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Unformatted text preview: In this chapter you will explore Confessions of a COLLEGE STUDENT . . . ‘‘ ’’ BREE SCHIPPER, 29 Kalamazoo Valley Community College reading college textbooks more challenging than reading high school texts or reading for pleasure? College texts are loaded with concepts, terms, and complex information that you are expected to learn on your own in a short period of time. To accomplish all this, you will find it helpful to learn and use the active reading strategies in this chapter. They are intended to help you get the most out of your college reading. The following plan for active reading is designed to help you read college textbooks. When you read actively, you use strategies that help you stay focused. Active reading is different from readings novels or magazines for pleasure. Pleasure reading doesn’t require you to annotate, highlight, or take notes. But as you read college textbooks, you’ll use all these strategies and more. This plan will increase your focus and concentration, promote greater understanding of what you read, and prepare you to study for tests and exams. The four steps in active reading are 1. Previewing 2. Marking 3. Reading with Concentration 4. Reviewing The purpose of previewing is to get the big picture, that is, to understand how what you are about to read connects with what you already know and to the material the instructor covers in class. Begin by reading the title of the chapter. Ask yourself: What do I already know about this subject? Next, quickly read through the introductory paragraphs. Then read the summary at the beginning or end of the chapter if there is one. Finally, take a few minutes to skim the chapter, looking at the headings and subheadings. Note any study exercises at the end of the chapter. As part of your preview, note how many pages the chapter contains. It’s a good idea to decide in advance how many pages you can reasonably expect to cover in your first study period. This can help build your concentration as you work toward your goal of reading a specific number of pages. Before long, you’ll know how many pages are practical for you. Keep in mind that different types of textbooks can require more or less time to read. For example, depending on your interests and previous knowledge, you might be able to read a psychology text more quickly than a logic text that presents a whole new symbol system. Mapping the chapter as you preview it provides a visual guide for how different chapter ideas fit together. Because many students identify themselves as visual learners, visual mapping is an excellent learning tool for test preparation, as well as reading (see chapter 4, Discovering How You Learn). To map a chapter, use either a wheel structure or a branching structure as you preview the chapter (see Figure 7.1). In the wheel structure, place the central idea of the chapter in the circle. The central idea should be in the introduction to the chapter and might be apparent in the chapter title. Place secondary ideas on the spokes emanating from the circle, and place offshoots of those ideas on the lines attached to the spokes. In the branching map, the main idea goes at the top, followed by supporting ideas on the second tier and so forth. Fill in the title first. Then, as you skim the chapter, use the headings and subheadings to fill in the key ideas. Perhaps you prefer a more linear visual image. If so, consider making an outline of the headings and subheadings in the chapter. You can fill in the outline after you read. Alternatively, make a list. A list can be particularly effective when you are dealing with a text that introduces many new terms and their definitions. Set up the list with the terms in the left column, and fill in definitions, descriptions, and examples on the right after you read. Divide the terms on your list into groups of Wheel Map Branching Map five, seven, or nine, and leave white space between the clusters so that you can visualize each group in your mind. This practice is known as chunking. Research indicates that we learn material best when it is in chunks of five, seven, or nine. If you are an interactive learner, make lists or create a flash card for each heading and subheading. Then fill in the back of each card after reading each section in the text. Use the lists or flash cards to review with a partner, or recite the material to yourself. Previewing, combined with mapping, outlining, or flash cards, might require more time up front, but it will save you time later because you will have created an excellent review tool for quizzes and tests. You will be using your visual learning skills as you create advanced organizers to help you associate details of the chapter with the larger ideas. Such associations will come in handy later. As you preview the text material, look for connections between the text and the related lecture material. Call to mind the related terms and concepts that you recorded in the lecture. Use these strategies to warm up. Ask yourself: Why am I reading this? What do I want to know? After completing your preview, you are ready to read the text actively. With your skeleton map or outline, you should be able to read more quickly and with greater comprehension. To avoid marking too much or marking the wrong information, first read without using your pencil or highlighter. Think a moment about your goals for making marks in your own texts. Some students report that marking is an active reading strategy that helps them to focus and concentrate on the material as they read. In addition, most students expect to use their text notations when they study for tests. To meet these goals, some students like to underline, some prefer to highlight, and others use margin notes or annotations. Figure 7.2 provides an example of each method. No matter what method you prefer, remember these two important guidelines: 1. Read before you mark. Finish reading a section before you decide which are the most important ideas and concepts. Mark only those particular ideas, using your preferred methods (highlighting, underlining, circling key terms, annotating). 