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Teaching Effective Study and Reading Skills


Sometimes we take for granted that students come into college knowing how to effectively read or study. However, very few students come in having received guidance on appropriate study or reading skills. Modeling and teaching effective skills can improve students' learning. Additionally, it allows us an opportunity to share disciplinary frameworks with students enrolled in our majors. As you consider the tips below, please don't forget about additional resources on campus, such as the Student Success Center, that can assist students who are struggling with these skills. A useful resource for faculty who want to learn more about teaching study skills is the book Teach Students How to Learn by Saundra Yancy McGuire.

Tips for Teaching Effective Study and Reading Skills

  1. Ask students to time themselves actively reading (*that is, reading for understanding/comprehension) one page of a required text. Students can then multiply that number by the assigned number of pages to get a rough estimate of how much time they should schedule to complete their readings.
  2. Present on study skills when students are most receptive to the suggestions, which is usually after the first exam is returned. Some students may think their current strategies are working well and not be as open to trying new strategies. However, if their performance was below expectations, they will be more open to trying new strategies. Consider explaining why strategies such as re-reading notes are not as effective when compared against more active study strategies.
  3. Model active learning and studying in your in-class activities or homework. For example, have students generate sample test questions and quiz each other. Have students work problems and compare against worked solutions afterwards. If students have access to worked solutions, it is tempting for them to look at the solutions without trying on their own first. To aid with this, ask students to explain their problem-solving thought processes, or adapt a problem to include an error which students would then be instructed to find the error and explain why it's incorrect.
  4. Provide guided reading prompts which include key questions for class discussion. As students read, they should take notes to help them answer the prompts.
  5. Consider asking successful students from previous classes to make a video of the strategies they used for studying and reading.
  6. Share your own story. If you struggled as a student, consider sharing that with your students. It will help them see that they are not alone and that they can turn things around.