Study Tips from Professors

Kate Narveson, English

  • Tell students to take notes!  (especially if the prof writes something on the board) 
  • I also suggest that they look at their notes once a week and make sure they can understand what they wrote, and if they can't, seek out the professor. 

Mark Muggli, English

For Paideia students:

  • Use the Reader—it contains a lot of material that faculty assume students will know, and the material often appears on exams and quizzes.
  • Use the Reader introductions (semester themes, etc.) as a way to organize big picture.
  • In class: be proactive in sticking with and participating; passivity deadens learning.
  • Use CAE and writing tutors.
  • Failure to communicate with faculty can be a problem. If a student is getting behind, they're much, much better off talking to a prof than hoping the problem will go away.

Cathryn Meyer, English

  • Come to class prepared and ready to engage. I think students need to commit to participating in class every day—to not be passive learners but active ones. I also talk to my students about the importance of the classroom as a performance space and thus the importance of non-verbal signals—do they look like they are engaged, do they make eye contact, are they sitting up straight, ready to take notes, have their books out, etc.
  • Good non-verbal performance can go a long way in the professor's mind.
  • CAE and the writing lab are the two resources I always talk about. But, students also need to be reminded about the resource of their professors—again they need to be active and proactive with respect to their education and therefore seeking out their professors in office hours (and not just when they have a grievance).
  • If a professor knows that a student is going the extra mile, then they will go an extra two miles to help them.
  • Read assignments closely.
  • Ask questions about assignments.
  • Read supplemental material and read it closely. Per this last point: lots of material—which students are expected to read and comprehend—gets distributed in college and the professor never goes over it. I think students don't immediately grasp this about college; they are use to high-school where anything important has been thoroughly gone over. But in college we just don't have time for everything, so there are things (important info, advice, etc.) which I just hand out and expect students to study on their own time.
  • I am always surprised, for example, to learn just how few students actually read the Paideia Reader—which is chalk full of info pertinent to their success in the class; it just doesn't seem very savvy.

Here are my Paideia "survival tips"

Last-minute survival tips:

  • Sound in Valders 117 (the lecture hall) trickles downhill, and lecturing profs., who can hear and see everybody in the room, have been known to stop their lectures and publicly call out students who are whispering, sleeping, or distracting those around them with non-lecture-related things on their laptops. Don't let this happen to you!
  • Take notes in class discussions and at lectures. You really will be sorry at exam time if you don't. Help with note taking skills is available at CAE.
  • Stay organized—keeping handouts, assignments, papers, etc. organized in a folder or binder (dedicated solely to Paideia) will help you stay on top of your course work.
  • Participate in discussion—learning to talk about texts & issues in class is one of the most important things you can practice and improve. 
  • The classroom is a performance space and you should always be mindful of what impression you want to leave me with (consider, for example, what your body language tells me).  How you conduct yourself in class tells me how seriously you want me to take you and your work.
  • Talk to me early and often if you have questions or problems. Don't be ashamed or scared. I'm here to help. 

Beth Lynch, Biology

Best study practices—in and out of class

  • Make sure that you know what the major points of the class were.  
  • The ability to identify the big concepts is key.  
  • You also should try to understand how the examples or case studies from class and assigned reading illustrate the concepts.  
  • Try concepts maps, outlines, other visual strategies for organizing material.
  • BEFORE class do the assigned reading. This will help you to see the big picture as it emerges.  
  • DURING class listen critically and take notes.  
  • AFTER class make sure you can identify the major points (see above) and understand why they are important to the material being covered. If you have questions after doing these three things, talk with the professor, other students in the class, tutors, etc.

Test prep

  • Study as you go. Each week put in time after class making sure you see how the pieces fit together. DON'T wait until the week or the day before the test.
  • Don't confuse superficial learning with deep learning. Be able to assess, apply, compare, explain, etc.

Helpful campus resources

  • Other students, your professors, reference librarians, CAE (obviously!), writing center, speech and debate center

Common mistakes

  • Not learning as you go; waiting until the end to try to put the pieces together.  
  • Not planning ahead so that assignments can be completed in a thoughtful manner.
  • Not figuring out when you aren't understanding the material at a sufficiently deep level— many students confuse superficial learning with deep learning. 

John Jefferson, Chemistry

  • Study a little every day; don't expect to be able to cram information.
  • Ask the teacher directly what to expect on the test - this is a fair question.
  • Take advantage of the new science building which allows you to study right outside the prof.'s office.
  • Spend more time doing the problems and practicing answers than reading the book. 

Claude Mertzenich, Chemistry (Anne Craft's paraphrase of phone conversation)

  • For math, chemistry, physics, it is crucial to practice the problems! 
  • Do all the problems in the book, not just the ones assigned. 
  • Redo the problems that the teacher did on the board. 
  • Divide up all the problems and do some each day. 
  • Each day, redo the preceding day’s problems and then do that day’s problems. By the end of the week, you will have practiced and repracticed all kinds of problems. 
  • Spend additional practice time on problems that you struggle with. 

Eric Baack, Biology

  • For my exams, I recommend studying with other students.
  • Studying the vocabulary and reviewing your notes are essential places to start your studying, but may often are not enough.
  • Most questions I ask will require you to use concepts that we have covered in class, so I recommend meeting with others to practice using terms.

Brooke Joyce, Music

Best study practices—in and out of class

  • Form a study group—get people in the group who have diverse talents and bring something unique
  • Focus when you study—don't multi-task, listen to music, text your friends, etc. you will study more efficiently (less study time) and effectively (you'll absorb more)
  • In class—always take careful notes and ask questions, even the "dumb" ones—if you have a question, undoubtedly, someone else does, too

Test prep

  • Same advice as above: form a study group and focus
  • What to study: start with your notes from class.
  • The professor is not out to trick you—if something was worth mentioning or discussing in class, it's probably important enough to include in a test
  • Use visual aids, mnemonic devices, flash cards, etc.
  • When you study. just re-reading your notes or your texts is not going to help you learn or absorb, you need to reinforce with other sensory inputs

Helpful campus resources

  • Use your departmental tutors and/or get a tutor through CAE

Common mistakes

  • Cramming is never a good idea—you just don't absorb the material, which means not only will you do poorly on the test, but you won't learn the material either.
  • The act of participating in class discussion or asking questions is not about being social, it's about practicing our verbal communication skills. It doesn't matter if you're a naturally shy person or not—if you want to learn, you have to speak out, even if that's a scary proposition. Always participate!
  • The way to tell if you've learned something—try to teach it to someone else. Part of how we do that is through study groups; we can also practice verbalizing our knowledge through class discussion. Always participate!
  • Finally, always participate in class discussion! 

Wendy Stevens, Biology

  • Form study groups of 3 (no more than 3) students
  • Study individually 30 min after lecture (that same day)
  • Study with study group 30-45 min. Each student presents the lecture information closed notes for 10 min. The 2 study partners follow along in their notes and correct the presenter or add information. After 10 min the next student presents. They should spend additional time on areas that they all find difficult.
  • Each student should keep a card-sized piece of paper to write down the real stumbling blocks, carry it around, review it several times during the day, look at it just before going to bed and getting up.
  • Use a tutor to explain or clarify the more difficult things, then ask the tutor to provide testing for more practice.
  • A CAE tutor would be encouraged to meet with study group after they have practiced on their own—the limited time can then be used for clarification and additional practice. An SSS tutor might sit in on the session and listen to, but not direct the study session.