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Challenges of Shaping Student Study Strategies for Success: Replication and Extension

By Trent W. Maurer and Emily Cabay

Many students enter postsecondary education without effective study skills. What can instructors do to teach and to help motivate students to learn new study techniques? These are some of the questions we hoped to answer in this study. Changes in educational rigor from secondary school to postsecondary education frequently require changes in time spent studying and the cognitive effort involved for students at our institution. This project explored the efficacy of teaching students the successive relearning study strategy (a combination of retrieval practice and spaced practice) to prepare for course examinations.

As a professor and undergraduate student team, we were interested in exploring the impact of this intervention on student study skills. If an instructor walked students through an in-class example of the successive relearning method, and it was successful for them in a classroom demonstration, would they adopt the strategy to prepare for course examinations and why or why not?  In our experience, students at our institution frequently complain about not knowing how to study for specific kinds of exams; however, instructors rarely provide students with explicit instructions about how to study for exams. What would happen if we did?

Our results revealed that although the intervention was effective in improving students’ demonstrated level of mastery of a core course concept in the classroom demonstration, many students reported difficulty in independently adopting it for use outside of class. Students identified issues with time management as the most frequent barrier for adopting these practices, consistent with prior research. Many students also reported that they believed that their existing study strategies were sufficient, even if they could be improved.  

Find the TLI article here.

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