How Do Learners Actually Study?

When faced with an exam how do our learners actually study? We know from a lot of research that testing is a much more effective means of learning than re-reading. But, do students know this? And if they do know this, do they practice it?

In 2009 Karpicke, Butler and Roediger surveyed 177 undergraduates at Washington University in St. Louis:

Karpicke Butler Roediger

They asked students to list the study strategies they most frequently employ. The students listed 11 different strategies and named the one strategy that was their #1 study method.

Here are the results:

Study Strategies

Clearly “Rereading” far outranks any other study method.

What can we learn from this? Students will generally not engage in the most effective learning strategies on their own.

As instructors what can we do about it? If we care how much our students learn, it is incumbent upon us to use assessments for learning as part of our curricula. These can take the form of adaptive questioning software, quizzing through gamification, practice tests, etc.

Any method that requires retrieval practice.

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