2. Think before you mark. When you read a text for the first time, everything can seem important. Only after you have completed a section and have reflected on it will you be ready to identify the key ideas. Ask yourself: What are the most important ideas? What will I see on the test? This can help you avoid marking too much material. Two other considerations might affect your decisions about textbook marking. First, if you just make notes or underline directly on the pages of your textbook, you are committing yourself to at least one more viewing of all the pages that you have already read—all or most pages of your anatomy or art history textbook, for instance. A more productive use of your time might be taking notes, creating flash cards, making lists, or outlining textbook chapters. These methods are also more practical if you intend to review with a friend or study group. Second, sometimes highlighting or underlining can provide you with a false sense of security. You might have determined what is most important, but you have not necessarily tested yourself on your understanding of the material. When you force yourself to put something in your own words while taking notes, you are not only predicting exam questions but also assessing whether you can answer them. Although these active reading strategies take more time initially, they can save you time in the long run because they not only promote concentration as you read but also make it easy to review. If you can use these strategies effectively, you probably won’t have to pull an all-nighter before an exam. Students commonly have trouble concentrating or understanding the content when they read textbooks. Many factors can affect your ability to concentrate and understand texts: the time of day, your energy level, your interest in the material, and your study location. Consider these suggestions, and decide which would help you improve your reading ability: Find a study location that is removed from traffic and distracting noises such as the campus library. Turn off your cell phone’s ringer, and store the phone in your purse or book bag (someplace where you can’t easily feel it vibrating). If you are reading an electronic document on your computer, download the information that you need and disconnect from the network to keep you from easily going online and chatting, e-mailing, or using Facebook or MySpace. differences affecting cultural stress acceptance of new culture reduces stress also speaking new language, education, & social support how attitudes affect stress 4 patterns of acculturation Refugees and immigrants are often unprepared for the dramatically different values, language, food, customs, and climate that await them in their new land. Coping with a new culture can be extremely stressproducing (Johnson & others, 1995). The process of changing one’s values and customs as a result of contact with another culture is referred to as acculturation. Thus, the term acculturative stress describes the stress that results from the pressure of adapting to a new culture (Berry, 1994, 2003). Many factors can influence the degree of acculturative stress that a person experiences. For example, when the new society is one that accepts ethnic and cultural diversity, acculturative stress is reduced (Shuval, 1993). The ease of transition is also enhanced when the person has some familiarity with the new language and customs, advanced education, and social support from friends, family members, and cultural associations (Finch & Vega, 2003). Cross-cultural psychologist John Berry has found that a person’s attitudes are important in determining how much acculturative stress is experienced. When people encounter a new cultural environment, they are faced with two fundamental questions: (1) Should I seek positive relations with the dominant society? (2) Is my original cultural identity of value to me, and should I try to maintain it? The answers to these questions result in one of four possible patterns of acculturation: integration, assimilation, separation, or marginalization (see the diagram). Each pattern represents a different way of cop- ing with the stress of adapting to a new culture (Berry, 1994, 2003). Integrated individuals continue to value their original cultural customs but also seek to become part of the dominant society. Ideally, the integrated individual feels comfortable in both her culture of origin and the culture of the dominant society, moving easily from one to the other (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993). The successfully integrated individual’s level of acculturative stress will be low (Ward & Rana-Deuba, 1999). Assimilated individuals give up their old cultural identity and try to become part of the new society. They may adopt the new clothing, religion, and social values of the new environemnt and abandon their old customs and language. Assimilation usually involves a moderate level of stress, partly because it involves a psychological loss—one’s previous cultural identity. People who follow this pattern also 1* 2* face the possibility of being rejected either by members of the majority culture or by members of their original culture (LaFromboise & others, 1993). The process of learning new behaviors and suppressing old behaviors can also be moderately stressful. Individuals who follow the pattern of separation maintain their cultural identity and avoid contact with the new culture. They may refuse to learn the new language, live in a neighborhood that is primarily populated by others of the same ethnic background, and socialize only with members of their own ethnic group. In some instances, such withdrawal from the larger society is self-imposed. However, separation can also be the result of discrimination by the dominant society, as when people of a particular ethnic group are discouraged from fully participating in the dominant society. Not surprisingly, the level of acculturative stress associated with separation is likely to be very high. Finally, the marginalized person lacks cultural and psychological contact with both his traditional cultural group and the culture of his new society. By taking the path of marginalization, he has lost the important features of his traditional culture but has not replaced them with a new cultural identity. Marginalized individuals are likely to experience the greatest degree of acculturative stress, feeling as if they don’t really belong anywhere. Essentially, they are stuck in an unresolved conflict between the traditional culture and the new social environment. They are also likely to experience feelings of alienation and a loss of identity (Berry & Kim, 1988). 