A LINE ON LIFE
Hints on Learning *
David A. Gershaw,
With college starting now and high school soon to follow, it seems appropriate
to give you some hints to help you learn more and to make you feel better
— more confident — about yourself. Some of these hints will apply even
before you get into class.
- Before you go to your first class, read the first chapter. Especially for college, where some classes meet once a week at night for three hours, the teacher may not wait until the second class meeting to start the course. If you have not read any of the material, you may be getting so many new
concepts that you feel lost and confused. (I'll bet that has happened more
than once.) However, if your have read — not skimmed, but really read
— the first chapter, you will already be familiar with some of the concepts.
Concepts that were vague when you read them are likely to "click"
into place when they are also discussed in lecture.
- Read assignments when they are assigned. This is just an extension of the previous hint. Typically the material assigned for particular date will be discussed in class on that date. Rather than feeling "out
of it" if you don't read the assignment, you feel more confident
if you have kept up with the reading. This especially helps if the teacher's
explanation makes the concept more confusing, rather than clearer to understand.
You can immediately ask the teacher to clear up your confusion between
the lecture and the text — but only if you have already read the material.
If you read the text after the lecture, this confusion is likely to come
when you are at home. It is not likely that anyone there could clear up
your confusion. (Or are you one of the rare students that writes the question
down to ask the teacher later?)
- Each week, schedule a minimum of two hours of study time for every hour you spend in class. If you have 15 hours of class each week, you
need to study at least 30 hours weekly. The usual student reply is, "But
I take gym, and it doesn't have any homework at all!" However,
if you have any course with no homework, you are also very likely to have
other courses that require much more than the minimum time (science, math,
English). These will more than make up for that gym class.
- Study your most difficult (or boring) subjects first. If any subject puts you to sleep, it is better to do it first — while you are still fresh. Some of you prefer to avoid the problem, saving the worst
until last. However — all that time — knowing that you have to do this
difficult task is like having an executioner's axe hanging over your head.
If you do it first, while you are fresh, this menacing feeling is gone.
It might be worth it to get up a few hours early — if you will be wide
awake and nobody else is awake to disturb you — to get the unpleasant
task behind you.
- Avoid marathon study sessions. Three 3-hour sessions are usually
more productive than one 9-hour session. Studying for such a long time
leads to dawdling at the beginning of the period and fatigue near the end.
Usually, it is best to give yourself a 10-minute break each hour. (This
doesn't mean you need to stop exactly at the end of an hour. If you really
get into your studying for 90-minutes, you can reward yourself with a 15-minute
- Make good use of waiting time. All of us have situations when we have to wait for doctor's appointments, a bus to arrive, a plane to
leave, or in a ticket line. (Boring, isn't it?) Not only can you reduce
your boredom, you have time for short study reviews. One of the best ways
to do this is to put important definitions, equations, or formulas on 3x5
cards. You can take these cards anywhere. Then you can pull them out when
you are bored to review concepts for your classes. (However, this is not
recommended if you become bored on a date.)
- Set aside a place just for studying. If you have a particular place just for studying, after a while just being in that place will make it easier to study. Try not to use a place where you also eat, socialize,
or watch television. This place should be comfortable, but not too much
so (like on an easy chair or sofa), otherwise you are likely to fall asleep.
However, if it is too uncomfortable, the discomfort will distract you from
your work. If you can't set aside a study area in your home, the library
can be a good place to study. So you don't get distracted by socializing,
most libraries have more isolated study areas that you can use.
- Learn to say no. If you need to study, it is okay to refuse a request to engage in another activity. If others want you succeed as
a student, they will understand a courteous refusal. (If you "can't
say no" to these outside requests, they are not keeping you from
studying. You are probably using them as an excuse to avoid your studies.)
Additional hints to help you learn are found in at least two courses
at AWC — College Survival and Study
Skills. They can help, so register for these courses.
* Adapted from David B. Ellis' Becoming a Master Student, College
Survival, Inc., 1985, pages 47-52, the text used in the College Survival
course at AWC.
Go back to "A Line on Life"