study strategies

A Better Method of Study Help

Over the past few years, academia has focused more and more on helping students develop study skills to help them succeed. One limitation of these efforts is that they tend to take the form of workshops or resources that provide general study skill information.

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Give Your Students Tools for Effective Learning

First days of class are really fun. Or at least they can be. There is the energy of starting a new year and seeing a whole new cohort of students. There is the chance to unleash a new and improved pedagogy that reflects all the

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Practical Applications for Cognitive Strategies in the College Classroom

While there has been considerable interest in cognitive science in education, limited numbers of educators are using this information to inform teaching and learning. That’s according to Weinstein et al. (2018), who identify six effective cognitive learning strategies: spaced or distributed practice, interleaving, retrieval practice,

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Study Buddies: Learning with a Partner

Last week I happened onto something I’d written years ago about study buddies—two students who agree to study together in a course. I was describing a community college first-year seminar program that partnered students in the seminar and a general education course linked to it.

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Getting Students to Stop Cramming for Exams

How many of your students still cram for exams? Students should be studying just before tests, but it should not be their first time seriously looking at course materials. Multiple research findings make clear that one frenzied period of study right before the exam generally

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Interleaving Topics for Better Learning

Interleaving is the process of alternating between concepts during learning by periodically returning to earlier ones. Studies have shown that interleaving content promotes retention (Richland et al., 2005; Rohrer, 2012; Rohrer et al., 2015). Rohrer suggests that this is because interleaving helps students distinguish between

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Study Strategies for Better Grades (and More Learning)

How do you study for exams? Are you using evidence-based strategies? Did you know there are ways to study that improve exam scores? Educational psychologists and others have researched study strategies extensively, and their findings show that some approaches consistently produce higher test exam scores.

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Preparing for an Exam: A Study Game Plan

Prior to a scheduled exam, student prepare a study game plan. They describe how they would normally study for an exam in this course. Then they select two research-based study strategies, not regularly used, and agree to try them out as they prepare for the

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Flash Cards: A Good Study Strategy?

I used to question my students’ use of flash cards. Yes, I could see their value in language learning, but in a beginning communication course? In developmental English? My concerns did rest on a bit of academic elitism. I thought college students should be using

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Students’ Decisions about Studying

This summary highlights an article in which Kornell and Bjork, educational psychologists, review findings mostly from their own research. Their work explores “self-regulated study,” which involves “decisions students make while they study on their own away from a teacher’s guiding hand” (p. 219). It’s a

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Over the past few years, academia has focused more and more on helping students develop study skills to help them succeed. One limitation of these efforts is that they tend to take the form of workshops or resources that provide general study skill information. Students easily forget the information from these resources or don’t understand how to apply it to a particular issue when they run into it in class. Offering targeted, specific support in class is more effective.

A group of educators from the University of Guelph instead looked at how course-specific study help can improve student performance (Bingham et al., 2021). The work offers ideas about how educators can do something similar in their courses and even expand on it using recent advances in technology.

Course-specific help

The authors point out that study skills are often grouped under broader terms, such as metacognitive or self-regulatory skills. Metacognition refers to thinking about thinking, and applied to learning represents the ability to manage one’s own learning. The authors then divide it into three categories that more or less represent the stages of implementation:

We might think of these categories as knowledge of self, knowledge of learning, and knowledge of time management.

The researchers wanted to provide students with the tools to foster all three types of knowledge across the course. They did so by providing students with a calendar of course activities, including study activities. A particular day might include “self-test/review of Unit 1” or “Review answers to Quiz 11.” The calendar also included lesson-specific self-test questions. Students could answer these questions to determine what material they needed to go back over to fill in gaps in their understanding.

Next steps

I love the course and lesson-specific nature of the guide, and I hope that academia builds on the model to provide course-specific rather than generalized student help. In particular, modern technology allows institutions to fine-tune the help beyond course- and assignment-specific help to deliver student-specific help. Imagine a world where the learning management system (LMS) provides personalized student support. Right now, the LMS provides students only with information on their grade and which questions they missed. But questions from multiple assessments within a class unit, both graded and ungraded, can be tagged by topic by the course designer so that students also get a report after each unit that shows students which topics within that unit they did well and poorly on. This report could then generate a list of resources and activities that the student could use to fill the gaps in their knowledge. It might be video tutorials, live tutoring, self-tests, or an AI-enabled chat that asks the student questions and provides corrections on wrong answers. More self-tests can then lead to an updated report on understanding that shows students their progress.

Finally, the system can be accompanied by a scheduling app that allows the student to plan study time within their days. They can input recurring activities, such as work or classes, and then when given information on a gap in their knowledge, schedule time for the activities to fill it. Of course, scheduling apps already exist; it just amounts to integrating them with an LMS and study recommendations.

Apps such as Duolingo already implement this type of system for learning languages, and similar apps exist for learning computer programming, math, writing, and more. Thus, the technology already exists. Hopefully, studies such as this can prod academia into investing resources that provide the personalized help that makes a real difference.


Bingham, B. E., Coulter, C., Cottenie, C., & Jacobs, S. R. (2021). A metacognitive instructional guide to support effective studying strategies. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 12(1).