Monday, July 27, 2015

Study Tips: Mom and Son Conversation

My son, a college sophomore, is engaging in an intense summer program. He called the other day to relay the strengths and challenges he's facing with regard to the program. One challenge was the test taking. Unlike his small liberal arts college that supports differentiated, personalized study/learning, in the setting he is in, there's only one way to learn which is the "sit and git" as some call it and commonly referred to as lecture style of learning. He said that by the time he and his classmates get to the lecture hall, they are all so tired from the physical work related to the program, that many doze off in the air conditioned room. Also the tests are all multiple choice and there are uncomfortable distractions in the room as they take the tests.

As I talked to him, I thought about the ways I coach my students forward when it comes to standardized tests and tough learning situations, and I gave him the following advice:
  • Sit in the front of the room as there will be less distractions.
  • Take notes while learning. Box the important words that you write down, use different colors, and jot questions that you're thinking about on the side of the page as those questions will help you to remember the big ideas. Later you can focus on the boxed words and phrases.
  • Study every night by writing about what you learned. 
  • Use self talk (I got that from the SRSD approach). You'll do better if you positively coach yourself forward.
  • When taking the multiple choice tests use the SAT approach:
    • Read the question carefully, underlining key words if you can. 
    • Think about the answer in your head before looking at the answer choices and jot it down with quick notes if possible.
    • Then, and only then, look at the answer choices. 
    • Eliminate those that you know don't fit, and then choose the best response.
    • When bubbling, finger check your answer by saying the correct letter in your mind while touching it with your finger. This helps to prevent bubbling errors.
My son graciously listened to me and then scoffed at most of my suggestions. I was not surprised as that's what teens and young adult children often do when parents offer advice (I did that probably more than any other person as a teen and young adult).

But then, the next day he called to say that he thought he did a lot better on the next test. "I sat in the front of the room," he shyly confided in me.  
    "Did you finger check the bubbling?, I asked.
    "Yes, I did that too," he answered.
    "Don't forget the self talk; that helps," I reminded him.
    "I'll do that," he agreed.
    "And give it 100%. No matter what happens in this program if you give it 100% you'll be proud of your effort, and then you can decide where to go from here." I added.
    "I will," he said.

It was a great mom and son coaching session, one that made me realize that all the cognitive research I've done and applied to my teaching/learning context is worthwhile and helps students learn and apply their learning with strength.

As for my son, time will tell where this program leads him, but I know for sure, he's learned a lot about himself and how to study which are skills he'll bring forward when he returns to school in the fall.