 study, some college students read a text twice. Other people read a text only once. Both groups took a test immediately after reading. Amy Calendar and Mark McDaniel found that the test results between these groups were very low. He is now at Whitton College, Illinois. He works at the University of Washington in St. Louis, MO.
Often, when students re-read the material, it is superficial, says MacDaniel, who also wrote the 2014 book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. He says re-reading is like seeing the answer to a riddle, rather than doing it yourself. It seems to make sense. But unless you try it yourself, you don’t really know if you understand it.
Henry Rodriguez is one of the co-authors of MacDaniel’s Make It Stick. He also works at the University of Washington. In a 2010 study, Rodiger and two colleagues compared the test results of students who re-read material in two other groups. One group wrote questions about the content. The other group answered someone else’s questions. The people who answered the questions were the best. Those who just re-read the material were the worst.
4. Test yourself
The 2010 study supports one of Noble’s favorite reading habits. Before the big exams, his mother asked him about the material. “Now I know it was a recovery exercise,” she says. “It’s a great way to study.” As Nebel grew older, he asked himself. For example, she may cover definitions in her notebook. Then he tried to remember what each term meant.
This kind of recovery practice can help almost everyone, Rausen and others showed in the August 2020 study on learning and instruction. The study involved college students with a condition called ADHD. This means Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Overall, the recovery helped students with ADHD and those without symptoms.
Sana suggests, “Make a flash card deck whenever you learn new information.” “Put questions on one side and answers on the other.” She says friends can also quiz each other on the phone.
“Try to ask yourself the same questions as the teacher,” Nabil added.
But she says really grill yourself and your friends. And why is it here? She was part of a team that asked students to write a quiz question during each class. Students would then answer a question from another classmate. Preliminary data show that students did worse after the test when the daily quiz questions came from the teacher. Noble’s team is still analyzing the data. He suspects that the students’ questions were too simple.
Teachers often dig deep, she notes. They don’t just ask for compliments. Often, teachers ask students to compare ideas and vice versa. It takes some critical thinking.
5. Mistakes are right – as long as you learn from them.
It is important to check your memory. But it doesn’t matter how many seconds you spend on each endeavor. The discovery comes from a 2016 study by Cornell and others. But the next step is to go, Colonel added: Check to see if you were right. Then focus on what you did wrong.
One of the secrets of science: Mistakes promote understanding.
“If you don’t know the answer, you’re wasting your time,” he says. On the other hand, checking answers can make your study time more efficient. Then you can focus on where you need the most help.
In fact, making mistakes can be a good thing, says Stuart Firestein. A biologist at Columbia University in New York City, he actually wrote a book on it. It’s called Failure: Why is Science So Successful? He argues that mistakes are actually the key to learning.
6. Mix it
In many cases, it helps to combine your self-examination. Don’t focus on just one thing. Drill yourself on different ideas. Psychologists call this interleaving.
In fact, your test will usually have mixed questions. More importantly, interlaying can help you learn better. If you follow a concept over and over again, “you lose focus because you know what’s going to happen next.” Combine your practice, and now you separate the ideas. You can also see how ideas differ, create trends or fit together in some other way.
Suppose, for example, you are learning about the volume of different shapes in mathematics. You can have a lot of problems with the size of a pitcher. Then you can answer more batches of questions, with only one format for each set. Or, you can find out the volume of the cone, then the pitcher. Next you can find the volume of half a cone or sphere. Then you can mix them up. You can even mix in some exercises on addition or subtraction.
Groups of college students at Rawson and others tested each of them. The researchers reported last year in Memory and Cognition that they improved their practice questions from a group that practiced single batch.
A year ago, Sana and others showed that interleaving can help students with both strong and weak working memory. Working memory lets you remember where you are in an activity, such as following a prescription.
7. Use pictures.
Nebel says focus on diagrams and graphs in your class material. “Those images can really enhance your memory of this content. And if there are no images, making them can be really, really useful.”
“I think this visual representation helps you build a more complete mental model. He and Dingboi, then at the University of Washington, used to ask students to listen to lectures on car brakes and pumps One group got the sketches and was asked to add notes as needed to the sketch. The other group got a sketch to write the notes. The third group only took notes. The outlines helped the students if they Otherwise, they were good at creating mental models for their reading, but in these tests, they found that visual aids helped students across the board.
