Operative Study Habits in Students
One reason students don't do well in class is because they don't have successful study habits. There lies the key word "habit." Cramming for an exam the day before is not studying. Little will be accomplished in the long run when your students choose such a course of action. Neither is just opening a textbook and rereading information that has already been reviewed in class. Some students will just re-exam their notes ... but the information they took is either gobbled or completely incomprehensible.
One effective way in which to teach students how to study is to give them continual opportunities to practice their study skills. When a doctor treats his patients on a daily basis it is called a "practice." When students have systematic exposure to the learning experience either in a group or individually, that can also be considered a "practice."
There should be a place in the teaching/learning process for in-class study assignments, independent study projects, and outside study assignments. Well-chosen study assignments can make several unique contributions to the work in the classroom. It can encourage students to think outside the box.
There are three types of assignments teachers can utilize in encouraging good study habits:
- Outside study assignments
- Independent study projects
- In-class study assignments
Three Types of Assignments ...
Outside Study Assignments extend the limited time available to instructors and students during the school day; they provide additional time to cope with the amount of material to be learned.
Interesting outside study assignments can enrich learning by providing experiences to students that are simply not available or not possible within the confines of the school itself.
An example of outside study is the mentoring experience in the Medical Office Procedures course. As a part of the learning experience, students will observe healthcare practitioners, medical assistants, and other members of the medical staff as they perform their duties. This assignment is done outside of the classroom environment for approximately 30 minutes to one hour. Students will then report their finds in a brief paper.
Independent Study Projects allow students to work at their own pace, and in their own way, toward individual goals and interests.
In-class Study Assignments are the best; especially when dealing with adult learners. One method that proved extremely effective for my students was administering a practice test the day before the actual one. Giving the students the test to study has always been a huge success.
Students break up into smaller groups with some of the best students pairing with some of the slower learners. Then they commence to look up the answers to the questions and discuss them while they race to finish before the class period ends. I allowed my students to take the test home for further study but made them aware that NO ONE would be able to complete their actual exam until I collected ALL the study test questions. Of course everyone did excellent and working students found this study method invaluable!
Also study assignments free both the teacher and students to use classroom or laboratory time for interaction on important, creative, and personal aspects of the vocational/technical subject by covering some of the routine elements of the subject matter.
A Word Regarding the Environment
When studying alone, having the right environment is paramount. Some students need completely quiet surrounding such as a library or a study hall to feel comfortable reviewing assignments. Others need background noises such as music playing softly or the television.
There can be negative repercussions, however when students study by an open window and the sounds of their friends playing filters into the room. More time could be devoted to daydreaming than to studying! Therefore, students should be cautioned against studying near distractions.
Making Studying More Effective
Carefully thought out study assignments can provide students with practice experiences in learning, locating information, organizing and solving problems, retrieving information, and time management. Looking at the same information the same way can be ineffective; especially when the student may not have understood the concept the first time.
As stated previously, good study habits can be encouraged through in-class study assignments, independent study projects, and outside study assignments. It is important that the student understand basic concepts even if they are presented in different ways. Discovering what works best for each student may seem tedious; but the long range effectiveness of carefully orchestrated assignments can be beneficial throughout a student's academic endeavors!
Assignments can also be classified according to three levels of individualization:
- The single assignment, which everyone is expected to complete in exactly the same way,
- An assignment that gives the individual student some freedom in devising a method of approach and, to some extent, the result to be reached; and
- A broad assignment that defines the basic problem, with each student developing an individual project or activity and setting individual goals.
Putting Things into Prospective ...
The following is an example of an assignment that was given at the beginning of the semester in a Medical Office Procedures Class I taught
- Presentations: Each student is responsible for outlining one chapter in the textbook Contemporary Medical Office Procedures, 2nd Edition. The purpose of this assignment is to direct your reading/comprehension skills toward looking for the main ideas in each chapter and not just reading the chapter!
- The chapter outlines should be typed, single-spaced, and will follow the format similar to the outline example provided.
- You are responsible for briefly presenting the chapter highlights and supplying your instructor with a copy of the outline.
- A double grade will be assigned. One is for the presentation and the other is for the outline. You may use transparencies, slides, or other visual aids to enhance your presentations. Even if you are absent for your presentation, you are still responsible for completing the chapter outline.
- The presentation is due the week scheduled for discussion of that particular chapter. This grade will count toward your overall class participation score.
This particular assignment incorporates two of the three levels of individualizations.
It uses the single assignment, which everyone in class is expected to complete in exactly the same way (note: the outline is to be completed according to the example supplied).
It uses the assignment method that gives the individual student some freedom in devising a method of approach (note: the method of presentation is left up to the student’s discretion).
The best results are achieved when students can see that study assignments are carefully reviewed and when high quality work is rewarded. When students are aware that their grades will be adversely affected by work that is not considered a “best effort”, they will be motivated toward performing quality work.