Your_College_Experience_9e_Ch08 - In this chapter you will...

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Unformatted text preview: In this chapter you will explore Confessions of a COLLEGE STUDENT . . . ‘‘ ’’ MADISON DURRETT, 19 Wofford College comprehending, and remembering are essential to getting the most out of your college experience. Although many students think that the only reason for studying is to do well on exams, a far more important reason is to learn and understand course information. If you study to increase your understanding, you are more likely to remember and apply what you learn not only to tests, but also to future courses and to life beyond college. You might have learned to study effectively while you were in high school, or you might be finding that you need to learn more about how to study. In college you will need to spend time out of class reviewing course material, doing assigned reading, and keeping up with your homework. Occasionally, you will also want to go the extra mile by doing additional (unassigned) reading and investigating particular topics that interest you. This chapter offers you a number of strategies for making the best use of your study time. It also addresses the important topic of memory. There’s no getting around it: If you can’t remember what you have read or heard, you won’t do well on course exams. 1 Studying will help you accomplish two goals: understanding and remembering. While memory is a necessary tool for learning, what’s most important is that you study to develop a deep understanding of course information. When you truly comprehend what you are learning, you will be able to place names, dates, and specific facts in context. You will also be able to exercise your critical thinking abilities. The human mind has discovered ingenious ways to understand and remember information. Here are some methods that might be useful to you as you’re trying to nail down the causes of World War I, remember the steps in a chemistry problem, or absorb a mathematical formula: 1. Pay attention to what you’re hearing or reading. This suggestion is perhaps the most basic and the most important. If you’re sitting in class thinking about everything except what the professor is saying or if you’re reading and you find that your mind is wandering, you’re wasting your time. Force yourself to focus. 2. “Overlearn” the material. After you know and think you understand the material you’re studying, go over it again to make sure that you’ll retain it for a long time. Test yourself, or ask someone else to test you. Recite aloud, in your own words, what you’re trying to remember. 3. Check the Internet. If you’re having trouble remembering what you have learned, Google a key word, and try to find interesting details that will engage you in learning more, not less, about the subject. Many first-year courses cover such a large amount of material that you’ll miss the more interesting details unless you seek them out for yourself. As your interest increases, so will your memory for the topic. 4. Be sure you have the big picture. Whenever you begin a course, make sure that you’re clear on what the course will cover. You can talk with someone who has already taken the course, or you can take a brief look at all the reading assignments. Having the big picture will help you understand and remember the details of what you’re learning. 5. Look for connections between your life and what’s going on in your courses. College courses might seem irrelevant to you, but if you look more carefully, you’ll find many connections between course material and your daily life. Seeing those connections will make your courses more interesting and will help you remember what you’re learning. For example, if you’re taking a music theory course and studying chord patterns, listen for those patterns in contemporary music. 6. Get organized. If your desk or your computer is organized, you’ll spend less time trying to remember a file name or where you put a particular document. And as you rewrite your notes, putting them in a logical order (either chronological or thematic) that makes sense to you will help you learn and remember them. 7. Reduce stressors in your life. Although there’s no way to determine the extent to which worry or stress causes you to be unable to focus or to forget, most people will agree that stress can be a distraction. Healthy, stress-reducing behaviors, such as meditation, exercise, and sleep, are especially important for college students. Many campuses have counseling or health centers that can provide resources to help you deal with whatever might be causing stress in your daily life. Kenneth Higbee describes two different processes involved in memory. The first is short-term memory, defined as how many items you are able to perceive at one time. Higbee found that information stored in short-term memory is forgotten in less than thirty seconds (and sometimes much faster) unless you take action to either keep that information in short-term memory or move it to long-term memory. Although short-term memory is significantly limited, it has a number of uses. It serves as an immediate but temporary holding tank for information, some of which might not be needed for long. It helps you maintain a reasonable attention span so that you can keep track of topics mentioned in conversation, and it enables you to stay on task with the goals you are pursuing at any moment. But even these simple functions of short-term memory fail on occasion. If the telephone rings, if someone asks you a question, or if you’re interrupted in any way, you might find that your attention suffers and that you essentially have to start over in reconstructing short-term memory. The second memory process is long-term memory, and this is the type of memory that you will need to improve so that you will remember what you’re learning in college. Long-term memory can be described in three ways. Procedural memory is knowing how to do something, such as solving a mathematical problem or playing a musical instrument. Semantic memory involves facts and meanings without regard to where and when you learned those things. Episodic memory deals with particular events, their time, and place.2 You are using your procedural memory when you get on a bicycle you haven’t ridden in years, when you can recall the first piece you learned to play on the piano, when you effortlessly type a letter or class report, and when you drive a car. Your semantic memory is used continuously to recall word meanings or important dates, such as your mother’s birthday. Episodic memory allows you to remember events in your life—a vacation, your first day in school, the moment you opened your college acceptance letter. Some people can recall not only the event but also the very date and time the event happened. For others, although the event stands out, the dates and times are harder to remember immediately. 