3* possible rejection by both cultures *separation may be self-imposed or discriminating higher stress with separation 4* *marginalized = higher level of stress Read in blocks of time, with short breaks in between. Some students can read for fifty minutes; others find that a fifty-minute reading period is too long. By reading for small blocks of time throughout the day instead of cramming in all your reading at the end of the day, you should be able to process material more easily. Set goals for your study period, such as “I will read twenty pages of my psychology text in the next fifty minutes.” Reward yourself with a tenminute break after each fifty-minute study period. If you have trouble concentrating or staying awake, take a quick walk around the library or down the hall. Stretch or take some deep breaths, and think positively about your study goals. Then resume studying. Jot study questions in the margins, take notes, or recite key ideas. Reread confusing parts of the text, and make a note to ask your instructor for clarification. Focus on the important portions of the text. Pay attention to the first and last sentences of paragraphs and to words in italics or bold print. Use the glossary in the text or a dictionary to define unfamiliar terms. The final step in active textbook reading is reviewing. Many students expect to read through their text material once and be able to remember the ideas four, six, or even twelve weeks later at test time. More realistically, you will need to include regular reviews in your study process. Here is where your notes, study questions, annotations, flash cards, visual maps, or outlines will be most useful. Your study goal should be to review the material from each chapter every week. Consider ways to use your many senses to review. Recite aloud. Tick off each item in a list on each of your fingertips. Post diagrams, maps, or outlines around your living space so that you will see them often and will likely be able to visualize them while taking the test. As you begin reading, be sure to learn more about the textbook and its author by reading the front matter in the book, such as the preface, foreword, introduction, and author’s biographical sketch. The preface is usually written by the author (or authors) and will tell you why they wrote the book and what material it covers. Textbooks often have a preface written to the instructor and a separate preface for the students. The foreword is often an endorsement of the book written by someone other than the author, which can add to your understanding of the book and its purpose. Some books have an additional introduction that reviews the book’s overall organization and its contents chapter by chapter. Front matter might also include biographical information about the authors that will give you important details about their background. Some textbooks include questions at the end of each chapter that you can use as a study guide or as a quick check on your understanding of the chapter’s main points. Take time to read and respond to these questions, whether or not your instructor requires you to do so. Textbooks must try to cover a lot of material in a fairly limited space. Although many textbooks seem detailed, they won’t necessarily provide all the things you want to know about a topic—the things that can make your reading more interesting. If you find yourself fascinated by a particular topic, go to the primary sources—the original research or document. You’ll find those referenced in many textbooks, either at the end of the chapters or in the back of the book. You can read more information about primary and supplementary sources on page 126. You might also go to other related sources that are credible—whatever makes the text more interesting and informative for you. Remember that most texts are not designed to treat topics in depth. Your textbook reading will be much more interesting if you dig a bit further in related sources. Because some textbooks are sold with test banks that are available to instructors, your instructors might draw their examinations directly from the text, or they might use the textbook only to supplement the lectures. Ask your instructors, Wired WINDOW if they have not made it clear, what the tests will cover and the types of questions that will be used. In addition, you might try to find a student who has taken a course with your instructor so that you can get a better idea of how that instructor designs tests. Some instructors expect that you will learn the kinds of detail that you can get only through the textbook. Other instructors are much more concerned that you be able to understand broad concepts that come from lectures in addition to texts and other readings. Finally, not all textbooks are equal. Some are simply better designed and written than others. If your textbook is exceptionally hard to understand or seems disorganized, let your instructor know your opinion. On the basis of what you say, your instructor might focus on explaining the text and how it is organized or might decide to use a different text for future classes. While the previous suggestions about textbook reading apply across the board, mathematics textbooks present some special challenges because they tend to have lots of symbols and very few words. Each statement and every line in the solution of a problem need to be considered and digested slowly. Typically, the author