Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Through the Eyes of a Student: The beginning of an 8 wk. Course

My 8-week course has started, and so far, I am relieved to find that I can handle it. I am very glad I purchased the textbook early, because there were 3 chapters of assigned reading in the first week. If I had gotten behind on that, I would feel very overwhelmed. As it is, I am finding that I need to adjust my way of studying to accommodate the course-work.

I don't really have time to read the chapters two or three times before the exam. Memorizing each word independently also takes a lot of time. Instead of those strategies, I am using a different technique that Scott Young describes in his blog post: “How to Ace your Finals without Studying.”

He recommends what he calls Holistic Learning. In that style of learning, you try to make analogies between the new concepts you are learning and concepts you already know. To do this, I try to think about the material and visualize a situation that illustrates the concepts for me. For example, since I am studying statistics and plan to apply them to educational settings, when I am studying mean, median, and mode, I think of a test taken by a class of students which produces a list of scores.

I imagine a group of students lined up in front of a classroom in order of scores from lowest to highest. For median, I draw a line that splits the class exactly in half. For mode, I imagine myself calling out test scores and having each of the imaginary students take a step forward when their score is called, before stepping back. The score that had the largest group of students stepping forward is the mode. For mean, I imagine each of the students holding a handful of pennies representing their scores. Each student steps forward and dumps their pennies in the basket. The students then split the pennies into equal groups and each one takes the same amount. This helps me envision the mean or average. I then think about the kind of situation in which one of these three concepts would be more useful to me than the other two. I don’t move on to the next section until I have done this for each of the new points I have learned. Sometimes, the textbook helps by suggesting metaphors like these. Sometimes the examples in the book don’t work for me, so I have to make up ones of my own instead.

While creating connections and visualizations like this causes me to read at a slower pace, I can already tell that they will save me time in the long run. Today, I was able to recall the material I studied last week without reviewing it or making mistakes. (Although a friend pointed out that trying to recall the information in the first place was itself a kind of review... ) Furthermore, not only has my memory for concepts increased significantly, these strategies have made studying fun!

What tactics do you use to study more efficiently or make the studying enjoyable?

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