Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Study Time

The beginning of the semester - and academic year - includes talk about Study Time: how much, how often, how much time to spend on each "thing" ...

So here are some things I think are helpful to consider when planning study time into your semester's schedule:

A&P faculty recommend students spend a minimum of three hours outside of class studying for every hour that you spend inside of class.  Since you spend 5 hours (between lecture and lab) per week in class, you will need to spend 15-20 hours a week outside of class studying.  Students who have efficient study skills can sometimes get away with spending less time than that some weeks, but then find they have to make up the time to study for exams or finals.  Planning 15 hours into your week isn't easy, but is necessary if you are going to be successful.

Try to plan some time for immediately after class if at all possible.  With only ten minutes between lecture and lab that isn't always possible, but even taking that 10 minutes to review the notes you just took can be incredibly helpful to "cement" the information in your brain (or to help build neuronal connections, which is what is really happening!)  Look through the notes you just took, and mark anything you want to come back and look at in more detail.  Fill in anything that is still fresh in your mind that you didn't get down on paper.  If there is something that is confusing, mark it and make a note to send the prof an email or ask at the beginning of the next class.  Sometimes you find that you stopped writing mid-sentence.  If you review your notes immediately after class, you are more likely to remember how it should be filled in, or you can at least make a note to make sure your question gets answered as soon as you can.

Try to find a partner to review notes with.  Pay attention to who you think is the most successful person in the class, and ask them to spend 10 minutes with you reviewing notes after lecture.  Reviewing notes with another person helps you to see if there is something they have in their notes that you missed, so you end up with a more complete set of notes.  Also, by making connections with more successful people in the course, you may have an opportunity to learn about their study techniques or an approach that might help you.

Study in small, manageable "bites".  You need to study A&P every day.  In order to learn the large amount of difficult content, and in order to continue building the concepts that are related, you need to work with the material on a daily basis.  That seems overwhelming to people, particularly if you are used to thinking about studying as a huge chore of getting your books out, getting "organized", finding the relevant material to study, and then blocking out three hours of time to study.  That leads me to my next point ...

Shift your mindset about "studying".  You don't have to be sitting in a particular spot to learn.  You don't have to study for a particular amount of time to learn, you don't have to have a particular notebook.  You do need to be focused to learn, so develop the ability to focus rather than relying on having your notes in a particular notebook, or only studying at home on the couch.  Get in the habit of taking some notes with you, so any spare moments you have can be spent reading over some notes.  Instead of games on your phone, get an anatomy app and spend the time quizzing yourself on bone markings and muscle insertions.

Learn to set boundaries.  Even if you aren't paying tuition, going to college isn't cheap.  This is a sacrifice you are making to invest in your future.  Some people will be on board with that, and others might not be.  Get good at setting boundaries around your schedule and communicating that information to others that you need support from.  If you need to study on Tuesdays after supper because you have lab on Wednesday, and someone has agreed its their job to give the kids a bath so you're free, don't get sucked into giving the kids a bath because that person "forgot".  It is very healthy to set boundaries and hold people accountable for the things they have agreed to, even if feels uncomfortable at first.

Figure out your schedule a week in advance.  If you've ever taken a high school "life skills" class, this will seem trivial to you.  Likewise if you've ever had an employer send you for Covey training to change your life and your work habits.  Seriously, though, it works.  Find some kind of time management system that works for you, and work it.  Once a week.  A weekly schedule is a small enough time frame that you can manage the things coming up and still figure out study time, with a broad enough frame that you can work in the time you need to study for the things coming up in all your classes.

Make connections.  Connect with as many people in your classes as possible.  Get phone numbers, email addresses, Twitter names, and connect with people on Facebook.  Some people naturally gravitate to one person as a lab partner, but for the best success, you will want to expand your learning network as much as possible.  There is a large social learning component to learning science, and using others in your class can be as much of a study tool as your notes or Wiley Plus.  Use the class as an opportunity to network with people that have the possibility to make you more successful than you would be on your own.

Have any other suggestions about Study Time?  Leave them in the comments!

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