September 11, 2012
Help students improve their study skills
Students often need explicit guidance on effective study strategies. The SQ3R technique is an effective study strategy that has been described and promoted in countless textbooks in multiple disciplines.
David Myers, author of a widely-used text for introductory psychology, recently produced a narrated animated video (Make Things Memorable!) that provides an engaging and short (at just over 5 minutes) overview of the SQ3R method. David Myers describes the SQ3R technique for study and discusses psychological research findings on the “testing and retrieval effect” that explain why these strategies improve student learning.
If you teach a course with a large enrollment of first year students, consider providing your students with a referral to this video. Post a link to it from your faculty web page or include a link in your course materials in eLearning.
This animated video is available at the following URL:
February 15, 2011
Consider differences between experts and novices when creating teaching activities
After years of graduate school and academic teaching, we may no longer recall the experience of being a first year student enrolled in the introductory course for our discipline. The difference between the expert knowledge of faculty and the novice understanding of students (and in some cases, the naïve and erroneous assumptions novice learners bring to a discipline) can create challenges to effective communication between experts and students. Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) identify several important characteristics of the knowledge and processing skills that distinguish experts from novices.
Differences between Experts and Novices
(Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000)
These differences have important implications for teaching and learning:
Based in part on a teaching tip submitted by Barbara Millis, Director, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Texas at San Antonio
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
November 9, 2010
Improve the technical preparation of students in your class by describing the technical skills and specialized software needed for your course during course registration
Students will begin registering for courses on November 15.
All UWF students are expected to have an active ArgoNet e-mail account, regular access to e-mail (2-3 times a week), and basic skills in the use of a word processor. Many courses make additional demands on technology skills, including the ability to use web conferencing for Elluminate sessions, access to D2L, the ability to use course functions in D2L (such as uploading material to an assignment drop box), and the use of specialized software required for tasks such as statistical analysis, creation of power point presentations, or creation and manipulation of digital images.
The academic course search pages on the UWF web site include icons for each course that allow students to view the course syllabus, determine whether the course is an eLearning course or a distance learning course (and whether the instructor will be present in the location for that section), determine the extent of computer use expected in the course, and identify other technology needs associated with the course (special software available only in a lab, Elluminate, need to purchase a clicker, use of proctored exams, and other specialized software or technology needs).
If you expect students to use specific technology in your course, identify these needs on your syllabus and set the appropriate technology codes for the course. After logging into MyUWF, select the Classmate App and then click on the Syllabus/Tech Codes link under Action to open an interface for uploading your syllabus. This interface also includes drop-down menus that allow instructors to set technology codes for their course. When a technology code is selected, the appropriate icon will appear in the course search output for this course. A full list of the technology codes available for the course search interface can be found at https://nautical.uwf.edu/people/techCodesExplained.cfm.
March 23, 2010
Improving student learning by helping students understand the value of errors for improvement of self-regulated learning
Self-regulated learning involves acquiring skills such as setting goals, monitoring progress during study, and evaluating and modifying study strategies to improve performance on a learning task.
Two problems plague student learning:
Barry Zimmerman (CUNY) argues that students can be coached to evaluate their study strategies and monitor their learning progress realistically to improve learning and overall skill in learning new material.
Effective coaching requires that instructors provide accurate feedback about learning so that students can assess strengths and weaknesses in their study strategies. When students make mistakes, they need coaching to help them reflect accurately on what went wrong. It isn’t enough to simply provide accurate feedback to students. Ensure that students process this feedback by requiring them to demonstrate that they understand the feedback they receive.
One way to encourage students to reflect on feedback is to ask them to respond to the following questions after getting feedback on exam performance:
This approach is particularly effective when it is connected with specific content because the strategy that will work when solving one type of problem might differ from the strategy that will be effective when attempting to solve a different type of problem.
Barry Zimmerman (Ed. Psych, CUNY) runs a self-regulated learning project at CUNY. This tip is based on an article on Dr. Zimmerman’s project published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, February 12, 2010.
January 12, 2010
Help students succeed in your course by sharing effective study strategies
As experts in academia, faculty sometimes forget that the study habits that enabled them to be successful as students and distinguished them as competitive applicants to graduate programs were (and continue to be) rare skills among undergraduate students. Share your expertise as a student with your students and describe the skills and habits they should acquire to be successful in your course.
An example of this sharing of expertise is the following handout that Julie Ann Williams provides to students in her Operations Management course at the beginning of the term. Although some of her advice is specific to successful completion of this course, much advice is transferrable to other courses.
How to Be Successful in MAN3504
Thanks to Julie Ann Williams for sharing this handout.
Julie Ann Stuart Williams, Ph.D., P.E.
