CORVALLIS, Ore. — In a new book published this week, an Oregon State University professor offers study techniques, myth-busting and psychological research to explain why teaching and learning work the way they do.
The book is aimed at high school and college students, as well as teachers and parents who want to know how to help students become more effective learners.
“Study Like a Champ” was co-authored by OSU psychology professor Regan A.R. Gurung, who has been researching teaching and learning for 24 years.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges facing students and educators and highlighted the need for better understanding of the best ways to approach learning, Gurung said.
“Studying has been weakened and there’s a lot of catching up to be done,” he said. “The rhythm and dynamics of college and high school changed so much, and those of us who teach large college classes like I do got to see a lot of that in the classroom. Conversations with students revealed that they had really been out of practice, and I think having some key ways to help students get back on track is important.”
Gurung has a lot of firsthand experience with this subject and conducts research in both the lab and the classroom. He estimates he’s taught more than 8,000 students during his career, including a class titled “The Science of Teaching and Learning.” He is also the director of OSU’s general psychology program and associate vice provost and executive director of the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning.
“The way we wrote this book was for all those people who really care about learning and for those who are doing the learning. We tell them, ‘Teachers, here’s exactly what you can say to students to help them learn, and students, here is what you can do,’” Gurung said.
One of the main myths the authors debunk is the idea that learning should be easy.
“Very often, students get turned off because they’ll say ‘Well, this is tough.’ No! Learning can be challenging — instead of giving up on it, rise up to that challenge,” Gurung said.
The authors also share empirical data showing that teaching styles don’t have to match learning styles for learning to take place and push back on the notion that lectures aren’t an effective delivery method for students to absorb information. Students can learn a lot from a well-done lecture, Gurung said, if they know how to get the most out of it.
“We have a whole chapter on why good note-taking is important and how to take good notes, so that you can capitalize on lecture classes that people think are not as engaging,” he said.
The book also debunks a specific type of studying: rereading the material over and over. According to cognitive science, Gurung said, testing yourself on the material is much more effective as a study tool.
The good news about studying, Gurung says, is that it is a learned skill, not something that’s permanently fixed. While it’s understandable for students to feel they’re not good at studying, the book offers strategies to help them practice and get better.
“Tell yourself, ‘I’m not good at it yet.’ Throw in that ‘yet’ word,” he said. “Just because you’re not good at something now, doesn’t mean you won’t be.”
“Study Like a Champ,” published by the American Psychological Association and co-authored by John Dunlosky at Kent State University, is available through all major booksellers for $22.99.
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