studying the wrong way

Is chocolate the answer to better grades?


Wouldn’t it be great if teens could study the same amount as they do now and get better grades? Or, at the very least, get their same grades but spend less time studying and worrying?

According to science, they can. IF they are willing to forego their instincts and use proven learning strategies that work. It can’t be that simple, you might think, or everyone would be doing it. So, I posed the following question to a few experts in the field.

“Why do you think how students study is, in fact, the exact opposite of how they should study?”

Their answers to why teens are studying the wrong way might surprise you.

  1. Dr. Veronica Yan pointed me to her journal article in which she and her colleagues discovered that the way students perceive they can “best optimize their categorical or inductive learning is out of sync with the actual way they learn best.”
  2. Research scientist Dr. Yana Weinstein (no relation) explained more succinctly, “Because [the easy way] feels good. Things that feel good often aren’t the things that ARE good.”
  3. Her colleague Dr. Megan Smith expanded, “My feeling is that people believe the science of medicine more than the science of education. In medicine, people realize what they are doing might be wrong, but they still do it anyway. In education, they don’t even realize it.”

AP Psychology teacher Blake Harvard summed it up in a single word, “Chocolate.” At least that made me laugh.

But really, it’s no laughing matter. Educational researchers widely recognize that the majority of students are disengaged and not meeting potential. Increasingly, teens are stressed out trying to achieve. No one has told them they are studying the wrong way. Or, even more importantly, HOW to change.

Yet the research evidence is overwhelmingly clear on how students can study more effectively. When students can relax and enjoy learning, they will succeed.

If you want to help your students change in a way that is proven to be better, help them use the top 6 evidence-based strategies for effective learning:



Start With This Checklist…

Cramming Spaced Practice Spaced Repetition
Re-reading the text book Retrieval Practice Practice Question Format
Just studying your notes Elaboration Make Connections
Practicing one concept at a time Interleave Mix Up Content
Focusing on generalized concepts Concrete Examples Concrete Examples
Studying in only one format Dual Coding Multiple Senses

If your student is reluctant to change, we recommend having them start with a Mindprint learning profile.  Self-awareness is the first step in a willingness to change.

If you want to enjoy more great conversations on the science of learning, follow these folks on twitter: @AceThatTest, @doctorwhy, @DrSmithRIC, @EdScientists, @effortfuleduktr, and @MindprintLearn.

*Based on the research of Karpicke, Jeffrey D., Butler, Andrew C. and Roediger III, Henry L.(2009) on Metacognitive strategies in student learning 

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