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Professors reveal their study secrets

Photo by Yubi Lee

“It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Growing in knowledge and skill isn’t easy. Even Mozart admitted his genius required hard work, dedication and discipline. However, as college students, learning the art of studying correctly can help us to lighten our course load. I interviewed some professors on their college experiences and they gave the following tips on how to study well:

  1. Know how you learn

“When I knew I was visual and kinesthetic, I could approach how I studied better,” said Christina Woodrow-Schneider, assistant professor of dance at ORU.

Whether you are an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner, it is important to know how you learn so you can use study methods helpful to you, Woodrow explained.

“When I studied French, I had a hard time keeping track of the notes in my notebook, so I ripped them all out and taped them in visual order on my wall,” she said.

When she wrote a research papers, she would compile her research and writings into a word document and then, print it out, lay it out on the floor and color code the topics, cutting out pieces and moving them around.

“I knew I had to see the paper like a big canvas. It helped me to spread it all out,” admitted Woodrow.

  1. Take notes and review them daily

Woodrow added that taking notes is important—especially for those in the performing arts.

“I would always bring a notebook to class. I would keep it at the ballet bar and jot down any notes I got on habits I had. Teachers would just fire things out and I couldn’t remember them all,” she said. “It’s important to keep a journal of your process and rehearsal and in class, whether that is dance or theater, because it is almost impossible in the moment when you are working on choreography to remember all the notes you are going to get.”

It is also essential to review things daily, said Woodrow.

“It takes 10 minutes to go over the notes in class that day and you are closest to the material right after you’ve left class. If you wait, then try to go back and review, the cementing of that material is not going to be as effective,” she said.

Small bits daily are a whole lot more helpful than trying to cram it all in the night before, Woodrow added.

  1. Read deeply and let your writing sleep

Students should take the time to read their texts, recommended Rhonda Gallagher, assistant professor of communication, arts and media. A lot of students skim the text instead of reading it and there is a world of a difference between those two things, she said.

“I would recommend for a close reading. It is a good idea to look over material beforehand. For content, I read with a highlighter in my hand or a pen,” Gallagher said.

She highlights individual sections and impact points and writes questions and comments in the margins for an interactive learning experience.

“It helps me to see how all the pieces relate,” said Gallagher.

For writing, Gallagher also said it is important to finish writing a paper a couple of days in advance.

“If the paper is due by Thursday, you need to have it written by Tuesday. You need to let it sleep,” said Gallagher.

Writing in advance allows you to look over the paper multiple times before you turn it in and catch the things you missed, said Gallagher.

“If it [an assignment] sneaks up on you, you’re always playing catch up. You’re always running from the boulder and never giving it your best effort,” said Gallagher.

  1. Find the joy in what you do

Lastly, professors agree it is important for students to find the joy in their work.

It is possible to have fun while working, asserted Dr. Chancey Bosch, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction. For him, the people that he worked with in college ended up being the same people he had fun with.

“That’s what I think is kind of interesting—I didn’t have to create social time and academic time. I don’t think they are as separated as we think. I was always having fun,” said Bosch.

Though there should be limits to how much time we invest in fun, we should find the joy in everything we do, added Woodrow.

“If we believe everything is an act of worship, then in the same way we believe the Holy Spirit is present with us in our worship in chapel, we should acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is with us even in our studies,” Woodrow said.

To find your learning style, visit the Institute for Learning Styles Research website and take the Perceptual Modality Preference survey.

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