When students ask for studying advice, what should we tell them? Should we advise rereading material? Using flashcards? Highlighting key terms?
If you are curious about the effectiveness of different study strategies, check out this recent article in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. This thorough, user-friendly review describes and evaluates ten common learning techniques. Each technique is given an overall utility rating (low, moderate, or high) based its effectiveness across learning conditions, student characteristics, materials, and outcome measures.
So which techniques make the grade?
Not many. Only two techniques earned a high utility rating, which means they consistently improve learning in a range of circumstances. In contrast, a full half of the techniques—many of them popular with students—received a low utility rating, which means they have weak or inconsistent effects on learning. The remaining techniques have limited application, but might be helpful for specific types of learners or tasks.
Here are all ten techniques organized by their utility rating:
The good news is that the high utility techniques are easy, low cost strategies that can be used by individual students or incorporated into our course or section design.
So the next time a student asks how to study better, we can tell them what works—and what doesn’t.
Many course design ideas and resources in Course Preparation Resources.
Resources for students in Academic Skills Coaching.