For a long time, I thought that “studying” meant rereading the same old textbook or lecture notes over and over—usually without really getting anywhere. I would nod along as I read, thinking Yep, this looks familiar. And after hours of cramming, I’d close the book and promptly forget everything.
If you suspect that this study strategy isn’t the best, you’re right. Simply rereading old material is a form of passive learning: it doesn’t prompt students to think, question, analyze, or apply information as they read, nor does it challenge them to incorporate new ideas into their understanding of the subject.
This article will outline study strategies that are supported by recent scientific research on how students learn. It will also introduce Study.com, a platform that offers numerous learning resources for a wide variety of classes, from History to Biology. These resources—ranging from video and text to quizzes and flashcards—encourage students to build upon their preexisting knowledge, apply new ideas, evaluate their progress, and take an active, fully engaged role in the learning process. Plus, by offering students a choice of learning activities, it boosts motivation; students feel in control of how they learn and are encouraged to become independent, self-directed learners.
Effective study strategies
- Active learning: This form of learning, delineated in 1991 by Charles Bonwell and James Eison, involves “students doing things and thinking about the things they are doing.” Sounds simple, but it’s incredibly important, and many people fall into the trap of passive learning described at the start of this article. Instead of (or in addition to) reading, listening, and memorizing, active learning means recalling facts, applying ideas, asking questions, synthesizing information, analyzing material, and more.
Study.com facilitates active learning in several ways. First, the platform allows students to take notes as they read or listen to new material. This feature lets them jot down their opinions, thoughts, and questions. It provides a convenient way to keep track of the major events, themes, or turning points of the lesson. Students can also pause instructional videos every few minutes and use the notes section to summarize each part of the lesson in their own words. Second, Study.com courses offer flashcards, quizzes, and exams so that students can cement their new knowledge by putting it to the test.
- Regular evaluation: It’s important for students to evaluate their learning progress over the course of the semester—rather than finding out where they stand on the final exam. Low-stakes evaluations like quizzes and flashcards identify gaps in knowledge and indicate areas that require further attention.
This is where those quizzes, flashcards, and exams I’ve mentioned come in handy! If students aren’t sure whether they’ve truly absorbed new material, they can find out with a quick quiz on Study.com. They can also use the hundreds of premade flashcards to drill new concepts and definitions.
- Multiple modes of instruction: Students benefit from having a variety of learning materials: text, images, video, and more. For instance, a 2003 study by Richard Mayer found that “students learn more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone” and that “students learn more deeply when words are presented in conversational rather than formal style.”
This area is where Study.com shines; its lessons feature engaging videos and captioned media that complement the more traditional text. Plus, the conversational style of these videos brings clarity to complex ideas. Study.com videos distill complicated topics into an accessible format, giving students a solid knowledge base on which to continue building.
The final word
Don’t limit your students to only one study strategy or learning style. Encourage them to experiment with multiple strategies: watching videos, reading, taking notes, jotting down questions, and testing recall with flashcards. Teach them how to assess gaps in their understanding and work to address them—which will make them more independent learners in the future. Finally, I recommend incorporating active learning into your classroom. As your students grapple with new concepts and reflect on their own thinking and learning processes, they’ll soon discover that they can learn anything.
Study.com beyond the classroom
These same strategies that help students learn in the classroom are applicable to instructors as well. Throughout their careers, teachers are required to complete several teacher certification exams in order to earn, maintain and expand their credentials. These exams range from national exams like Praxis to state-specific exams like the TExES and FTCE exams. Embracing this multimodal approach to studying is one of the best ways to ensure success on these exams. In addition to their classroom resources, Study.com offers preparation materials for teachers who are studying for these exams to help them ensure their success.
Overall, it is important for modern educators to recognize the efficacy of multimedia approaches to learning not just for their students, but for themselves in their own pursuits; to build a generation of lifelong learners, teachers must actively embrace learning in their own lives as well.
Ambrose, S., Bridges, M., Lovett, M., DiPietro, M., & Norman, M (2010). How Learning Works: 7 Research – Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom (ASHE–ERIC Higher Education Rep. No. 1).Washington, DC: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.
Brame, Cynthia. (2016). Active learning. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.
Chick, Nancy. Metacognition. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.
Mayer, RE. (2003). The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media. Learning and Instruction, 13(2): 125-139.
National Research Council. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. How Students Learn.