When working with students I listen closely, develop a plan for improvement and continually evaluate their progress to determine what is working, or not, and adjust accordingly. We all learn differently and have different strengths and weaknesses. One of the luxuries of working with a tutor is getting focussed, one-on-one attention so that a student’s investment of time produce the best results. Successful students combine careful time management, close attention to assignment instructions and good test preparation to consistently excel in class. However, these fundamental skills have to be combined with even more specific skills to provide a complete toolset. The skills I teach include:
Reading speed and comprehension are linked, and surprisingly, when done properly, reading faster results in improved comprehension. I seek to help improve my students reading skills by teaching what some refer to as “carnivorous reading.” The student does best when they use every tool at their disposal to wring as much information out of their assignment as quickly as possible. Tables of contents, indices, prefaces, introductions, summaries and conclusions should almost always be the first stop for the academic reader beginning a new assignment. Long and dense texts are often best absorbed through multiple, quick reads. Active note-taking improves overall comprehension as well as retention. All of these skills can be taught and practiced and will improve reading speed and comprehension.
A student’s ability to devise a plan for themselves, evaluate their progress, and adjust as necessary, will result in fewer late nights, lowered anxiety and better grades. An assignment that requires ten hours of work will suffer when only eight is invested. Likewise, hours crammed in just before an assignment is due will be less productive than those invested over a longer period of time.
Test preparation is best begun the moment a test is announced. One of the first steps is to clearly understand the format of an exam and to understand what the instructor’s expectations and grading practices are. Test preparation can be woven into overall coursework from day one. Practicing test questions will improve base subject knowledge, as well as instill confidence for the actual test. Skills for the day-of, such as reviewing the entire exam and coming up with a time budget for each section, will ensure that a student doesn’t allow points lost on one tough section to spill over and cause the student to leave easier questions unanswered.
Taking notes, during class or while reading, is not only a great way to create a resource for test preparation, but can also be part of an active learning experience that will boost comprehension and retention. Many students take overly detailed notes. This can actually distract from learning. Likewise, reviewing and revising notes immediately after taking them is a great way to increase both their utility, as well as the student’s retention.