What are Study Skills and Why are they Needed?
The Importance of Study Skills
Study, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries, is the “devotion of time and attention to acquiring knowledge on an academic subject, especially by means of books; a detailed investigation and analysis of a subject or situation.” Merriam-Webster defines study as an “application of the mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge”. My personal definition is a combination of both. To study is to devote time and energy/attention to gain an understanding and knowledge of a subject.
Study skills, therefore, are the set of strategies that are used to adequately acquire and gain knowledge about a chosen topic or subject. When we possess these skills or strategies, we are able to increase the efficiency of learning. We are also able to increase the likelihood that what we are to be learning is retained in our long term memory for future use. Which brings us to the definition of learning.
Learning is a lifelong skill, that when successful and mastered, will have a positive impact on our lives in all that we do. When we know how we learn (learning style), when we know what motivates us to learn, when we have a better sense of who we are and of ourselves, we will be more successful in learning. When we then learn strategies to use that will work with each of us as individuals, we will be even more successful!
I often talk to my students about the learning process. Those who have not learned how to truly learn are usually the ones who are reviewing their book or notes the night before their tests for hours trying to cram as much into their brain as possible in order to regurgitate it for a test the next day. They may remember a small percentage of what they “learned” that night. They may pass the test, but won’t likely pass any future tests about the subject.
There are also those few students who have learned HOW to learn. These are the students who seem to not be cramming the night before, in fact they are usually getting a good night’s sleep and well rested for the test. Sometimes others think they are just naturally gifted and somehow miraculously know the content for the test. That is not the case. These students have learned about themselves. They know why they want to learn. They know their learning preferences. They may enjoy learning on their own or they may learn better when studying with a partner or with a group. They may learn when they teach the material to someone else or they may learn when the pace back and forth as they are reviewing the material. Perhaps they review their notes nightly and challenge themselves to learn 10 new vocabulary words or facts each night. Or maybe they seek out further knowledge independently in order to find a connection that they will relate to. These are usually students that after a test, study what they missed on the test and make a note so that they know how to improve. They reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t worked and seek to improve.
While some will say that reading is essential to learning, I can attest this is not the case. I have has several students who have had extreme dyslexia; sometimes even misspelling his own name. These students were enrolled in classes like Electronics Technology (Engineering). They did NOT learn by reading, and yet they learned. They could perform on test and could apply the skills learned to do well on tasks as well as tests. They clearly did not read the material, they listened to the material, listened to theory, watched demonstrations, interacted with the material, used assistive technology if needed, asked questions. They became active learner’s in their own learning process.
There are a variety of strategies and steps to take to improve your study skills. I can certainly help you learn this and prepare for learning whatever material you are struggling with or need to improve your grades. I can help you prepare for college, which will surely be another challenge if you have not developed the study skills necessary for a rigorous course load and high expectations.