Studying Tips for Your Students: Managing Their Own Learning

The military students I used to teach were smart… very smart. They had to be in order to complete the demanding course (and their daily military obligations). What a lot of them weren’t, however, were good students. They were able to skim through high school or college without really needing to study, and that put them at a disadvantage. So much so, we had to teach them how to be (good) students. They were expected to be autonomous learners, so we gave them the tools (OK, more like framework) to allow them to manage their own learning. We broke it down into four metacognitive parts: organizing/planning, managing your own learning, monitoring, and evaluating.

In organizing/planning, the student must ask themselves “How do I learn best?” During this phase they need to plan the task or content sequence in studying. They also need to set goals for the course. And finally, they need to plan how to accomplish this.

Next comes managing the learning. Again, the question to ask here is “How do I learn best?” The student needs to identify the suitable learning environment for themselves. If necessary, they should seek out opportunities to practice what they have learned. And finally (and this one is difficult in this world of digital distractions), they need to focus their attention to the work.

“How am I doing?” is the next question asked, during the monitoring phase. Students need to check their progress on the work. That is, are they understanding what is being presented or taught? In some cases, is the work they are producing making sense? I’ve always found that reading aloud, or, even better, recording yourself and listening to the playback, helps here. It’s painful listening to yourself, but it is a great tool to use.

Finally, after completing the task, the student needs to do some reflection. This brings to bear three distinct questions: “How well have I accomplished the learning task,” “How well have I applied the strategies (listed above),” and “How effective were the strategies in helping me accomplish the task?” The student needs to be brutally honest with himself or herself here. If something did work, use it again; if it didn’t take a step back, look at how you can improve the attack, and then reengage.

Maybe your students can use this information to better themselves as students. I hope so.

Steve Holsonback
Instructional Media Design Specialist
Center for Academic & Professional Excellence
Ext. 3425


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