2 Paragraph Short Discussion About How To Improve Study Habits

2 Paragraph Short Discussion About How To Improve Study Habits

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Psychological Science in the Public Interest 14(1) 4 –58 © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permission: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1529100612453266 http://pspi.sagepub.com

Corresponding Author: John Dunlosky, Psychology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242 E-mail: jdunlosk@kent.edu

Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology

John Dunlosky1, Katherine A. Rawson1, Elizabeth J. Marsh2, Mitchell J. Nathan3, and Daniel T. Willingham4 1Department of Psychology, Kent State University; 2Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University; 3Department of Educational Psychology, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, and Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison; and 4Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Summary

Many students are being left behind by an educational system that some people believe is in crisis. Improving educational outcomes will require efforts on many fronts, but a central premise of this monograph is that one part of a solution involves helping students to better regulate their learning through the use of effective learning techniques. Fortunately, cognitive and educational psychologists have been developing and evaluating easy-to-use learning techniques that could help students achieve their learning goals. In this monograph, we discuss 10 learning techniques in detail and offer recommendations about their relative utility. We selected techniques that were expected to be relatively easy to use and hence could be adopted by many students. Also, some techniques (e.g., highlighting and rereading) were selected because students report relying heavily on them, which makes it especially important to examine how well they work. The techniques include elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, summarization, highlighting (or underlining), the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, rereading, practice testing, distributed practice, and interleaved practice. To offer recommendations about the relative utility of these techniques, we evaluated whether their benefits generalize across four categories of variables: learning conditions, student characteristics, materials, and criterion tasks. Learning conditions include aspects of the learning environment in which the technique is implemented, such as whether a student studies alone or with a group. Student characteristics include variables such as age, ability, and level of prior knowledge. Materials vary from simple concepts to mathematical problems to complicated science texts. Criterion tasks include different outcome measures that are relevant to student achievement, such as those tapping memory, problem solving, and comprehension. We attempted to provide thorough reviews for each technique, so this monograph is rather lengthy. However, we also wrote the monograph in a modular fashion, so it is easy to use. In particular, each review is divided into the following sections:

1. General description of the technique and why it should work 2. How general are the effects of this technique? 2a. Learning conditions 2b. Student characteristics 2c. Materials 2d. Criterion tasks 3. Effects in representative educational contexts 4. Issues for implementation 5. Overall assessment

 

 

Improving Student Achievement 5

Introduction

If simple techniques were available that teachers and students could use to improve student learning and achievement, would you be surprised if teachers were not being told about these techniques and if many students were not using them? What if students were instead adopting ineffective learning techniques that undermined their achievement, or at least did not improve it? Shouldn’t they stop using these techniques and begin using ones that are effective? Psychologists have been developing and evaluating the efficacy of techniques for study and instruc- tion for more than 100 years. Nevertheless, some effective techniques are underutilized—many teachers do not learn about them, and hence many students do not use them, despite evidence suggesting that the techniques could benefit student achievement with little added effort. Also, some learning tech- niques that are popular and often used by students are rela- tively ineffective. One potential reason for the disconnect between research on the efficacy of learning techniques and their use in educational practice is that because so many tech- niques are available, it would be challenging for educators to sift through the relevant research to decide which ones show promise of efficacy and could feasibly be implemented by stu- dents (Pressley, Goodchild, Fleet, Zajchowski, & Evans, 1989).

Toward meeting this challenge, we explored the efficacy of 10 learning techniques (listed in Table 1) that students could use to improve their success across a wide variety of content domains.1 The learning techniques we consider here were cho- sen on the basis of the following criteria. We chose some

techniques (e.g., self-testing, distributed practice) because an initial survey of the literature indicated that they could improve student success across a wide range of conditions. Other tech- niques (e.g., rereading and highlighting) were included because students report using them frequently. Moreover, stu- dents are responsible for regulating an increasing amount of their learning as they progress from elementary grades through middle school and high school to college. Lifelong learners also need to continue regulating their own learning, whether it takes place in the context of postgraduate education, the workplace, the development of new hobbies, or recreational activities.

Thus, we limited our choices to techniques that could be implemented by students without assistance (e.g., without requiring advanced technologies or extensive materials that would have to be prepared by a teacher). Some training may be required for students to learn how to use a technique with fidelity, but in principle, students should be able to use the techniques without supervision. We also chose techniques for which a sufficient amount of empirical evidence was available to support at least a preliminary assessment of potential effi- cacy. Of course, we could not review all the techniques that meet these criteria, given the in-depth nature of our reviews, and these criteria excluded some techniques that show much promise, such as techniques that are driven by advanced technologies.

Because teachers are most likely to learn about these tech- niques in educational psychology classes, we examined how some educational-psychology textbooks covered them (Ormrod, 2008; Santrock, 2008; Slavin, 2009; Snowman,

The review for each technique can be read independently of the others, and particular variables of interest can be easily compared across techniques. To foreshadow our final recommendations, the techniques vary widely with respect to their generalizability and promise for improving student learning. Practice testing and distributed practice received high utility assessments because they benefit learners of different ages and abilities and have been shown to boost students’ performance across many criterion tasks and even in educational contexts. Elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, and interleaved practice received moderate utility assessments. The benefits of these techniques do generalize across some variables, yet despite their promise, they fell short of a high utility assessment because the evidence for their efficacy is limited. For instance, elaborative interrogation and self- explanation have not been adequately evaluated in educational contexts, and the benefits of interleaving have just begun to be systematically explored, so the ultimate effectiveness of these techniques is currently unknown. Nevertheless, the techniques that received moderate-utility ratings show enough promise for us to recommend their use in appropriate situations, which we describe in detail within the review of each technique. Five techniques received a low utility assessment: summarization, highlighting, the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, and rereading. These techniques were rated as low utility for numerous reasons. Summarization and imagery use for text learning have been shown to help some students on some criterion tasks, yet the conditions under which these techniques produce benefits are limited, and much research is still needed to fully explore their overall effectiveness. The keyword mnemonic is difficult to implement in some contexts, and it appears to benefit students for a limited number of materials and for short retention intervals. Most students report rereading and highlighting, yet these techniques do not consistently boost students’ performance, so other techniques should be used in their place (e.g., practice testing instead of rereading). Our hope is that this monograph will foster improvements in student learning, not only by showcasing which learning techniques are likely to have the most generalizable effects but also by encouraging researchers to continue investigating the most promising techniques. Accordingly, in our closing remarks, we discuss some issues for how these techniques could be implemented by teachers and students, and we highlight directions for future research.

 

 

6 Dunlosky et al.

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