presents the material through definitions, theorems, and sample problems. As you read, pay special attention to definitions. Learning all the terms that relate to a new topic is the first step toward understanding. Math texts usually include derivations of formulas and proofs of theorems. You must understand and be able to apply the formulas and theorems, but unless your course has a particularly theoretical emphasis, you are less likely to be responsible for all the proofs. So if you get lost in the proof of a theorem, go on to the next item in the section. When you come to a sample problem, it’s time to get busy. Pick up pencil and paper, and work through the problem in the book. Then cover the solution and think through the problem on your own. Of course, the exercises that follow each text section form the heart of any math book. A large portion of the time you devote to the course will be spent completing assigned textbook exercises. It is absolutely vital that you do this homework in a timely manner, whether or not your instructor collects it. Success in mathematics requires regular practice, and students who keep up with math homework, either alone or in groups, perform better than students who don’t. After you complete the assignment, skim through the other exercises in the problem set. Reading the unassigned problems will deepen your understanding of the topic and its scope. Finally, talk the material through to yourself, and be sure your focus is on understanding the problem and its solution, not on memorization. Memorizing something might help you remember how to work through one problem, but it does not help you understand the steps involved so that you can employ them for other problems. Your approach to your science textbook will depend somewhat on whether you are studying a math-based science, such as physics, or a text-based science, such as biology. In either case, you need to become acquainted with the overall format of the book. Review the table of contents and the glossary, and check the material in the appendices. There, you will find lists of physical constants, unit conversions, and various charts and tables. Many physics and chemistry books also include a minireview of the math you will need in science courses. Notice the organization of each chapter, and pay special attention to graphs, charts, and boxes. The amount of technical detail might seem overwhelming, but—believe it or not—the authors have sincerely tried to present the material in an easy-to-follow format. Each chapter might begin with chapter objectives and conclude with a short summary, sections that can be useful to study both before and after reading the chapter. You will usually find answers to selected problems in the back of the book. Use the answer key or the student solutions manual to promote your mastery of each chapter. As you begin an assigned section in a science text, skim the material quickly to gain a general idea of the topic. Begin to absorb the new vocabulary and technical symbols. Then skim the end-of-chapter problems so you’ll know what to look for in your detailed reading of the chapter. State a specific goal: “I’m going to learn about recent developments in plate tectonics,” or “I’m going to distinguish between mitosis and meiosis,” or “Tonight I’m going to focus on the topics in this chapter that were stressed in class.” Should you underline and highlight, or should you outline the material in your science textbooks? You might decide to underline or highlight for a subject such as anatomy, which involves a lot of memorization. But use restraint with a highlighter; it should pull your eye only to important terms and facts. If highlighting is actually a form of procrastination for you (you are reading through the material but planning to learn it at a later date) or if you are highlighting nearly everything you read, your highlighting might be doing you more harm than good. You won’t be able to identify important concepts quickly if they’re lost in a sea of color. Ask yourself whether the frequency of your highlighting is helping you be more active in your learning process. If not, you might want to highlight less or try a different technique such as margin notes or annotations. In most sciences, it is best to outline the text chapters. You can usually identify main topics, subtopics, and specific terms under each subtopic in your text by the size of the print. For instance, in each chapter of this textbook, the main topics (or level-1 headings) are in capital blue letters with a rule below. Following each major topic heading, you will find subtopics, or level-2 headings, printed in smaller blue letters. The level-3 headings, which tell more about the subtopics, are in bold, blue capital letters, but are much smaller than the level-1 headings. To save time when you are outlining, you won’t write full sentences, but you will include clear explanations of new technical terms and symbols. Pay special attention to topics that the instructor covered in class. If you aren’t sure whether your outlines contain too much or too little detail, compare them with the outlines members of your study group have made. You could also consult with your instructor during office hours. In preparing for a test, it’s a good idea to make condensed versions of your chapter outlines so that you can see how everything fits together. Many of the suggestions that apply to science textbooks also apply to reading in the social sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, and history). Social science texts are filled with special terms or jargon that is unique to the particular field of study. These texts also describe research and theory building and contain references to many primary sources. Your social science texts might also describe differences in opinions or perspectives. Social scientists do not all agree on any one issue, and you might be introduced to a number of ongoing debates about particular issues. In fact, your reading can become more interesting if you seek out different opinions about a common issue. You might