Thursday, April 20, 2023

Studying Effectively and Life-Long Learning

Daniel Willingham has a great article on studying effectively and life-long learning in the NY Times.

There Are Better Ways to Study That Will Last You a Lifetime

"But as your child gets older, he’ll increasingly be expected to teach himself."

"These demands build slowly across the grades, essentially forming a second, unnoticed curriculum: learning how to learn independently."

"For most American students, that curriculum goes untaught."

"And that lack of instruction shows. Students don’t know much about how they learn."

"Students get studying wrong because they don’t assess whether a method works in the long run. Instead, they pay attention to whether the method is easy to do and feels like it’s working while they’re doing it."

"For example, student surveys show that rereading notes or textbooks is the most common way students prepare for a test. Rereading is easy because the mind can skitter along the surface of the material without closely considering its meaning, but that’s exactly why it’s a poor way to learn. If you want to learn the meaning — as most tests require you to — then you must think about meaning when you study."

"Psychologists have developed much better ways to study, some of them counterintuitive. For example, if you’ve only partially learned some material, trying to remember it is a better way to solidify that fragile learning than studying more."  [self-testing]

"When students read textbooks, they again gravitate toward easy methods that, misleadingly, feel effective. They like to highlight, which adds little time to reading, and which students assume can guide future studying. But research shows there’s little benefit to highlighting over simply reading, in part because students mostly highlight definitions, not deeper concepts."

"Educational psychologists have developed strategies for effective reading that even middle school students can use. Readers are told to perform a task while they read, for example, to identify conclusions and ask themselves how they are supported. This task requires that students focus on high-level themes as well as the details that support them."

"As they have for reading, educational psychologists have developed strategies for listening that encourage students to relate individual points to broader conclusions."

"Most people hope that schools will encourage each child to become a lifelong learner, which means teachers must show students how to learn effectively on their own. That’s unlikely until teachers have that knowledge themselves."

I present the current research on study methods in my books, How To Succeed in Law School (for students) and How To Grow A Lawyer: A Guide for Law Schools, Law Professors, and Law Students.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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