Even stupid pictures can help. Nicole Rimmel is a psychologist at Rohr University in Bochum, Germany. In a 2003 study, he and others gave cartoon drawings to college students, as well as information about five scientists who studied intelligence. For example, the text about Alfred Bennett came with a drawing of a race car driver. The driver wore a bonnet to protect his brain. The students who only saw the text were better than the students who saw the drawings.
8. Find examples.
Summary Concepts can be difficult to understand. Nabil says that it is very easy to create a mental picture if you have a concrete example of something.
For example, sour foods taste good because they contain acid. On its own, this concept can be difficult to remember. But if you think of lemons or vinegar, it’s easy to understand and remember that acid and sour go together. And examples can help you recognize the taste of other foods because of the acid.
In fact, it would be helpful to have at least two examples if you want to apply the information in new situations. Nebel and others reviewed the study in July 2019. His Journal of Food Science Education report explains how students can improve their reading skills.
9. Dig deep
It’s hard to remember a series of facts and figures if you don’t go further. Ask why things are so special. How did they come Why do they matter? Psychologists call this detail. Nabil says he is taking class materials and “asking a lot of questions about how and why.” In other words, don’t accept facts just for the price.
Description helps you combine new information with other things you know. And it creates a huge network of things in your mind that are interconnected. That large network makes things easy to learn and remember.
Suppose you are asked to memorize a series of facts about different men, says McDaniel. For example, “The hungry man got in the car. The strong man helped the woman. The brave man ran home. And so on. In one of his studies in the 80’s, college students memorized nude statements.” I had a hard time. They did better when the researchers explained to them each man’s action, and the students remembered better when they had to answer questions about why each man did something.
“Good understanding produces really good memory,” says McDaniel. “And that’s the key for a lot of students.” If the information only seems random, ask more questions. Make sure you can explain the content. Better yet, they say, see if you can explain it to anyone else. Some of her college students call home to tell their parents what they are learning.
10. Make a plan – and stick to it.
Many students know that they should end their study hours, do their own quizzes and practice other good skills. Yet many do not. Often, they fail to plan ahead.
Back when Rawson was a student, he used a paper calendar for his planning. He wrote in the date of each exam. “And then for four or five days,” she recalls, “I wrote down the time to study.”
Try to stick to your routine. Set aside a time and place where you can do your homework and study. This may sound strange at first. But, Cornell assures you, “When two go around a week, it becomes normal.” “Put your phone somewhere else when you work,” Nabil added.
Allow yourself short breaks. Sana suggested setting a timer for 25 minutes or more. Study in the meantime, without interruption. When the timer stops, take a break of five or 10 minutes. Exercise Check your phone. Maybe drink some water – whatever. After that, reset the timer.
“If you have a study plan, stick to it!” McDaniel adds. Recently, he and Giles Einstein, a psychologist at Firman University in Greenville, SC, looked at why students don’t use good reading skills. Many students know what those skills are, they report. But often they do not plan when they intend to put them into practice. Even more so when students make plans, more interesting things can happen. He says that reading should be a priority. The team published its report on July 23 in the context of psychological science.
Bonus: Be kind to yourself.
Try to stick to a regular routine. And get plenty of sleep – not just the night before the test, but at the end of weeks or months. “Those things are really, really important for learning,” says Niebel. “Exercise helps, too.”
“If it all seems too much, don’t put pressure,” he added. If a lot seems new, try adding just one new study skill every one or two weeks. Or at least schedule your study sessions and practice recovery for the first few months. As you get more practice, you can add more skills. And ask if you need help.
Finally, if you are struggling to follow the advice above (such as not being able to keep track of time or find it difficult to focus on your work), you may have an undiagnosed condition. , Such as ADHD. To find out, consult your doctor. The good news is: it’s treatable.
School work is a difficult situation during epidemics. But remember that your teachers and classmates also face challenges. Like you, they have fears, anxieties and questions. Be prepared to slow them down a bit. And do yourself a favor. “We’re all in it together,” says Cornell.