Developing Learning Strategies
Increasing Reading Comprehension
When most students sit down to read their textbook, they approach it the same way they would if they were sitting down to watch television. They sit down, open the book, and let the text lead them down the garden path. At the end of the path – the end of the chapter or section – students think that they should have learned something. Unfortunately, reading comprehension doesn’t work that way.
Comprehension of the material you read doesn’t happen unless you reflect on it by asking questions about it. Some experts (McKee, 2010) suggest that you start reading each textbook chapter by reviewing the key terms at the end of the chapter. By knowing what the key terms are, you provide your mind with a goal. Then, your reading is directed towards reaching the goal: what are these terms, what do they mean, why are they important to me, and why do I need to know about them? If you also read the objectives for each chapter before reading the chapter, you increase the depth and thoroughness of your goal. Then, when you read the chapter, you know the author’s goals for what you should get out of the chapter, and you know what the key terms are. In your Cornerstone’s textbook, the objectives are provided on the “What’s in it for me” section at the beginning of each chapter. The key terms are provided at the end of the chapter on the SQ3R Mastery Study Sheet.
Another key for improving reading comprehension is to walk around while you are reading. Find a place where you can pace back and forth without tripping over anything; after all, you will be looking at your textbook, not the floor. Walking while you are reading, even just standing up while you are reading, allows you to increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Walking also requires the use of both sides of your brain, which keeps both sides of the brain active. Reading is primarily a left-brained activity: noting the details and sequencing the meaning of words. However, if the right side of the brain is also active, you are more apt to see the big picture of the reading and be able to better synthesize the different sections you have been reading (Holbrook, 2008).
If you can’t walk around while you read, try chewing gum! There are a number of theories about why gum chewing works for improved concentration: increased blood flow, increased oxygen, increased insulin in the bloodstream. While a formal study noted that gum chewing didn’t improve performance in high-achieving students, other studies have found that chewing gum can help students who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Rapport et al., 2009; UCF Study, 2009). The UCF study stated that these students need to stay active so that they can pay attention: so try doodling, fidgeting, and other activities if gum chewing isn’t for you.
Learning Styles Versus Learning Strategy
There is an important difference between learning styles and learning strategies. Your learning style indicates how you best learn, whereas your learning strategy is how you capitalize on your strengths. There are three basic learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic or tactile. If you are a visual learner, for example, you could utilize a variety of strategies: asking the professor to write notes on the board, writing your own lecture notes in a notebook, making flash cards for yourself, drawing pictures of basic concepts, making tables of the relevant information, using mind-maps for outlining papers, and so on. Each learning style enables a variety of learning strategies.
How can your personality style impact how you learn? The four aspects tell us how we are energized (extrovert or introvert), how we handle information (sensing or intuitive), how we make decisions (thinking or feeling), and how we respond to organization (judging or perceiving). People who are extroverts (E) are energized by other people. Extroverts might respond well to studying with other people. However, introverts (I) are energized by solitude and might benefit from studying alone at their own pace.
People who are sensing (S) are good at paying attention to detail, whereas those who are intuitive (N) see the big picture. When these two types are on a team working together, the intuitive can benefit from the sensor because the sensor will see details that the intuitive person might have missed. And, the intuitive person can provide the sensory person with the conceptual outline that can organize all the details.
Thinkers (T) and feelers (F) differ in how they make decisions. Thinkers are more likely to make decisions based only on logic, whereas feelers make decisions based on how different decisions will make themselves and others feel. Thinkers may appear to be cold, unfeeling automatons to feelers, while feelers may appear to be too soft in decision-making by thinkers. When these two types are working together, feelers may help thinkers to logically consider how values and feelings might play a role, while thinkers might help feelers to understand how rational thought processes might be beneficial.
Students are most often confused about the meaning of people who are categorized as more judging (J) or more perceiving (P). Within the context of the personality profile, people who are more judging do not make judgments about people, they prefer to have their lives organized and planned. The perceivers, however, are more spontaneous and adaptable. Once a judger makes a decision, that decision is set in stone, whereas it can be difficult to make a perceiver settle down to make a decision. Judgers will have clear study times set aside and marked on the calendar, while the perceiver will eventually get around to it.
We’ve seen how these pairs can help each other in team situations, but any two types can also find disagreement with each other when they insist that their own way of seeing the world is the correct and best way. Each type has strengths, and each type has areas in which he or she may not perform as well. The goal is to strengthen our weak areas and to pursue working situations in which our strengths can lead us to success.
What is a taxonomy and who is Bloom? A taxonomy is simply a way of organizing information. Benjamin Bloom designed the taxonomy of cognitive (thinking) levels in 1956 to organize them in levels of complexity. Remembering is a simpler task than analyzing information or creating new information. Beginning this week, your professor will expect you to use deeper levels of thinking when you compose your responses in the online discussion. Instead of just citing information from the textbook to support your answer, you will also need to show that you understand the information, can apply it, analyze it, evaluate it, and create new information.
You might ask yourself how you will do that. Your professor will help you by asking the types of questions that elicit (draw out) different levels of thinking. For example, if the professor asks you what the cornerstones of personal success are, you could simply list them (remember or identify). They are listed and discussed in Chapter 2, by the way. If your professor then asks you which of them you most need to work on, you have to evaluate them to identify which one is most relevant to you in your life. You would then provide examples that support your evaluation. Your professor could also ask you to think of a cornerstone to success that the authors of your textbook didn’t list. This would require you to create a cornerstone by thinking about what the cornerstones have in common (analysis) and what might be missing from the ones listed in the book. Your professor could also ask you to apply a cornerstone by developing an action step that will help you develop that quality.
In order to achieve success with your studying, you need to have a plan or goals. To complete your Learning Plan (assigned this week), you will need to choose four areas in which you will improve your performance. Using the results of the various assessments you have taken, and based on your own experience, you will develop five goals. A well-known acronym for setting both long- and short-term goals is SMART. That is, a goal needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Framed. SMART goals are similar to action steps.
Goals can be set up using the following pattern:
○ Identify the specific goal.
○ List the action steps that must be taken to complete it successfully.
○ Estimate the time needed for each step. (Note: The time-frame needs to be specific; in fact, setting a specific date to reach your goal works best).
○ Create a plan to follow in order to get to that goal.
You have set goals before without even realizing it, in many cases. When you plan a vacation, for example, it’s a lot easier to plan when you know where you are going first! Armed with that information, you can develop a plan on how to be at the right place at the right time, and at the right cost as well. You should take a similar approach to your education and career goals. Many students sign up for a college degree program based on things they might like to study, and while this is okay, wouldn’t it be important to know you are working on a degree that will be in demand by employers when you finish your program? Of course it would.
Rather than set a long-term goal as completing your degree, wouldn’t it make more sense to first use some critical thinking skills by researching exactly what you would like to do? Then you can research what companies are looking for and make a plan to get there. For example, you will want to find out exactly what specific degrees companies are looking for and what skills and experiences they desire as well. Remember, you will be competing against others for that same job, and the hiring manager at a company will look at all the applications and resumes and select the person who is not only the best qualified for the open position but who will be the best fit as well. Once you know what potential employers are looking for in a job applicant, you can now do a self-analysis to see which of the requirements you already have and which ones you don’t have yet. You can then make a list of all the things you need to do to be sure you are the one hired when you get ready to apply. This means your long-term goal would be your “dream job,” and your short-term goals would be all the things you need to do to land that job!
S-M-A-R-T Goal needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Framed.