When you are not attending lectures, seminars or tutorials, you will typically spend your time studying. In Higher Education, study is essential to all courses, so you can expect a blend of different study types: independent and group study. Both have associated benefits and challenges, but it is up to you to decide how you study.
Independent study means a lot more than just reading on your own! Lectures and seminars are designed to guide your independent study; that is to say, your abilities to think, reason, write, read and more, without the aid or supervision of a lecturer or teacher. Studying at University has little to do with being ‘clever’; but a lot more to do with your development of core skills that you can transition into all aspects of life, including your education, your career, your personal development, your interpersonal relationships; and beyond! Independent learning is the cornerstone of developing these skills; specifically, working on your own initiative, with little guidance and exploring your own ideas and lines of enquiry.
Here are some resources that you might find helpful when getting ready for independent study:
- Learning Independently – University of Bristol
- Using study time effectively – University of Southampton
- What is meant by independent study? – University of Hull
- Self-evaluation: What does independent study mean to you? – Stella Cottrell
- Understand your Learning Style – The VARK Questionnaire
- Ideas for effective self-directed study – University of Auckland
Although your academic career will focus on your individual achievements, there will be call for group work; whether through a collaborative assignment or studying as a group. There are a number of advantages to group study, including the development of team working skills for future employment. It is natural to feel apprehensive about group study, especially if you prefer to work independently.
Setting up a study group
Putting together a study group is an effective way of staying motivated to study and making progress in your academic work, as well as an effective form of support from people in the same situation as you! At Marjon, study groups are very much encouraged; in fact, there are some existing study groups which meet at regular intervals, and you can join immediately.
If you’d like to form your own study group, whether on campus or at a distance then take a look at the Study Skills guide to Forming Study Groups.
All of these study techniques demonstrate virtue over effectiveness (Cottrell, 2019, p. 102). Studying hard isn’t the same or as effective as studying smart; each of these examples demonstrates an ineffective study strategy. Let’s take a closer look:
Jenna’s study strategy is ineffective for several reasons. She is taking more notes than necessary, which take a long time to write and read. Because she is concentrating on what is being said by her lecturer, she isn’t considering what she is noting down. Moreover, she isn’t being selective about her notes, so she isn’t really engaging with the material and developing her own understanding. Jenna might benefit from printing off the lecture slides and annotating them with key information her lecturer provides. This will save her time as she can listen to what is being said and link it to information on the slides. This will also make her notes effective for future use.
Chloe’s strategy is ineffective too. She works very long hours in the same location with few breaks. This might make it harder for her to concentrate, and she may find her attention drifts and spends more time revisiting the same material over and over again.She might experience boredom or fatigue from being the same place or doing the same activity for too long. She might be distracted by friends coming and going or online activities. Chloe could make her study strategy smarter by creating a study plan that consists of much shorter sessions throughout the day, with regular breaks and changes of activities. She could also plan to start her assignments slightly earlier so she can factor in more breaks and social activities, which might keep her more motivated to study and focused.
Yes, you guessed it; Leo’s strategy is ineffective too! Leo is copying down large sections of text from books instead of demonstrating his own understanding of what he has read. What’s more is he is chipping away at a valuable word count with quotes that would be better as paraphrases or summaries. Finally, if Leo hasn’t referenced correctly, then he might be accused of plagiarism. To improve, Leo could use reading material more effectively, by paraphrasing or summarising material he has read in order to use it cogently in his own argument. He should also look to explain what he has read so his marker is aware that he has synthesised the material and clearly understands it. Leo could apply what he has learned or read to real life situations to demonstrate his understanding further, whilst using quotes sparingly and only in the event that the quote is powerful or pivotal to the argument made.
Again, Rhys demonstrates an ineffective study strategy. Memorising information is actually termed ‘a low order thinking skill’ (Watanabe-Crockett, 2019) which, although useful in it’s own right, doesn’t allow him to display his own synthesis of material or conduct any analysis of his own. To improve upon this, Rhys could use some higher order thinking skills to connect with information, such as evaluation, application and analysis, which would allow him not only to remember key pieces of information, but also examine them in a critical way as an academic.
For more on effective study, take a look at Studying 101: Study Smarter by The Learning Center, UNC Chapel Hill