2W. F. Brewer and J. R. Pani, “The Structure of Human Memory,” in G. H. Bower (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation: Advances in Research and Theory, vol. 17 (New York: Academic Press, 1983), pp 1–38. It can be easy to blame a poor memory on the way we live; multitasking has become the norm for college students and instructors. Admittedly, it’s hard to focus on anything for very long if your life is full of daily distractions and competing responsibilities or if you’re not getting the sleep you need. Have you ever had the experience of walking into a room with a particular task in mind and immediately forgetting what that task was? You were probably interrupted either by your own thoughts or by someone or something else. Or have you ever felt the panic that comes from blanking on a test, even though you studied hard and thought you knew the material? You might have pulled an all-nighter, and studying and exhaustion raised your stress level, causing your mind to go blank. Such experiences happen to everyone at one time or another. But obviously, to do well in college—and in life—it’s important that you improve your ability to remember what you read, hear, and experience. As one writer put it, “there is no learning without memory.”3 On the other hand, not all memory involves real learning. Is a good memory all you need to do well in college? Most memory strategies tend to focus on helping you remember names, dates, numbers, vocabulary, graphic materials, formulas—the bits and pieces of knowledge. However, if you know the date the Civil War began and the fort where the first shots were fired but you don’t really know why the Civil War was fought, you’re missing the point of a college education. College is about deep learning, understanding the “why” and “how” behind the details. So don’t forget that while recall of specific facts is certainly necessary, it isn’t sufficient. To do well in college courses, you will need to understand major themes and ideas, and you will also need to hone your ability to think critically about what you’re learning. Critical thinking is discussed in depth in Chapter 5 of this book. Although scientific knowledge about how our brains function is increasing all the time, Kenneth Higbee suggests that you might have heard some myths about memory (and maybe you even believe them). Here are five of these memory myths, and what experts say about them: 1. Myth: Some people are stuck with bad memories. Reality: Although there are probably some differences among people in innate memory (the memory ability a person is born with), what really gives you the edge are memory skills that you can learn and use. Virtually anyone can improve the ability to remember and recall. 2. Myth: Some people have photographic memories. Reality: Although a few individuals have truly exceptional memories, most research has found that these abilities result more often from learned strategies, interest, and practice than from some innate ability. Even though you might not have what psychologists would classify as an exceptional memory, applying the memory strategies presented later in this chapter can help you improve it. 3Harry Lorayne, Super Memory, Super Student: How to Raise Your Grades in 30 Days (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1990). 3. Myth: Memory benefits from long hours of practice. Reality: Practicing memorizing can help improve memory. If you have ever been a server in a restaurant, you might have been required to memorize the menu. You might even have surprised yourself at your ability to memorize not only the main entrees, but also sauces and side dishes. Experts acknowledge that practice often improves memory, but they argue that the way you practice, such as using special creative strategies, is more important than how long you practice. 4. Myth: Remembering too much can clutter your mind. Reality: For all practical purposes, the storage capacity of your memory is unlimited. In fact, the more you learn about a particular topic, the easier it is to learn even more. How you organize the information is more important than the quantity. 5. Myth: People only use 10 percent of their brain power. Reality: No scientific research is available to accurately measure how much of our brain we actually use. However, most psychologists and learning specialists believe that we all have far more mental ability than we actually tap. Wired WINDOW Throughout history, human memory has been a topic of great interest and fascination for scientists and the general public. Although severe problems with memory are extremely rare, you’re in good company if you find that your memory occasionally lets you down, especially if you’re nervous or stressed or when grades depend on immediate recall of what you have read, heard, or written. So how can you improve your ability to store information in your brain for future use? Psychologists and learning specialists have conducted research on memory and have developed a number of strategies that you can use as part of a study-skills regimen. Some of these strategies might be new to you, but others will be simple commonsense ways to maximize your learning—ideas that you’ve heard before, though perhaps not in the context of improving your memory. The benefits of having a good memory are obvious. In college, your memory will help you retain information and ace tests. After college, the ability to recall names, procedures, presentations, and appointments will save you energy and time and will prevent a lot of embarrassment. There are many ways to go about remembering. Have you ever had to memorize a speech or lines from a play? How you approach committing the lines to memory might depend on your learning style. If you’re an aural learner, you might choose to record your lines as well as lines of other characters and listen to them on tape. If you’re a visual learner, you might remember best by visualizing where your lines appear on the page in the script. If you learn best by reading, you might simply read the script over and over. If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you might need to walk or move across an imaginary stage as you read the script. Although knowing specific words will help, remembering concepts and ideas can be much more important. To embed such ideas in your mind, ask yourself these questions as you review your notes and books: 1. What is the essence of the idea? 2. Why does the idea make sense? What is the logic behind it? 3. How does this idea connect to other ideas in the material? 4. What are some possible arguments against the idea? Mnemonics (pronounced “ne MON iks”) are various methods or tricks to aid the memory. Mnemonics tend to fall into four basic categories: 1. Acronyms. New words created from the first letters of several words can be helpful in remembering. The Great Lakes can be more easily recalled by remembering the word “HOMES” for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. 