Ten easy study techniques

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Should we go back to basic study skills before focusing on higher-order skills like critical thinking?

Findings from cognitive psychology, as described in our last blog, do suggest that some simple techniques like quizzing yourself and spacing practice help learning. Effective learners have a good store of existing organised knowledge, as well as metacognitive learning strategies, such as organising, inference and elaboration -€“ making connections with other concepts and ideas, and relating new information to prior knowledge via drawing diagrams.

The case for teaching students ten "easy to learn" techniques is made in this 2013 paper "Improving student learning with effective study techniques", which are:

  1. Elaborative interrogation & questioning
  2. Explain relationships or steps taken
  3. Write summaries
  4. Highlight/underline
  5. Keyword mnemonic
  6. Imagery for text
  7. Re-study
  8. Test yourself or take practice tests
  9. Spread out study activities over time
  10. Break up practice.

It won me over, and it's backed up by comprehensive review of 100 years of cognitive psychology into this area.

- Diana Foster, Learning Design consultant


Dunlosky, J, Rawson, K, Marsh, E, Nathan, M, and Willingham, D, (2013). Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 14(1) 4-58

Mayer, R. E. & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38, 43-€“53.

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