Department of Management/MIS
University of West Florida
November 10, 2009
Improving project management: Deadlines as the solution to overconfidence in estimating time to complete a project
One characteristic of the cognitive problem of overconfidence is the tendency to underestimate how long it will take to complete a project. This overconfidence may be fueled in part by a phenomenon known as confirmation bias, the tendency to selectively retrieve and attend to information that is consistent with a preferred hypothesis (rather than searching for evidence that the hypothesis might be wrong). When estimating time to complete a project, people tend to prefer the hypothesis that the project is manageable, resources will be readily available, and no unexpected events will occur that will create obstacles to progress or otherwise delay project completion. Of course, resources are frequently more difficult to obtain than anticipated and various events (increased work load in other courses, changes in off-campus employment demands, family emergencies, illnesses, auto accidents, weather events, etc.) can produce delays that push back initial deadlines.
The solution to this problem is to create multiple deadlines (“milestone” deadlines) throughout the term for a large-scale project that is due at the end of the term. Although this strategy might strike some as “hand holding,” this suggestion is consistent with “real world” practices for managing procrastination. Wistrich (2008) examined the effect of procrastination and the problem of failing to meet deadlines associated with filing legal claims within the statute of limitation. Wistrich notes that imposing a deadline improves task completion. Setting long-term deadlines not only fails to improve task completion, allowing a long time for task completion makes the task resemble a task that has no specific deadline. Tasks with self-imposed deadlines or no clear deadline are least likely to be completed. Thus, short deadlines increase the likelihood that tasks will be completed on time and multiple, spaced deadlines for a large project are more likely to result in successful task completion than a single long-term deadline.
Buehler, R., Griffin, D., & Ross, M. (1994) Exploring the “planning fallacy”: Why people underestimate their task completion times. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 366-381.
Newby-Clark, I. R., Ross, M., Buehler, R., Koehler, D. J., & Griffin, D. (2000). People focus on optimistic scenarios and disregard pessimistic scenarios while predicting task completion times. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 6, 171-182.
Wistrich, A. J. (2008). Procrastination, deadlines, and statutes of limitations. William and Mary Law Review, 50, 607-666.
October 27, 2009
Improve student learning by encouraging distributed practice
Distributed learning is more effective than massed learning. This observation is one of the oldest and best-documented characteristics of learning. Massed practice can be effective for improving performance on an immediate retention task, but distributed practice produces learning that endures over longer retention intervals. Unfortunately, testing material immediately following completion of a module of instruction rewards students for cramming and other massed-practice study strategies. Create situations in which students must retrieve and use newly-learned material repeatedly and following multiple intervals of time. These distributed experiences with the material will produce more enduring learning.
An added advantage of distributed practice is that the context of successive practice sessions is likely to vary over time. Use of material in a variety of contexts improves the chances that students will recall and be able to use this material in a future novel context. If the goal is to produce learning that transfers beyond the classroom to new situations, creating distributed learning and varied practice contexts will improve the success of this type of transfer.
Matlin, M. (2007). How cognitive psychology can enhance your students’ learning. In S. A. Meyers & J. R. Stowell (Eds.), Essays from E-xcellence in Teaching (Chapter 9), Volume 7.
E-book retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology Web site:
October 14, 2009
Improve student learning by calibrating metacognition: The price of overconfidence
Students are typically overconfident about the level of knowledge or understanding they have achieved. This overconfidence is produced in part by the fact that students usually evaluate their knowledge or understanding immediately after completing a reading, hearing presentation of material in lecture, or at the conclusion of a bout of study (usually the night before an exam!) when representations of new information in immediate memory are quite strong. Student confidence in their learning will be inflated because they have easy access to information in immediate memory as well as long-term representations. The ease of retrieving relevant information from immediate memory distorts our confidence in our ability to recall this information at a later time. However, after a short interval of time passes without thinking about new material, the representations in immediate memory are replaced with current thoughts and concerns. All a student has left is the quality of long-term representations. Encourage students to evaluate their learning after some time has passed to get more accurate information about the adequacy of their studying.
September 15, 2009
Create Activities that Encourage Deep Processing and Improve Student Learning
Deep processing tasks produce memories for new information that are more enduring than does shallow or surface learning. This effect is well-documented in the cognitive research literature (Roediger, Gallo, & Geraci, 2002). Instructors can encourage students to engage in deep processing by creating learning tasks that can be completed only if students engage in deeper processing.
Examples of tasks that induce deeper processing include the following:
Roediger, H. L., III, Gallo, D. A., & Geraci, L. (2002). Processing approaches to cognition: The impetus from the levels-of-processing framework. Memory, 10, 319-332.
August 25, 2009
Setting the tone for your class: Guiding students toward effective study strategies
Use class time during the first week of the term to provide students with guidelines and suggestions for successful study strategies. Examples of study discussion topics included the following:
Karpicke, J. D., Butler, A. C., & Roediger, III, H. L. (2009). Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practice retrieval when they study on their own? Memory, 17, 471-479.
March 24, 2009
Advising students about effective study strategies
Some first and second-year students become disengaged with their academic work because they do not have the appropriate time management and study skills. Several campus resources will help students develop these skills. Resources are also available on the internet. For example, the Study Guides and Strategies site on the Teachers First web pages provides a wealth of resources on study strategies, time management, writing skills, preparing for tests, and other topics of interest to students.
