3.1 Study Skills and Learning

“That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”
– Doris Lessing

Questions to consider:

  • How do you prepare yourself and your environment for successful studying?
  • What study skills will be most beneficial to you?
  • What are learning preferences and strategies, and how can you leverage those to your advantage?

Learning Objectives

  • Describe how to create useful organizational materials to help you with a variety of educational tasks as well as in other areas of your life
  • Outlining the importance of study skills and how they can be utilized to help students become more successful

Preparing to Study

Studying is hard work, but you can still learn some techniques to help you be a more effective learner. Two major and interrelated techniques involve avoiding distractions to the best of your ability and creating a study environment that works to help you concentrate.

Avoiding Distractions

When you prepare for your optimal study session, remember to do these things:

  • Put your phone out of sight—in another room or at least some place where you will not see or hear it vibrate or ring. Just flipping it over is not enough.
  • Turn off the television or music (more on that in the next section).
  • Unless you are deliberately working with a study group, study somewhere alone if possible or at least away from others enough to not hear them talking.

Study Environment

You don’t need an elaborate setting, but you may want to consider including a few effective additions if you have the space:

  • an agenda or calendar to organize your day
  • pictures of encouraging quotes or pictures of your goal
  • whiteboard for brainstorming
  • sticky notes for reminders in texts and notes
  • file holder for most-used documents
  • bookshelf for reference books

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPsEB_LHHRo


Reflection Activity

Describe every element in your ideal study environment and explain why it’s there as well as how it will make more efficient use of your time, limit distractions, or in some other way strengthen your ability to study.

After you have described your ideal study environment, think about how you can adapt that environment if you cannot be in your favorite place to study. How do you make your own space in the library, a student lounge, or a dedicated space on campus for student studying?

Debunking Study Myths

MYTH #1: You can multitask while studying.

How many times do you eat in the car? Watch TV while you write out a grocery list? Listen to music while you cook dinner? What about typing an e-mail while you’re on the phone with someone else and jotting down notes about the call? The common term for this attempt to do more than one thing at a time is multi-tasking, and almost everyone does it at some point. Studies show that when our brain switches gears to bounce back and forth between tasks – especially when those tasks are complex and require our active attention – we become less efficient and more likely to make mistakes. Multi-tasking can hinder your performance as a student. Multi-tasking divides your attention, which can impact your learning. It can also affect our ability to learn because, to learn, we need to be able to focus.

MYTH #2: Highlighting main points of a text is useful.

Another myth of studying that seems to have a firm hold is that the idea of highlighting text—in and of itself—is the best way to review study material. It is one way, and you can get some benefit from it, but don’t trick yourself into spending too much time on this surface activity and consider your study session complete. Annotating texts or notes is a first-step type of study practice. If you allow it to take up all your time, you may want to think you are fully prepared for an exam because you put in the time. Actually, you need to spend more time reviewing and retrieving your lessons and ideas from the text or class lecture. It is also important to quiz yourself to accomplish your goal of learning so you can perform well on the exam. Highlighting is a task you can do rather easily, and it makes you feel good because you are actively engaging with your text, but true learning needs more steps.

MYTH #3: Studying effectively is effortless.

There is nothing effortless, or even pleasant at times, about studying. This is why so many students don’t put in the time necessary to learn complex material: it takes time, effort, and, in some cases, a little drudgery. This is not to say that the outcome, learning—and maybe making an A—is not pleasant and rewarding. It is just that when done right, learning takes focus, deliberate strategies, and time. Think about a superstar athlete who puts in countless hours of drills and conditioning so that she makes her work on the field look easy. If you can also enjoy the studying, the skill development, and the knowledge building, then you will most likely be more motivated to do the work.

MYTH #4: It is best to study alone.

Often students feel that studying alone is the best way to learn. It is easier because you are not coordinating study times with others, there are no distractions around you and you can focus on your studies based on your learning style. Research shows that if you are with a group of motivated peers who are focused, you will benefit more by studying as a group than by studying alone. Once you set a date and time to get together with a study group, it prevents you from procrastinating because you know other people are counting on you to be there. When you study in a group, you tend to retain more information. This is because you get an opportunity to review your peer’s notes along with your notes. This allows you to understand the information further and build upon the concepts you learned in class and read in the textbook. Being with other people allows you to gain different insights and perspectives on the material. ( https://www.studyusa.com/en/a/1980/better-to-study-alone-or-in-a-group )

Reflection Activity

  • When are you most liable to multitask?
  • How could you be more aware of this practice and try to eliminate it, especially when it comes to studying?
  • How can you make your initial text highlighting more time efficient so you can include other study practices?
  • Do you have a study group? What common goals for academic success do your study buddies and you have in common?

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ti6aqzgQaM


The Learning Cycle

Now that you are aware of your personal values ,personality traits  and learning style, it is important to understand the process of learning. It is critical to understand the importance of learning different study skills or techniques. This unit will introduce you to a variety of study skills that will aid your learning process.

Academic learning occurs most effectively in a cycle of four steps:


The learning cycle: Prepare, Absorbe, Capture, Review
Chapter 3.1 Image # 1 The learning Cycle
  • Prepare: Preparing to learn is the first step for learning. Partly, you are putting yourself in the right mindset to learn.
  • Absorb: Absorbing refers to the actual taking in of new ideas, information, or experiences. This happens at the moment a student listens to a class lecture or reads a textbook.
  • Capture: Capturing refers to taking notes and other forms of documentation. Just hearing something once is seldom enough. You have to go back over the material again, sometimes several times again, thinking about it and seeing how it all fits together.
  • Review: The step of reviewing your class notes and other materials is the next step for solidifying your learning and reaching a real understanding of the topic. Reviewing is also the step in which you discover whether you really understand the material. Reviewing is also a way to prepare for new information and ideas. That’s why this is a learning cycle: the end of the process loops back to the beginning as you prepare for additional learning.

Key Takeaway

  • There are two major and interrelated techniques that can help students study successfully. They are; avoiding distractions to the best of your ability and creating a study environment that works to help you concentrate.
  • Learning at college goes beyond the memorization of facts; you are required to understand your subject materials so that you can think about it in meaningful ways and apply it to new situations.
  • The academic learning cycle of preparing, absorbing, capturing and reviewing can help you better understand and use the information and skills presented in your courses.
  • Students who understand their learning preferences and strategies, can leverage those to their advantage to learn efficiently.

Attributions and References

This chapter contains adaptations from:

Stewart, I., & Maisonville, A. (2019). A Guide for Successful Students. St. Clair College.
Book URL: https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/studyprocaff/
Section URL: https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/studyprocaff/chapter/learning/
License: CC BY NC SA: Attribution

Baldwin, A. (2020). College Success. Provided by: Open Stax.
Book URL: Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/1-introduction
Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/6-2-studying
License: CC BY: Attribution

Myth # 4 Paraphrased from https://www.studyusa.com/en/a/1980/better-to-study-alone-or-in-a-group WRITTEN BY Brittany Loeffler , published October 3,2021 (accessed May 31, 2022)


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Fundamentals for Success in College Copyright © 2022 by Priti Parikh, Centennial College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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