have to go beyond your particular textbook, but your library will be a good source of various viewpoints about ongoing controversies. Textbooks in the humanities (philosophy, religion, literature, music, and art) provide facts, examples, opinions, and original material, such as stories or essays. You will often be asked to react to your reading by identifying central themes or characters. Some instructors believe that the way in which colleges and universities structure courses and majors artificially divides human knowledge and experience. For instance, they argue that subjects such as history, political science, and philosophy are closely linked and that studying each subject separately results in only partial understanding. By stressing the links between courses, these instructors encourage students to think in an interdisciplinary manner. You might be asked to consider how the book or story you’re reading or the music you’re studying reflects the political atmosphere or the culture of the period. Your art history instructor might direct you to think about how a particular painting gives you a window on the painter’s psychological makeup or religious beliefs. Whether or not your instructor requires you to read material in addition to the textbook, your understanding will be enriched if you go to some of the primary and supplementary sources that are referenced in each chapter of your text. These sources can take the form of journal articles, research papers, dissertations (the major research papers that students write to earn a doctoral degree), or original essays, and they can be found in your library and on the Internet. Reading source material will give you a depth of detail that few textbooks accomplish. Many sources were originally written for other instructors or researchers. Therefore they often use language and refer to concepts that are familiar to other scholars but not necessarily to first-year college students. If you are reading a journal article that describes a theory or research study, one technique for easier understanding is to read from the end to the beginning. Read the article’s conclusion and discussion sections. Then go back to see how the author performed the experiment or formulated the ideas. If you aren’t concerned about the specific method used to collect the data, you can skip over the “methodology” section. In almost all scholarly journals, articles are introduced by an abstract, a paragraph-length summary of the methods and major findings. Reading the abstract is a quick way to get the gist of a research article before you dive in. As you’re reading research articles, always ask yourself: So what? Was the research important to what we know about the topic, or, in your opinion, was it unnecessary? An important step in textbook reading is to monitor your comprehension. As you read, ask yourself: Do I understand this? If not, stop and reread the material. Look up words that are not clear. Try to clarify the main points and how they relate to one another. Another way to check comprehension is to try to recite the material aloud, either to yourself or your study partner. Using a study group to monitor your comprehension gives you immediate feedback and is highly motivating. After you have read and marked or taken notes on key ideas from the first section of the chapter, proceed to each subsequent section until you have finished the chapter. After you have completed each section and before you move on to the next section, ask again: What are the key ideas? What will I see on the test? At the end of each section, try to guess what information the author will present in the next section. With effort, you can improve your reading dramatically, but remember to be flexible. How you read should depend on the material. Assess the relative importance and difficulty of the assigned readings, and adjust your reading style and the time you allot accordingly. Connect one important idea to another by asking yourself: Why am I reading this? Where does this fit in? When the textbook material is virtually identical to the lecture material, you can save time by concentrating mainly on one or the other. It takes a planned approach to read textbook materials and other assigned readings with good understanding and recall. Textbooks are full of new terminology. In fact, one could argue that learning chemistry is largely a matter of learning the language of chemists and that mastering philosophy, history, or sociology requires a mastery of the terminology of each particular discipline. If words are such a basic and essential component of our knowledge, what is the best way to learn them? Follow the basic vocabulary-building strategies outlined in the following box. The English language is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Words are often spelled differently from the way they sound, and the language is full of idioms—phrases that are peculiar and cannot be understood from the individual meanings of the words. If you are learning English and are having trouble reading your texts, don’t give up. Reading slowly and reading more than once can help you improve your comprehension. Make sure that you have two good dictionaries—one in English and one that links English with your primary language—and look up every word that you don’t know. Be sure to practice thinking, writing, and speaking in English, and take advantage of your college’s helping services. Your campus might have ESL (English as a Second Language) tutoring and workshops. Ask your advisor or your first-year seminar instructor to help you locate those services. Listening, note-taking, and reading are the essentials for success in each of your classes. You can perform these tasks without a plan, or you can practice some of the ideas presented in this chapter. If your notes are already working, great. If not, now you know what to do. Where to go FOR HELP . . . Chapter REVIEW . . . One-Minute PAPER . . . Applying What You’ve LEARNED . . . Building Your PORTFOLIO . . . ‘‘ ’’ Central Idea: ...
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