UWF Student Resource Page
Study Guides and Strategies (Teachers First Toolbox)
Thanks to Robert M. Isosaari, Instructor, Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science, University of West Florida for suggesting the Study Guides and Strategies page.
March 17, 2009
Encourage students to write regularly about their learning to improve their learning practices
Reflective writing can help students become more self-directed learners if writing assignments require them to identify and discuss important information learned in their course and describe the strategies that helped them learn. Reflective writing can be achieved by asking students to keep a learning journal, assigning regular in-class writing, or creating a threaded discussion in an online component of the course. Reflective writing can be structured by creating specific prompts that focus attention on learning strategies and an evaluation of their effectiveness.
Examples of prompts for reflective writing assignments:
TRACE Tips: Improving Students’ Learning Practices
Centre for Teaching Excellence
University of Waterloo
February 17, 2009
Use exam feedback to help students reflect on the effectiveness of their study strategies
Ask students to think about the study strategies they used to prepare for an exam after they receive their grade on the exam. Did they perform as well as they hoped they would? Invite students who are satisfied with their performance to describe the strategies that seemed to help them the most. Students who are not satisfied with their performance should consider adopting effective strategies suggested by fellow students when studying in the future.
Adapted from Bette LaSere Erickson, University of Rhode Island, Helping first-year students study. Essays on Teaching Excellence (Toward the Best in the Academy).
November 25, 2008
Engaging Students with a Review Session
Students frequently request a pre-exam review session. Consider structuring your review session to encourage students to reflect on their learning by preparing questions for the session. This strategy makes students responsible for the content of the session, which is determined entirely by the specific questions posed by students.
Explain in advance that you will answer questions about content. Questions such as Will this be on the test? and Do we really need to know this? or What do we need to know? are off limits. Expect that some student questions will not be precisely focused. Expect some questions such as Can you explain the Smith-Wilson model again? Typically, students identify enough specific content areas that they have trouble understanding to fill a review session. The discussions are lively and productive.
This approach has several advantages. First, when you limit the review to content related to the questions students ask, you eliminate expectations that the review might provide a “Cliff’s Notes” to the content of the course or the exam. Second, you won’t waste time reviewing topics you think might be challenging but students feel they already understand. Instead, students will ask questions about content that they believe they need to understand better. As such, this form of review encourages students to reflect on the quality of their own learning and understanding. It places responsibility for identifying weaknesses in understanding squarely on the shoulders of students. Finally, students must prepare for the review by studying their notes and materials to develop review questions, which is a beneficial study activity in itself.
October 7, 2008
Use a Variety of Strategies to Engage Students with Varied Learning Skills
Universal Design is an architectural concept in which designers anticipate the needs of all potential users and design buildings that will be accessible to diverse users without retrofitting. Similarly, Universal Instructional Design (UID) is a proactive approach to the design of course instruction, materials, and content to accommodate diverse learning strategies and specific constraints imposed by documented medical conditions, physical disabilities, or learning disabilities without requiring additional modifications. Course concepts are designed to be educationally accessible regardless of learning style or ability by including instructional strategies that
All students bring diverse learning strategies to the classroom. These varied learning styles may include preferences for one of the following activities:
Although students may prefer to use one learning strategy more than other strategies, they should be encouraged to practice using less-preferred strategies. Practice with multiple strategies will strengthen their skill with less familiar or less preferred strategies and will enlarge the student’s repertoire of effective learning strategies.
Learn more about Universal Instructional Design:
Higbee, J. L., Chung, C. J., & Hsu, L. (2008). Enhancing the inclusiveness of first-year courses through Universal Instructional Design. In J. L. Higbee and E. Goff (Eds.), Pedagogy and student services for institutional transformation: Implementing Universal Design in higher education. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation.
University of Minnesota: Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation (University of Minnesota)
University of Washington: Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) http://www.washington.edu/doit/
Tip based on a contribution by:
Tasha J. Souza
Faculty Development Coordinator, Humboldt State University
June 3, 2008
Improve student engagement by offering your students extra credit for using improved study strategies. Junn (1995) offered extra credit to students for engaging in selected learning activities. These activities included attending class sessions and submitting weekly learning activity assignments (on time). The learning activities included creating detailed and well-organized class notes each week, creating detailed reading notes and questions based on the assigned readings following instructor guidelines for reading notes, creating 12 specific mnemonic devices (e.g., developing an acronym) to improve the student’s ability to remember key terms and concepts discussed in class that week, or documented participation in a tutoring session or attendance at a campus workshop on study or test-taking skills. The amount of extra credit earned (up to 2% of the total points associated with the final course grade) depended on the number and frequency of documented completion of one or more of these learning activities. Students who engaged in the extra credit activities earned significantly higher scores on class exams and earned significantly higher final grades (without including the extra credit points in the computation). Students reported that the extra credit assignment required a considerable amount of work, but encouraged them to learn better study habits that actually helped them learn.
Junn, E. N. (1995). Empowering the marginal student: A skills-based extra-credit assignment. Teaching of Psychology, 22, 189-192.
Updated 09/11/12 lrg
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