2. Acrostics. An acrostic is a verse in which certain letters of each word or line form a message. Many piano students were taught the notes on the treble clef lines (E, G, B, D, F) by remembering the acrostic “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.” 3. Rhymes or songs. Do you remember learning “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31, excepting February alone. It has 28 days time, but in leap years it has 29”? If so, you were using a mnemonic rhyming technique to remember the days in each month. 4. Visualization. You use visualization to associate words, concepts, or stories with visual images. The more ridiculous the image, the more likely you are to remember it. So use your imagination to create mental images when you’re studying important words or concepts. For example, as you’re driving to campus, choose some landmarks along the way to help you remember material for your history test. The next day, as you pass those landmarks, relate them to something from your class notes or readings. A white picket fence might remind you of the British army’s eighteenth-century approach to warfare, with its official uniforms and straight lines of infantry, while a stand of trees of various shapes and sizes might remind you of the Continental army’s less organized approach. Mnemonics work because they make information meaningful through the use of rhymes, patterns, and associations. They impose meaning where meaning might be hard to recognize. Mnemonics provide a way of organizing material, a sort of mental filing system. Mnemonics probably aren’t needed if what you are studying is very logical and organized, but they can be quite useful for other types of material. Although mnemonics are a time-tested way of remembering, the method has some limitations. The first is time. Thinking up rhymes, associations, or visual images can take longer than simply learning the words themselves through repetition. Also, it is often difficult to convert abstract concepts into concrete words or images, and you run the risk of being able to remember an image without recalling the underlying concept. Finally, memory specialists debate whether learning through mnemonics actually helps with longterm knowledge retention and whether this technique helps or interferes with deeper understanding. To prepare for an exam that will cover large amounts of material, you need to condense the volume of notes and text pages into manageable study units. Review your materials with these questions in mind: Is this one of the key ideas in the chapter or unit? Will I see this on the test? As suggested in Chapter 7, you might prefer to highlight, underline, or annotate the most important ideas or create outlines, lists, or visual maps. Use your notes to develop review sheets. Make lists of key terms and ideas (from the recall column if you’ve used the Cornell method) that you need to remember. Also, don’t underestimate the value of using your lecture notes to test yourself or others on information presented in class. A mind map is essentially a review sheet with a visual element. Its word and visual patterns provide you with highly charged clues to jog your memory. Because they are visual, mind maps help many students recall information more easily. Figure 8.1 shows what a mind map might look like for a chapter on listening and learning in the classroom. Try to reconstruct the ideas in the chapter by following the connections in the map. Then make a visual mind map for this chapter, and see how much more you can remember after studying it a number of times. Instructor’s lecture dominates class time Student “owns” only 25% of lecture time As a result, listening time can be overwhelming compared to lecturing time Student has 2 choices A better choice is “active listening” 1 choice is to write down what she hears without focusing on meaning (zzz dead end) Here’s why Here’s how to listen actively 4 benefits of active listening Diagram of forgetting curve– reminder of reviewing as soon after lecture as possible Emphasis on “listen, write, recite” In addition to review sheets and mind maps, you might want to create flash cards. One of the advantages of flash cards is that you can keep them in a pocket of your backpack or jacket and pull them out to study anywhere, even when you might not think that you have enough time to take out your notebook to study. Also, you always know where you left off. Flash cards can help you make good use of time that might otherwise be wasted, such as time spent on the bus or waiting for a friend. Writing summaries of class topics can be helpful in preparing for essay and short-answer exams. By condensing the main ideas into a concise written summary, you store information in your long-term memory so you can retrieve it to answer an essay question. Here’s how: 1. Predict a test question from your lecture notes or other resources. 2. Read the chapter, supplemental articles, notes, or other resources. Underline or mark main ideas as you go, make notations, or outline on a separate sheet of paper. 3. Analyze and abstract. What is the purpose of the material? Does it compare two ideas, define a concept, or prove a theory? What are the main ideas? How would you explain the material to someone else? 4. Make connections between main points and key supporting details. Reread to identify each main point and the supporting evidence. Create an outline to assist you in this process. 5. Select, condense, and order. Review underlined material, and begin putting the ideas into your own words. Number what you underlined or highlighted in a logical order. 6. Write your ideas precisely in a draft. In the first sentence, state the purpose of your summary. Follow this statement with each main point and its supporting ideas. See how much of the draft you can develop from memory without relying on your notes. 7. Review your draft. Read it over, adding missing transitions or insufficient information. Check the logic of your summary. Annotate with the material you used for later reference. 8. Test your memory. Put your draft away, and try to recite the contents of the summary to yourself out loud, or explain it to a study partner who can provide feedback on the information you have omitted. 9. Schedule time to review summaries, and double-check your memory shortly before the test. You might want to do this with a partner, but some students prefer to review alone. Some faculty members also might be willing to assist you in this process and provide feedback on your summaries. Where to go FOR HELP . . . Chapter REVIEW . . . One-Minute PAPER . . . Applying What You’ve LEARNED. . . Building Your PORTFOLIO. . . ‘‘ ’’ ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/02/2010 for the course US/101 AAGI0NMRC4 taught by Professor Kathybaucum during the Spring '10 term at University of Phoenix.

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