Published: May 31, 2019
How do we learn, and how can we use what we know about the brain to learn more effectively? For researchers in the psychology of learning, these questions are of paramount importance, and finding answers to them can help educators unlock their students’ potential and help them learn more efficiently.
One of the central insights this branch of psychology has yielded is that some study patterns and approaches are much more effective than others; simply working hard and spending a lot of time studying is often not enough to lock new information into the long-term memory. This is where the Study Cycle comes in.
A series of steps that have been shown to help students take in, process, and remember new information, the Study Cycle is often used by universities to help new students develop strong independent study habits; but it can also be an immensely helpful tool for children at the primary and secondary levels. Indeed, one of the benefits of hiring a private tutor is that tutors can help children build the good study habits that come with an understanding of the Study Cycle, equipping them to handle self-directed independent study on their own when they are no longer living at home.
The Study Cycle is most often portrayed as consisting of five discrete steps that, taken together, help students incorporate new knowledge into their understanding of the world. These steps can be carried out over the course of a single day, or over a longer period of time. But the key is to incorporate new information through active repetition and retrieval.
Before class begins, students should skim new material and take note of new concepts and major points that they will be encountering in the upcoming lesson. This will prime them for the new information they are about to be introduced to, and will help them understand the broad strokes of what they are about to learn.
It also helps them to formulate any questions they might have early on, and gives them an opportunity to test the limits of their own knowledge. Previewing material doesn’t need to take long, and can be done in the morning before class.
Attending classes is obviously a vital part of learning at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. If a student is skipping classes, it is going to be hard for them to keep up with new material and truancy almost inevitably leads to decreased performance and falling grades.
But it isn’t enough for students to simply show up to class. While the 21st century has seen no shortage of new teaching methods for the digital classroom the fundamentals remain the same: students will retain information best when they are actively involved. Taking notes is an essential dimension of learning.
As pedagogy experts Francoise Boch and Annie Piolat argue in their summary of the research into note taking and learning, taking notes is actually a sophisticated activity that helps students process new information as they are introduced to it, learn to recognize the essential points, and also gives them valuable writing practice. Attendance isn’t just about showing up — it’s about participating in the learning process.
Scientists who study memory have noted that in order to transfer a piece of information from short-term to long-term memory, repetition over time is important. After class is finished, it is a good idea to have students briefly review what they learned. Bringing it to mind again will help fill in gaps, and can help develop the pathways of retrieval that fosters real learning.
Every step of the Study Cycle serves an important purpose, but none is as misunderstood as the fourth step: studying. It’s common for parents to require their children to do a certain amount of homework every night, and while it is good to built study time into the day, it is equally important to make sure that study time is being used wisely.
Experts agree that short periods of intense studying are much more valuable than long cram sessions, so trying to fit in thirty minutes to an hour every day is far more effective than spending several hours the night before a test.
If you child needs extra help, hiring a tutor can help you get the most out of these study periods, as a tutor can help students build confidence in their ability to understand the material. If you are interested in finding out how a tutor might help your child succeed, check this out to learn more about our teaching philosophy and practices.
Learning isn’t just about memorizing new information: it is also about making it useful by incorporating it into your child or teen’s understanding of the world. The final step in the study cycle is checking to see whether the information has actually been incorporated, and learning by teaching is a great way to do this is. Having your child try to teach the material to someone else is a great way to test their own understanding.
If you find a tutor in your area who can work with your child on a one-to-one basis, they can help make this process a little more personal. Tutoring is most effective when the tutor plays the role of a peer, a smart friend who can come alongside the student and help them master the material, rather than another authority figure who is providing them with information.
The end goal of learning is to provide your child with information they can use in the real world, so providing them with a tutor who can help them practice checking new information is a great way to ensure that they understand the curriculum material.
Studying smart is just as important as studying hard, and the Study Cycle is scientifically proven to help students lock in new information as efficiently as possible. Tutors can play an important role in implementing the study cycle with your child, so if you are interested in learning more about our approach, get in touch with us today.